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College Football Preview 2008College Football Free Pick'Em Contest 2008
SCS.COM COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW 2008: CHANGES FOR '08
August 6, 2008

SCS.comAs is always the case in the off-season, the NCAA reviews and adjusts the rule book in the hopes of continuously improving the on-field product. The key changes they've made during the past few months influence the game clock as the focus continues to be on reducing the overall length of the collegiate game and also to modify penalties to further increase player safety. Time for a more detailed look at additional key rule adjustments that will have the greatest impact and other important changes to the game as we prepare for the 2008 season.

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RULE CHANGES

The most significant change is the elimination of the 25 second play clock, which will be replaced by a 40 second clock. The 25 second clock resulted in inconsistency in timing between plays as the clock was not started until the ball was determined to be set for play by the official. This season, as soon the previous play ends, the 40 second clock will be started, which means that the anxious waiting and watching to see when the referee spots the ball ready for play will be eliminated.

The second change impacting game timing is that the game clock will restart on the ready-for-play signal after the previous play ends out of bounds. Previously, the rule stated that the clock will not start until the ball was snapped on the next play. One significant note is that this rule will not be in effect during the last two minutes of each half, resulting in minimal impact on a teamís two-minute drill. The NCAA wants to ensure that the offense has maximum time to run additional plays towards the end of either half to maintain a high level of excitement.

Taking a look at a change in one of the more controversial penalties, the five yard incidental face mask is no longer part of the game with all face mask penalties now being 15 yards. The idea behind this rule is to increase the overall safety of the game, but the significant difference in the severity of the facemask violations makes this an interesting change. One key note is that the officials are expected to analyze the severity of the infraction in terms of pulling, twisting, or turning the face mask when calling the penalty. If the face mask is just grazed with no impact on the player, the 15 yard penalty should not be called.

An additional change to increase safety in the game is the implementation of the horse collar penalty which will be considered a 15 yard personal foul. The rule states that a defender is no longer allowed to pull a player down by any portion of the uniform collar. Although in two specific instances this rule is not in effect, first when a quarterback is within the pocket and second when a runner is within the tackle box.

Instant replay usage has been expanded to now include field goals, but only in certain circumstances. Reviewable situations are when the football is ruled to be above or below the crossbar or if the ball is ruled inside or outside of the uprights, but only if the ball is within the uprights and not over the top. Another change in regards to instant replay is the use of the coachís challenge. Prior to this season, once a coach chose use to his challenge, it was lost for the remainder of the game. This season, if the initial challenge is successful, the coach will receive one additional challenge. The overall number of challenges is limited at two per game, so having another successful challenge after the first will be the last one for that game.

NEW BOWLS/BCS

The NCAA has officially licensed two new bowls for the 2008 season, increasing the overall total to 34. The first is the Congressional Bowl in Washington D.C and the second is the St. Petersburg Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Congressional Bowl will feature the winner of the Army/Navy rivalry if they are bowl eligible versus an ACC entrant, while the St. Petersburg Bowl will showcase a Big East versus Conference USA match-up. A third request was denied as the Rocky Mountain Bowl in Salt Lake City, Utah did not receive NCAA approval. The decision to add bowls is based on historical data which looks at the number of teams which are bowl eligible and the viability of the host presentations.

The BCS formula remains unchanged this season, but remains worthy of revisiting to understand how the national championship match-up is determined. The standings will include three components, the USA Today Coaches Poll, Harris Poll, and the average of six different computer rankings. The three components are all weighted evenly at one-third of the total, with the top two teams at the completion of the conference championship games set to square off on January 8th in Miami at Dolphin Stadium. The first BCS rankings will be released on October 12th with the final rankings which set the national title game match-up to be published on December 7th. Although discussions remain ongoing there is no timetable to adjust the current set-up or to initiate a playoff system.

COACHING CHANGES

The collegiate game welcomes 18 coaches into new settings this season. The most high profile and newsworthy hiring was Michiganís landing of West Virginiaís Rich Rodriguez after the Mountaineer coach led his team to its fourth Big East championship in five seasons. The most controversial hiring was UCLA bringing back Rick Neuheisel to the collegiate game after he spent his last three seasons coaching in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens. Neuheisel had prior experience coaching at Washington and Colorado, with both schools coming under fire from the NCAA during his tenure. Other big name programs with new coaches include Nebraska with Bo Pelini arriving from LSU, Arkansas with Bobby Petrino coming from the Atlanta Falcons, West Virginia who promoted Bill Stewart, Texas A&M welcoming Mike Sherman from the NFLís Houston Texans, and Georgia Tech who convinced Paul Johnson to head to Atlanta from Navy.


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