In the 21st century, major sports have had to walk an interesting tightrope. They’ve had to balance maintaining the flow of the game in an increasingly impatient society, with rules and regulations that are fair to the participating teams.
Before the 2019 college football season, the NCAA made a tweak to their overtime format. Instead of games reaching an inordinate number of overtimes(which in college football, meant teams kept matching scores on drives starting from the opponent’s 25 yard line), they decided to implement a more sudden death approach. Once a game reached its fifth overtime, teams would take turns attempting two point conversions. Before the 2021 season, that rule was updated, so that this would take place starting with the third overtime. Predictably, and by design, this would theoretically reduce the number of plays involving athletes running on empty three to four hours after the game kicked off.
Through October 23rd*, there were 84 NCAA football games that required overtime, and 94
“When you’ve had 60 minutes and two overtime periods and still haven’t determined a winner, it’s time to get the student-athletes off the field,” said Steve Shaw, NCAA Secretary Rules Editor. Via NCAA.org
All sports and leagues have a difficult time determining what the sweet spot is for overtime formats. If the NCAA really wanted to double down on player safety, they could implement the alternating two point conversion idea right when overtime begins. This would cut down on the additional physical toll the players take. However, that would also leave college football with a very soccer-like shootout, which many fans think is more about luck and less about determining who the better team was.
The longest game of the college football season was the Illinois-Penn State tilt from October, which lasted a remarkable nine overtimes. The Fighting Illini defeated the Nittany Lions 20-18 in the marathon affair.