B/R CFB Community: How to Fix College Football's Overtime Rules?

Adam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterOctober 26, 2021

Illinois tight end Luke Ford (82) reaches for a pass that fell incomplete as Penn State safety Ji'Ayir Brown (16) looks on during overtime of an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. Illinois defeated Penn State 20-18 in the ninth overtime. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)
Barry Reeger/Associated Press

As it turns out, the Internet has strong opinions about overtime.

NFL, college football, amateur ping-pong competitions; it doesn't matter. If there is an overtime taking place somewhere inside our solar system, people will question whether that overtime is structured appropriately. 

On Saturday, we witnessed one of the strangest overtimes in college football history. Illinois beat Penn State in a ninth OT, which was thrilling, poorly played, drawn out and still wildly compelling largely because of the overwhelming inefficiency of it all.

The box score looked like a baseball game between two bad teams. 

And yes, people were really mad about it. 

Quick refresher: The first two overtimes are essentially the same as usual, with each team getting a chance to start a drive at the opponent's 25-yard line. If a touchdown is scored in the second OT, teams must attempt a two-point conversion. 

Under new rules implemented prior to this season, teams alternate running two-point conversation plays beginning with the third overtime. This continues until a winner is determined.

I asked B/R readers how they would handle overtime in college football. Responses varied wildly, and this collection of creative, beautiful minds had plenty to say.

Let's get thoughtful and weird.


No, Everything is Fine 

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 23: Sean Clifford #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions is chased out of the pocket by Owen Carney Jr. #99 of the Illinois Fighting Illini during the second half at Beaver Stadium on October 23, 2021 in State College, Pennsylvani
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

User: @tammy57

Suggestion: I loved it. Checked all the boxes for safety, brevity, drama and excitement 

Fair enough, @tammy57. 

Our first suggestion is not actually a suggestion, but an appreciation for this new mutated model.

Safety, of course, is not something I will ever argue against. I despise the way targeting is judged in CFB, but I also side with trying to make the game safer. I'd lump this into that pile. 

Drama? Yeah, I guess.

I watched this entire dreadful football game, however, and I was exhausted by overtime. Was there drama involved? For sure. But did a slew of missed two-point conversions add anything at all to that drama?

Deciding the outcome of a football game is naturally going to be dramatic. Heck, James Franklin and Bret Bielema could have wrestled at the 50-yard line to decide the outcome. That would have been incredibly dramatic (and probably bad for Franklin).

It also doesn't mean we should do things that way. 

We could do a lot of things that would be exciting. I just think maintaining a natural flow of overtime remains paramount, and a two-point conversion party ventures into a completely different way to decide the outcome of an event. 

If we want to be different, we can be much more different than this. Keep reading. Those ideas are coming.


Reverse Course 

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 24: LSU Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow (9) runs for a touchdown during the game between the LSU Tigers and the Texas A&M Aggies on November 24, 2018 at Kyle Field in College Station, TX. (Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

User: @DawgsInFlorida

Suggestion: Back to freaking normal. 25-yard line. Have to go for two starting in the third OT.

I liked the old format. It wasn't perfect, although I thought it was pretty close. 

The new changes were implemented largely because of the 74-72 football game between Texas A&M and LSU in 2018. That game, which was one of the greatest I've ever seen, went seven overtimes and took roughly four-and-a-half days to complete.

But, it was fun. In fact, it was iconic. 

And are we really shortening games now? Sure, there were less plays in Penn State-Illinois, but it didn't exactly prevent a marathon overtime from taking place. One could argue the previous format, which forced teams to go for two points as the overtime progressed, provided more chances for the games to end quicker along the way. 

There are plenty of things I have wanted to change in college football. It's a long, evolving list. 

Overtime wasn't really one of the marquee items. The previous iteration was perfectly fine.


Bring the NFL to CFB

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 17:  Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell (9) kicks the game winning field goal in overtime during the NFL football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 17, 2021 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

User: @area31 

Suggestion: Similar to NFL rules, give it to a team and they have to score; but it's not sudden death until both teams have the ball.

No. Let's not. 

Now, when I say that I hate the way the NFL handles overtime, I understand that many will proclaim my thoughts to be flooded with CFB bias. This isn't necessarily wrong, although that doesn't mean I'm not right.

NFL overtime is disjointed. It's clumsy. Worst of all, so much tends to depend on a coin flip. 

In fairness to the suggestion, I appreciate that sudden death is being prolonged until both teams have had the ball. I cannot believe a team can make it to overtime, lose a random coin flip, not touch the ball and lose a football game. It's laughable.  

But that's not the only issue I have with it. I appreciate the way college football shortens the field, and the NFL should follow suit.

In this instance, I would prefer college football's current format.


Death to Overtime 

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Chip Kelly of the UCLA Bruins reacts after an Oregon Ducks touchdown to tie the game 14-14 during the first half at Rose Bowl on October 23, 2021 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

User: @Canada1

Suggestion: End in a tie. Having legitimate CFP hopes changed (better or worse) by something so random makes no sense. On the day, the teams involved were equally good so the result should be a tie. 

This will not be a popular suggestion in the comment section. This much I know.

We, as human beings, want and need closure. It doesn't matter how we get it. We simply don't like walking away from games without having designated winners and losers.

On the other hand, I kind of understand where @Canada1 is coming from. Overtime does inject randomness into the sport, and it's not like the individuals deciding the College Football Playoff factor that into consideration. 

This is a sport with a long history of ties. Go back to the origins of college football, and you'll find them everywhere. Not only were they once acceptable, but they were very much a part of the way the game was played.

Don't want to end in a tie? Do something about it. Or at least try to. 

Still, this isn't likely to be where the sport goes. We have come too far, and the expectations for outcomes are now ingrained.

Ties are a very reasonable suggestion, although reason will do you no good here. 


Squid Game OT

PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 2:  Stanford Cardinal football players and fans celebrate on the field after the Stanford's 31-24 overtime victory over the Oregon Ducks in a Pac-12 college football game on October 2, 2021 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Califor
David Madison/Getty Images

User: @Byeweek 

Suggestion: Each team loses one player per OT period. End with 1 on 1 Oklahoma drill.

The more I think about this idea, the more I love it. 

Is it outrageous? You bet. But there's also something amid the absurdity that makes a lot of sense. 

Entertainment? Check? 

Encouraging player safety by taking players off the field? Check. (I'm going to assume we don't get to the Oklahoma drill, because that hasn't exactly aged well when it comes to safety. We might need to work on that part a bit.)

Thoughtful strategy? Goodness, yes.

If we want to keep overtime more game-centric, we could do it with this method. The twist, of course, is that each team would have to handpick what player left the field on each side of the ball the longer it went on.

The NHL did something at least in the same stratosphere with its overtimes, turning the game into three-on-three, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. 

This isn't exactly that. It's a much more fluid, entertaining version.

But if we're after something different and weird—theater, if you will—this would certainly be that. 


College Football PKs

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 23: Christopher Dunn #32 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack kicks a field goal against the Miami Hurricanes during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium on October 23, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/
Mark Brown/Getty Images

User: @Not_JonGruden 

Suggestion: A field-goal kickoff. Each team starting with 40 yarders and each time a kick is made they move the ball back three yards. First kicker to miss loses. 

Let's continue to fall down the rabbit hole of ingenuity.

You want drama? Well, let's tee up one the most uncertain elements CFB has to offer and decide outcomes based on the results. 

As for this OT concept, the only major issue I have is starting out with 40-yard field goals. That is a tad bit aggressive for the college ranks.

I think we start with a 30-yarder and move back five yards each time—like a powerlifting competition but for kickers.

Soccer, of course, has done quite well with this philosophy. Penalty kick shoot-outs, while vastly different from soccer games, create some of the most exciting moments in all of sports. 

Would two college kickers do the same? The anxiousness in the moment would certainly be there. And although I doubt that OT would be transformed this drastically, it would be enthralling.


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