There's a lot to look forward to when the college football season kicks off next week.
But, besides new faces and new uniforms, there are also a few new rules to brush up on before that first kickoff. The NCAA really altered the face of the game with last season's targeting rule, and the accompanying ejection and 15-yard penalty. But, truthfully, you might be able to go this entire season without noticing much of a difference. Most of this season's rules aren't totally new; they're simply a continuation of ones that are already in the books.
So, here's a primer on the biggest changes, along with accompanying insight from Rogers Redding, the national coordinator of college football officiating.
1. Targeting penalty gets overturned? The 15-yard penalty will also be overturned.
This was a common-sense addition and one that coaches have embraced. Last season, officials could review a targeting call when defenders were automatically ejected for hitting players above the shoulders. If the call was overturned and the defender wasn't ejected? Well, in 2013, officials were still forced to implement the 15-yard penalty even if video evidence showed there should have been no penalty.
If you're wondering where the logic was on that one, you're not alone. One blogger likened it to a cop overturning a speeding ticket -- and still charging you $240. But that's why the rule has changed -- no ticket means no fine this season. There is still a slight catch, however. If the penalty is made in conjunction with roughing the passer or kick/catch interference, then a 15-yard penalty will still be assessed -- even if an ejection is overturned.
One more tiny addendum with the targeting rule, as well: If instant replay is not available -- mostly at the FCS level and below -- then referees have the ability to review a first-half foul at halftime and overturn an ejection. Second-half fouls can also be appealed so the player doesn't have to sit out the first half of the next game. It's up to each conference on whether it wants to enforce that rule since the ability to have instant replays varies at the smaller schools.
Redding says: "I think it's helpful to observe that the targeting rule has worked very, very well. We could see player behavior changing as the year went on because of the ejection becoming part of the penalty. ... That's why the committee was comfortable in saying, 'OK, if that's the only foul you have and the player didn't hit the head or neck area and didn't use the crown of the helmet, let's take away the 15-yard penalty.' I think that's going to help sell the rule, because that's really the only pushback we got on the rule."
2. If a quarterback is in a "passing posture," don't hit him below the knee.
There's not much controversy with this one, as the NFL has already had this one in place for a while. (See: "Tom Brady Rule.") This will simply be part of the 15-yard roughing the passer penalty.
If the quarterback is scrambling around, and the defender is blocked into the quarterback or the defender wraps up the signal-caller, then all bets are off and the penalty shouldn't be called. Basically, if the QB is about to pass and you're aiming below the knees, you're in trouble.
This rule's path to implementation was kind of an interesting one. It was discussed back in February, but no action was taken until the 10 FBS commissioners expressed unanimous support it be passed. That's not exactly a routine move.
Redding says: "The issue of low hits on the passer has not really emerged as a big problem in college football, and that's why the membership of the committee had not really focused on it. ... This is one that once the commissioners got supportive of this, the committee felt we needed to get out in front of instead of reacting to things that happen. Rather than seeing a bunch of injuries on these plays and then have a rule change, the committee sad, 'This makes sense and the NFL's had this for some time, and we've seen one or two situations. So let's go for it.'"
3. If the referees can't read the jersey numbers, it could be costly.
Experiencing some déjà vu from last season? You can't be blamed if you do because this exact rule -- player numerals must contrast with the jersey -- was listed as a need-to-know rule change in 2013, too. But even last season, it wasn't new. It's been on the books for "a long, long time," according to Redding, but it's only recently become a serious issue. So the only real alteration this season is that now the rule has teeth, and it'll bite you if you don't follow it.
If the refs can't read the numbers, they'll ask you to change your jerseys. If you decline it costs you a timeout before the game begins. They'll ask you to change again at the end of the first quarter. Another "No" will cost you another timeout, and that pattern will follow until the end of the game. You could lose four timeouts.
Redding says: "The rule's been in place for a long time, and it's been pretty much ignored by the manufacturers. ... It just said, 'Here's how it has to be.' It never anticipated a team would come out in a jersey that wasn't compliant."