2022 College Football Conference and Rule Changes

What the title doesn’t have in cleverness I’ve attempted to make up for with directness. Let’s examine what’s going to be moving around this season before stuff gets real crazy the next few years.

Conference Moves

We’ve got team switching leagues and moving up. While the real fireworks start next year, we’ve got some changes for this year. To wit:

  • James Madison will move from the FCS Colonial Athletic Association to the Sun Belt. While they will play a full FBS schedule this season, they will still be ineligible for bowls as they are transitioning.
  • Marshall, Old Dominion, and Southern Mississippi will move from Conference USA to the Sun Belt.
  • Jacksonville State will begin the FCS-to-FBS transition process this season to move from the Atlantic Sun to Conference USA. They will be ineligible for bowls in 2022 and 2023.
  • Sam Houston State will begin the FCS-to-FBS transition process this season to move from the Western Athletic Conference to Conference USA. They will be ineligible for bowls in 2022 and 2023.


Okay, let’s get into the weeds. The main thing is that these are playing rules, so nothing about NIL or anything. I’ll try to explain them the best I can using just text.

Rule 3-3-5-b

Though expanded upon elsewhere in the rulebook, they are apparently trying to discourage faking injuries (to get free timeouts) by making it possible for conference offices to actually discipline schools for doing it.

Rule 4-1-3-r

You can call this one the Kenny Pickett rule, as it specifies that when the ball carrier simulates a feet-first slide, the ball is considered dead at the spot the slide began, even if the ball carrier is never actually down.

Rule 7-3-11

Illegal touching, i.e., when a forward pass is intentionally touched by a player who is ineligible is now a five yard penalty and a loss of down, instead of just five yards.

Rule 9-1-3/4

These changes make clarifications regarding targeting. The first defines the “crown of the helmet” to be the “top segment of the helmet; namely, the circular area defined by a 6-inch radius from the apex (top) of the helmet.” The latter says that a defenseless player includes “an offensive player in a passing posture with focus downfield.”

Later, this change also allows for players ejected for targeting in the second half of a game to be reinstated after a review with the national coordinator of officials determines that the player should not have been disqualified.

Rule 9-1-6

Apparently the rules committee hates option football. Cut blocking is further reigned in with several significant changes. Linemen may only block below the waist in any direction now on the “initial line charge”, otherwise, all blocks below the waist must be “directed from the front” [of the player being blocked]. Stationary backfield players in the tackle box (the area between the tackles behind the line of scrimmage and 1 yard ahead of the neutral zone from there) may only block below the waist “directed from the front”. In both cases, this is only allowed when the ball is in the tackle box. All other offensive players are not allowed to block below the waist (i.e., any players split out wide like receivers).

No defensive players other than those starting within the tackle box within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage are allowed to block below the waist.

Rule 9-2-1-a-1

Makes some clarifications to unsportsmanlike conduct enforcement. If the kicking team commits an unsportsmanlike foul, the other team can choose to enforce the penalty from the previous spot or the subsequent dead ball spot, provided it is not a field goal attempt and the ball crosses the neutral zone.

Defensive unsportsmanlike fouls during pass plays are now enforced from the end of the run (if it crosses the neutral zone), unless the ball is incomplete or intercepted or possession otherwise changes.

Rule 9-3-4 (c-e)

Defensive holding is now an automatic first down, in addition to the existing 10 yard penalty, like in the NFL.