Are you wondering if the new college kickoff rules will have much of an effect on the game? Nate Silver’s looked at the results from the NFL’s first season with kickoffs from the 35-yard line and finds the data to be statistically significant.
Touchbacks skyrocketed to 43.5 percent this season, more than two and a half times last year’s rate of 16.4 percent.
Did the rule change deprive fans of excitement? From a numbers standpoint, the answer is yes. Nine kickoffs were returned for a touchdown in 2011, compared to 23 in 2010.
The 2011 rate of 153 kickoff returns per touchdown was close to double the rate of 88 per touchdown in 2010. But it was actually better than the rate of 163 returns per touchdown from 2008.
Concussions on kickoffs were reportedly reduced by 50 percent this past season.
Those are tradeoffs I can live with, especially considering this.
In taking the NFL’s experience into account, there is one wrinkle of uncertainty. The NCAA is moving touchbacks to the 25-yard line, a step the NFL chose not to take. On the surface, that’s certainly adds incentive to take a knee on kickoffs which go into the end zone, but will it also encourage kickoff teams to attempt more directional kicking?