No Time Like Overtime
Serpico introduced a point that I’d like to elaborate on: the difference between college football and NFL overtime.
The rules for NFL overtime are simple: the ref holds another coin toss for possession. Fifteen minutes of “sudden death” football are played; the first team to score wins. If no one scores after fifteen minutes, it ends in a genuine tie.
The rules for NCAA football overtime are not as simple, but they’re not complex. One team starts with the ball on the 25-yard line. If they can score on their possession, without giving up on downs or turning the ball over, then the opposing team gets a chance to do the same. If the opposing team scores as well, then they advance to another overtime period. However, if one team scores and the other doesn’t – or doesn’t score as much – that’s it; game over.
We saw an NFL OT game this weekend: Bears over Broncos. Chicago won the coin toss and then went on to sink a long bomb to Desmond Clark and get in field goal range. This shouldn’t surprise the Nerds in the audience: the team that wins the toss wins the OT period, and thus the game, fifty-two percent of the time.
However, we saw two NCAA OT games this weekend, and they were nailbiters both: Arkansas upsetting #1 LSU in triple overtime and Tennessee upsetting
Oregon Kentucky in quadruple overtime. The diehard fans that stuck around to watch them to the end – and could you call yourself a serious fan and leave early? – saw some thrilling athletics, let me tell you.
Many pundits insist the NFL’s OT system is “broken.” There have been a number of suggested fixes – some outlandish and exciting (auction off the “kickoff” line on which the OT starts), some relatively straightforward (just adopt the college rules). Here at Nerds on Sports, though, we’re interested in the more fundamental questions.
For instance: why does the NFL have the OT system it does?