College football overtime rules 2021: Explaining how the new OT format works

Overtime is going to look a little bit different in college football games during the 2021 season. The NCAA has once again made some minor tweaks to its overtime rules.

Why? It’s all in the name of bringing the game to a quicker conclusion.

The NCAA has made shortening overtime its mission since Texas A&M beat LSU 74-72 in a seven overtime game during the 2018 season. As exciting as that game was, it was long. More than 200 snaps were played, which is certainly not ideal for the players on the field. 

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

College football overtime rules 2021

The NCAA amended its overtime rules in 2021 in an attempt to lessen the number of plays run in an overtime period. Teams are now required to run a two-point conversion after a touchdown beginning in the second overtime period. Previously, that began in the third overtime period.

Additionally, teams will begin running alternating two-point conversion attempts if the game reaches a third overtime. So, it’s essentially a one-play drive. The goal of this is to limit the number of plays run from scrimmage by each team.

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

The college football overtime rules are the same in both the regular and postseason.

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College football overtime rule change proposals

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 stated.

Below are the rule changes that were ratified for 2021:

History of college football overtime rules

Up until 1996, most NCAA games did not go to overtime. They simply ended in a tie. However, the governing body adopted overtime rules after pushback on some important matchups ending all square.

The initial overtime rules were in place for quite a while. Each team got the ball at the opponent’s 25-yard line and retained the ball until it failed to score, failed to make a first down or turned the ball over. Teams alternated possessions until a team emerged as a victor.

Then, in 2019, the NCAA made a couple of changes in 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 starting in the third overtime. Then, after five overtimes, teams would start running alternating two-point conversion plays. These changes were, basically, a direct response to the Texas A&M vs. LSU game.

In 2021, the rules were tweaked again, as teams must run two-point conversions in the second overtime period and will begin alternating two-point plays when the third overtime begins.

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