Back it Up!
Goodbye 35-yard line
The NCAA rules committee has made two significant changes for the 2007 season, that will of course affect Ivy football games as well.
First, the new timing rules that went into effect last year that ran the clock as soon as the ball was kicked off and even after changes of possession are now null and void. Too many coaches complained about the significant drop in the average number of total plays per college game.
Second, kickoffs will now be from the 30 yard line, not the 35, mirroring a decision the NFL made about 16 years ago. I'm not sure if the reasoning behind this decision -- to encourage more exciting kickoff returns -- holds water in most NCAA conferences, where touchbacks are pretty rare anyway. I usually only see one or two touchbacks in entire Ivy seasons season as it is, so I expect a lot of Ivy teams to either recruit some serious "boomer-types" or kickoff-only specialists, or simply get their kickers to work on hang time a lot more in order to let the coverage teams get ready.
Part of me thinks this change will help mostly Cornell greatly this season, as they have the best kick returner in the league with rising sophomore Bryan Walters. Walters darn near pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat for the Big Red against Columbia last year with a super punt return inside Lion territory late in the game.
Of course,these kinds of rules changes often have very unexpected consequences, so it's not a sure thing that kicking from further away will create more spectacular returns.
But I do expect most teams to enjoy better starting field position, which may not be a bad thing in a league that's becoming a dominated by defense.