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Penn State Football: Rule Changes To Know For 2017

by on August 23, 2017 12:00 PM

The 2017 football season is just days away and that means brushing up on any new rules to know this year. Fortunately for those who enjoy reading the rule book there aren't too many changes during a slower year for the rules committee. 

Even so, there are a few key rule changes this year to know. This includes the area of emphasis, the pace of play and length of games. While that hasn't entirely been ironed out yet, there are a few interesting tidbits to note on that front.

Horse Collar Tackle

 The nameplate area of the jersey is added to the inside collar of the shoulder pad and jersey as places where it is illegal for a tackler to grab a ball carrier and immediately pull him to the ground. 

Leaping and Hurdling  

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 No defensive player who runs forward from beyond the neutral zone may leap or hurdle in an obvious attempt to block a field goal or try. Before this change, a player committed a foul only if he landed on another player. This year, the committee took note of some players being injured in making these moves when trying to block a place kick, so the change is an attempt to take this leaping and hurdling action out of the game.

2018 Rule Change - Knee Pads

Beginning in 2018, players' pants must have knee pads such that the pants and the pads cover the knees. Previously, the rules recommended that the knees be covered, but this was not required. The committee is delaying implementation of the mandate until 2018 because a number of schools have already bought equipment for the year.

Point of Emphasis - Game Length

Since 2008, when games at the FBS level averaged three hours and nine minutes, game time on average in 2016 stretched to three hours and 22 minutes, an increase of 13 minutes. Of course, this is an average that washes out a lot of detail. But it is clear that with a growing number of teams running high-powered offenses that generate more plays and more touchdowns, the overall length of games has naturally gone up.

In discussing this trend, the rules committee has not settled on an optimum game length. But the general sense is that times as long as three and a half hours would not be good for the game. As the committee seeks ways to deal with this, there is little support for making rules changes that would take plays out of the game. And so it will look for ways to manage the length of the game by addressing how to manage the dead-ball times. Officials are charged with the responsibility of being efficient in handling dead-ball intervals and plays where the game clock stops, such as incomplete passes.

One point of emphasis for the officials this year will be to have better control of the length of halftime. By rule the halftime is 20 minutes, but there are often some delays in starting the countdown. Also, current rules allow the schools to mutually agree that the halftime will be longer than 20 minutes. One small but perhaps significant editorial change for 2017 is this: the teams will be allowed to agree on a shorter halftime, but they may not make it longer than 20 minutes. And the referees are being instructed to start the 20-minute halftime countdown as soon as the first half ends, per the language of the rule. The hope is that these steps will halt the trend for longer game times.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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