December 2, 2022

College Football Overtime Rules 2021: Explaining How the New OT Format Works

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Overtime will be a little different in college football games in the 2021 season. The NCAA has once again made some minor changes to its overtime rules.

Why? Everything is in order to bring the game to a faster conclusion.

The NCAA has made overtime reduction its mission since Texas A&M defeated LSU 74-72 in a seven-hour overtime game in the 2018 season. As exciting as this game was, it was a long one. Over 200 snaps have been played, which is certainly not ideal for players on the pitch.

So how does the NCAA change its overtime rules for 2021? Here’s everything you need to know about the differences between overtime this season and how it compares to previous seasons.

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2021 College Football Overtime Rules

The NCAA changed its overtime rules in 2021 in an effort to reduce the number of games played during an overtime period. Teams are now required to make a two-point conversion after a touchdown beginning in the second overtime period. Previously, this started during the third overtime period.

Additionally, teams will begin making alternate two-point conversion attempts if the game reaches third overtime. So this is essentially a single game player. The purpose of this is to limit the number of games played by each team.

Here are the rest of the college football overtime rules for the 2021 season.

  • At the end of the rule, the referee will flip a coin to determine which team will have the ball first in overtime. The captain of the visiting team will initiate the toss. The winner can choose to go on offense or defense first or choose which side of the court to play on. The decision cannot be postponed.
  • Teams that lose the toss must exercise the remaining option. They will then have the opportunity to choose first among the four categories in the second overtime and the following even overtime periods. The team that wins the toss will have the same options in odd OT periods.
  • In each of the first two overtime periods, teams are awarded possession from the opponent’s 25-yard line, unless a penalty is assessed to back them down. The offense may place the ball anywhere on or between the hash marks.
  • Each team is allowed one time out per overtime period. Time-outs are not carried over from the regulations nor between periods of overtime.
  • Each team retains the ball until it does not score, fail to make a first down, or return the ball.
  • Beginning in the second overtime period, teams must attempt a two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown.
  • From the third overtime, teams will begin performing alternating two-point conversion plays instead of offensive possessions.

College football overtime rules are the same in the regular season and playoffs.

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Proposals to change the overtime rules for college football

The most recent overtime rule change proposal was passed by the NCAA in 2021. It was made in the name of shortening games and limiting offensive reps, as previously noted.

Here are the rule changes that have been ratified for 2021:

  • Beginning in the second overtime period, teams must attempt a two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown.
  • From the third overtime, teams will begin performing alternating two-point conversion plays instead of offensive possessions.

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History of college football overtime rules

Until 1996, most NCAA games did not go into overtime. They just ended in a tie. However, the governing body has passed overtime rules after some important games rolled back and all ended in a tie.

The original overtime rules had been in place for some time. Each team retrieved the ball from the opponent’s 25-yard line and held the ball until they failed to score, failed to make a first try, or knocked down the ball. Teams alternated possession until one team emerged victorious.

Then in 2019 the NCAA made some changes to the name of shortening the game. That’s when they added the two-point conversion rule, so teams had to start attempting a two-point conversion from third overtime. Then, after five overtime, the teams would begin performing alternating two-point conversion games. These changes were, basically, a direct response to the Texas A&M game against LSU.

In 2021, the rules have been changed again as teams need to make two-point conversions in second overtime and will start alternating two-point games at the start of third overtime.

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