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College Football

College Football Overtime Rules

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It used to be, up until 1996, that if teams finished in regulation with the same score, it was a tie. Nobody likes a tie. Unlike the current NFL overtime rules, the college system mandates that each team gets an opportunity to score at least once. Kickoffs are eliminated as each team begins its possession on the 25-yard line – immediately in field goal range with a competent kicker. If a tie remains after the first overtime, another overtime period is added until a winner is determined.

So in 1996, college football introduced the overtime system we have now, which is each team with an offensive possession at the opponent’s 25-yard line. The team with the most points after that wins, or if it’s still a tie, it goes on to more overtimes. Nothing changes until after the third, where the teams must then go for a 2-point try rather than an extra point. The defense can’t score, there are no safeties, even is a QB was inclined to run back 75 yards and fall into his own end zone

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The NFL’s system is to play an additional 15-minute quarter of actual football, with kicks, punts, extra points, safeties, defensive touchdowns and everything. Whoever is ahead after that wins, and if it’s still tied it’s just a tie.

The overtime rules were an instant sensation. In its first season in effect, Cal and Arizona played in a four-overtime, 56-55, thriller. Three games reached seven overtimes in later years, forcing an amendment in an effort to shorten these games. Now teams must go for two after scoring a touchdown in the third overtime or later.

Overtime Starts

The overtime period begins with the coin toss to see who gets possession or who defends their goal first. Unlike the sudden death form of overtime in the NFL, college football’s overtime allows each team the chance to have possession. There is no game clock in overtime at the college level, just the normal play clock.

The team that gets possession first receives the ball on its opponent’s 25-yard line. The team can keep possession of the ball until one of the following happens:

  1. They score a touchdown
  2. Attempt a field goal
  3. Turn over the ball

Once the first teams possession is over the second team gets possession and follows the same format. If the first team scored a touchdown and an extra point, then the second team must do so in order for the overtime period to continue. If not the game is over when the second team losses possession.

Double Overtime

If both teams score the same amount of points, whether by touchdown or field goal, then a second round of overtime is played following another coin toss.

Triple Overtime

If a third overtime is needed, then teams are forced to convert a 2-point conversion following a touchdown. They cannot kick an extra point.

The one and only way for the overtime period to end without one team getting possession is if the first team turns the ball over and the defense is able to convert a touchdown on the turnover. Otherwise, each team is afforded the same number of possessions. This form of overtime has seen its critics as offensively minded teams have a much higher chance of winning. Playing inside the 25-yard line of your opponent is a difficult task, as the field becomes smaller and open spaces fewer. Therefore, teams that are used to controlling the clock and pushing the ball forward tend to be more successful in OT at the college level.

 

 

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