The new rules in college football, implemented this week, that received the most attention were: taking time off the clock on penalties in the final minute of each half; and the new taunting rule that could wipe out a touchdown if a player does it before crossing the goal line.

But the rule University of Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema has referred to a couple times as one that could impact his team the most is change in cut blocks.

First, the clock and taunting changes.

Teams will have the option of taking 10 seconds off the clock on penalties called in the final minute of a half, which is currently in place in the NFL. That's to discourage offenses from taking intentional penalties to stop the clock.

That's a result of the Music City Bowl, when Tennessee lost the game when an illegal participation penalty on the North Carolina field-goal unit gave the Tar Heels another chance at a kick. Now, the clock would run out on Carolina.

College teams now will have the option of taking the yardage and the time, the yardage only or declining the penalty.

"I'm going to, actually, during the summer, try to set up some game sequences and see how you'd handle that exact situation on the clock," Bielema said.

Bielema discussed the change with the umpire who worked the UW scrimmage on Saturday. The umpire worked a bowl game in which the clock rule could have been a factor.

"Teams got a motion penalty and stopped the clock with three seconds," Bielema said. "Whereas, now the game would be over with and done with."

The playing rules panel approved the taunting rule last April, but decided to wait a year to put it into effect.

Previously, a 15-yard penalty for taunting -- if a player were high-stepping into the end zone or pointing the ball toward an opponent -- would be assessed on the extra-point attempt, or the ensuing kickoff.

Penalties called after the player reaches the end zone will still be assessed on those plays. But live-ball fouls, before the player reaches the end zone, will be assessed from the spot of the foul, which will result in the touchdown being wiped away.

The change in cut blocks was adopted as a safety measure. Players lined up within seven yards of center on scrimmage plays will still be permitted to block below the waist anywhere on the field.

But running backs or receivers, lined up outside the tackle box, can only block below the waist if they are blocking straight ahead or toward the nearest sideline.

This will eliminate dangerous crackback blocks below the waist on defenders in the middle of the field, when the blocker comes from the outside. Bielema is seeking clarification on that rule because he said the wording appears to include defensive players who cut offensive players.

"We're still actually putting together tapes and clips to get rulings on this," Bielema said. "I thought it was weird when I read it. It's not only offensive players, it's (for) defensive players.

"If you really watch our film, you'll realize a lot of teams like to submerge on our offensive linemen -- our bigger guys -- and cut their legs out, which always is a little bit scary. But now that's going to be illegal, in a lot of ways, on the field, both offense and defense, so it could really change the game."

In other changes:

*Quarterbacks will be given more freedom to throw the ball away. Last season, a receiver had to have a "reasonable opportunity" to make the catch. Now, he needs to only be in the area to avoid an inentional grounding penalty.

*Assistants in the coaches' booths can have a monitor showing live broadcasts of the game. That will allow them to get a better view of close calls and determine whether a play should be challenged.

*Defenses on place kicks will be flagged if three or more players try to overpower one offensive lineman. A similar rule already protects the long snapper. That means players attempting to block kicks will need to utilize quickness and athleticism more than sheer power.

 

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