May 26, 2011

It's time to move kickoffs again

Here is this week's "Three And Out," a weekly feature that will provide a quick but opinionated take from Tom Dienhart on three hot topics.

1. It's time to move kickoffs again. I usually don't like college football to mimic the NFL, but I think the college game would benefit from copying the NFL's new kickoff rule. The NFL has moved kickoffs from the 30- to the 35-yard line and, in the name of safety, will prohibit a running head start of more than five yards for members of the coverage team. College football voted to move kickoffs from the 35 to the 30 before the 2007 season. Yes, the change has led to more returns, which often are the most exciting plays in a game. But kickoffs also are dangerous plays that feature players running full speed into each other. Kickoffs from the 35 figure to result in fewer returns, thus eliminating some of the violent collisions that take place. Why wouldn't the college game make a similar change, especially in the wake of Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand becoming paralyzed while making a tackle on a kickoff return last season?

sitting it out
Here is a look at the 25 Big Six conference schools that haven't been in a BCS bowl. The BCS era began with the 1998 season.

ACC (6): Boston College, Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia
Big East (2): Rutgers, USF
Big Ten (4): Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern
Big 12 (5): Baylor, Iowa State, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech
Pac-12 (3): Arizona, Arizona State, California
SEC (5): Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, South Carolina.
2. On the outside looking in. I was doing research recently on the BCS era, which began in 1998. And I got to wondering: How many schools from Big Six conferences haven't played in a BCS bowl? There are 25 of them (see accompanying chart). The most surprising schools on this list? Arizona, Arizona State, Boston College, California, Clemson, Michigan State, Missouri, North Carolina and South Carolina. Each has the resources to play on college football's biggest stage. BC, South Carolina, Clemson, and Missouri have played in their league's respective championship game; Michigan State won a share of the Big Ten last season; and Arizona State (2007) and Cal (2006) won shares of the Pac-10 title in recent seasons. That the other schools haven't made a BCS bowl isn't a shock. Honestly, I would be shocked if Baylor, Duke, Indiana, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt ever make a BCS bowl.

3. Nine league games should be the norm. The Big Ten is kicking around the idea of playing nine conference games in the future. And it's a good idea. The cost of scheduling non-conference home games continues to rise. Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne recently said that non-league home games that cost about $300,000 a decade ago now go for $800,000 to $1 million. Is scheduling a "sure win" vs. a patsy really worth that much money? The public would be more interested in seeing another conference game. Future schedules already are completed to the extent that the soonest the Big Ten could move to a nine-game league schedule is 2017. Frankly, all Big Six leagues should play nine conference games. As it is, the Pac-12 and Big 12 are the only leagues to play nine conference games. The Big East would need to grow to 10 schools -- TCU joins in 2012 to push membership to nine -- to play nine league games, but that may happen in the future.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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