College Football Is About to Get Wussified (w/ Clowney Helmet Hit VIDEO)
It would take some major changes to the rules, even more major than some of the changes we've already seen, for me to stop loving football, and if television ratings, revenue, jersey sales and social media are any indication, America feels the same way.
That said, while most advancements within the game have been for its betterment, I'm not so sure about the rules they've made in an attempt to deter hits to the head.
I just don't think referees are qualified to discern at real speed whether or not borderline hits are, in fact, a) squarely to the head and b) intentional. Yet, unfortunately, 90 percent of the hits that are called as such fall into the "borderline" area. There are several openly violent hits, but mere violence should not equate to illegality.
If it does, then we're on the verge of a very dicey time for the sport.
Already at NFL games, after any big hit, the first reaction for many fans isn't a high five or a cheer or (if it's one of "our guys") a cringe. The first reaction is usually a look over at the closest two or three officials to see if there's a flag on the play.
This is a terrible way to consume football at its hard-hitting best.
But with concussion lawsuits a reality and with the very, very minute sliver of concussed players from eras gone by resulting in some form of tragedy (Dave Duerson, Junior Seau) that may possibly have had something to do with brain injuries, the mind-set of erring on the side of safety, drastically so, has enveloped the NFL and will soon be coming to a college football game near you.
Starting this season, college referees will have the discretion to eject a player they think is targeting the area above the shoulders of an opposing player with a hit. If a player is ejected in the second half of a game, he will be suspended for the first half of the following game.
College referees are already pretty shaky. Arming them with something as impactful as this, with the difficulty of the call for even the best referees, is frightening, like having your grandmother handle a .357 magnum.
Last season, there were 99 "targeting" penalties over the course of around 1,500 college football games, so about one every fifteen games.
When we think of head-rattling hits at the collegiate level, the first one that comes to mind because of its recentness and because the deliverer of the hit is most likely to be the number one pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, we think of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's drilling Michigan running back Vincent Smith in last season's Outback Bowl.
You remember that hit, right? The one where Michigan's blocking scheme miraculously left the best defensive player in college football unblocked, allowing him a free run to the ball carrier, and resulting in a hit where Smith's helmet jettisoned about ten yards into the backfield, slightly further than Smith's lifeless carcass. Oftentimes lost in the hoopla of Smith's headgear popping off like a dandelion head is the fact that in one fell swoop, Clowney's hit also forced a fumble and recovered it with his left hand.
All within like two seconds, literally.