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Important rule changes for the 2016 college football season

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Player safety remains at the forefront of changes starting this season

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

With the college football season less than a month away, rule changes are upon us yet again. The College Football Officiating (CFO) committee met earlier this year and presented proposals for a list of new rules. Since player conduct and safety is a key topic, it is highlighted the most in the rule changes this year. Here's a synopsis of the changes taking effect for the 2016 season.

Blocking Below The Waist

"Offensive players who are outside the tackle box at the snap, and those who leave the tackle box after the snap, may only block an opponent below the waist if the force of the initial contact is directly at the opponent's front. However, they may not block an opponent below the waist in a direction toward the original position of the ball unless the ball carrier has clearly crossed the line of scrimmage."

Low Blows on Quarterbacks

The existing rule that's currently in place was clarified by the committee. In regards to a tackler forcible making contact against the quarterback, he shall not hit below the knees including "rolling up" on a tackle after a pass. The hit that broke CU quarterback Sefo Liufau's foot would have been illegal under this new rule.

Defenseless or Sliding Players

This goes along the lines of the targeting rules established in the past five years. The term "defenseless" player has been expanded beyond a pass receiver. The committee extended to apply to a ball carrier who has "obviously given himself up and is sliding feet-first." The change is sure to spank disapproval with fans in the upcoming season, considering the rules can dictate what constitutes a  "defenseless" player.

Tripping of a Ball Carrier

In college football, tripping a ball carrier has not been illegal-- until now. The committee has extended the same rule applied to an opponent for tripping, making it illegal to leg whip including a rusher.  An effort to curb the growing number of leg injuries to runner.

Intervention of Medical Observation

Injuries are a part of the game and the committee approved an experimental rule from last year. This addresses the medical needs for players during the course of game. The rule allows the use of the instant replay official to interrupt game action with the advisement of a medical professional. Since the feedback from schools has been positive, the rule is being implemented in full this season. Coaches and officials are taken out the equation when it comes to less than noticeable concussions from the sidelines.

Expansion for Instant Replay on Targeting

Targeting has been a subject with no compromise. Every foul is reviewed by officials and the player is usually ejected. Now, officials will have to determine if contact was directed toward the head and/or neck area of a opponent. The review process changes with officials being responsible for examining the entire call made on the field, not just the contact. An instant replay official can now make a determination if a call was missed on the field, creating a penalty in obvious situations.

CU Defensive back Afolabi Laguda was ejection last season against UMass for targeting receiver Sharif Custis. The outcome against Laguda could've been reversed due to the hit not being directed toward Custis' head or neck.

Unsportsmanlike Coaching Conduct

NCAA football is the only sport at the collegiate level that coaches are not ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct. The committee has changed the rule to follow the rest of the sports. Going forward, a coach will be ejected for  two unsportsmanlike fouls in a game. The coach will leave the field and will stay "out of view" for the remainder of the contest. The committee said, "As teachers and adult leaders of young athletes playing football, coaches should be held to a high standard of behavior appropriate to such a responsible position."

Stronger Kick Formation

Typically this would relate to 4th down plays, but the committee thought punt and field goal rules needed to be changed.  As it stood before, teams would take advantage of these plays originating from scrimmage, because the offense would have five lineman with jersey number between 50-79. A team could show a kick formation and linemen could be replaced with faster players.  In the past, a run or pass out of this formation would be legal. After the change, an obvious kick attempt must be shown in formation.

Clock Starts in Last Two Minutes

This change will be the most interesting in the upcoming season. The rule give the referee the ability to level out the playing field. If a team manipulates the clock to gain a clear advantage, the officiating crew can start or stop the game clock without reason. The committee felt it was necessary to pass this rule for the interest of  fair competition. In addition, in the last two minutes of a half a referee will start the clock on the snap (not placement of the ball), if a team ahead in score commits a foul.

The Buffs final drive against Hawaii last season could have resulted differently. The Warriors prevented a final snap of the ball and the Mountain West officials claimed time expired. Under the new rule, refs would have the ability to stop the game to spot the ball and allow both teams to line up.


More Television Access

During dead ball periods, television partners will be allowed beyond the restricted areas. This will provide a better viewing experience and enhance the broadcasts. Expect this to expand in the coming years as technical aspects continue to improve.

Coaching Techniques Going Digital

The rules committee gave the recommendation that coaches be allowed to use computers and video in the press box or locker room. This measure was delayed and will be voted on it in 2017, allowing schools time to evolve with the digital technologies. The major changes to this rule will be coming in the immediate future and beyond.

Instant Replay Being Experimented

Instant reply will be reviewed this year with a new set of rules. The replay official will take a "collaborated approach" with an adviser, who'll be watching from an alternate location with multiple camera angles. The alternate official could make the determination on a disputed play along with the main official.

The college football season starts down under on Aug 26 with Pac-12 rival California hosting Hawaii in Sydney, Australia.