The College Football Targeting Rule Took Another Hit To The Head
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The College Football Targeting Rule Took Another Hit To The Head

Pun intended, obviously, but this rule needs some serious work nonetheless.

The College Football Targeting Rule Took Another Hit To The Head

Saw this happen on Saturday while watching the Penn State versus Michigan game. Penn State linebacker Brandon Smith (47) drops into pass coverage, makes a break on the ball when it is thrown, and, in doing so, runs his shoulder into the head of intended Michigan receiver Grant Perry (9).

For his actions on this particular play, Smith was penalized for targeting, which of course is the NCAA's relatively new rule implemented to improve player safety in college football by reducing the number of hits to the head. The play was reviewed, and the targeting call was upheld, and Smith was ejected from the game. Here is what the rule means, straight from the rulebook:

No player shall target and make forcible contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting (See Note 1 below). When in question, it is a foul.

No player shall target and make forcible contact tothe head or neck area of a defenseless opponent (See Note 2 below) with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting (See Note 1 below). When in question, it is a foul (Rules 2-27-14 and 9-6). (A.R. 9-1-4-I-VI) Note 1: "Targeting" means that a player takes aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with forcible contact that goes beyond making a legal tackle or a legal block or playing the ball. Some indicators of targeting include but are not limited to:
Launch—a player leaving his feet to attack an opponent by an upward and forward thrust of the body to make forcible contact in the head or neck area
A crouch followed by an upward and forward thrust to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area, even though one or both feet are still on the ground
Leading with helmet, shoulder, forearm, fist, hand or elbow to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area
Lowering the head before attacking by initiating forcible contact with the crown of the helmet

I have always been an opponent of this rule. While I certainly I agree with the motivation, the means are downright horrible, and we've seen that multiple times since the rule came to fruition a few years ago. Today, this incident was one of the worst, if not the worst, targeting calls I've ever seen. If you can read the rules and figure out what Smith did wrong there, please let me know.

The rule is patchwork, plain and simple. I watch a lot of college football, and I've seen so many botched targeting calls that I have got to wonder if different officiating crews are even on the same page about this rule because it seems, perhaps due to the bang-bang nature of football, that the call can really go either way depending on the crew making the call.

Not only is the rule ambiguous and shoddy, but the penalty is harsh. Every targeting play is automatically reviewed, and if the call stands, the offending player is disqualified. This sounds good on paper because players who break the rules and aim for the head/neck area of their opponents get punished for doing so, but, once again, because of the nature of the game, it doesn't end up that way all the time, and then you have guys like Brandon Smith getting ejected for trying to make a play on the ball to break up a pass.

Much like NFL officiating crews still haven't figured out what exactly constitutes a catch, NCAA officiating crews just straight up don't have this targeting rule figured out. And it is a bad rule, mind you, so it really isn't entirely their faults. But as we've seen in the past, and especially by what happened in the Penn State - Michigan game, this rule needs some serious overhaul. Fix it, NCAA.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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