Back in March, the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, the same one that brought touchbacks out to the 25 yardline last year, approved a new set of rule changes for the 2013 football season.
The most notable change involves hits on defenseless players - in addition to the existing 15 yard penalty, players who "target" opponents above the shoulders will face ejections. If a player is ejected in the first half, he'll miss the remainder of the game; if the foul occurs after halftime, he'll also miss the first half of his next game. Video replay can be used to confirm ejections on the field.
The additional deterrence against dangerous hits is a positive step in college football. While there will always be complaints about measures taken that limit players' aggressiveness on the field, the risk of concussions and other serious head and neck injuries is too high not to take action. This is especially true in the college ranks, where athletes are unpaid and have their whole careers in front of them, inside or outside of football. The NCAA should be leading the way in player safety; this rule isn't much, but it's something.
While it's true that interpreting the words "defenseless" and "targeting" leaves much to referee's judgment, the in-game and post-game review procedures will serve as some check on any "heat of the moment" decisions.
The NCAA also clarified rules about blocking below the waist. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty, the full new rule is here. In general, these blocks are allowed only when engaged with stationary players.
Another interesting tweak creates a time limit on spikes in late-game situations
To establish three seconds as the minimum amount of time required to be on the game clock in order to spike the ball to stop the clock. If one or two seconds remain on the clock, there is only time for the offense to run one more play.
This one is...strange. The intent was likely to eliminate close calls when a ball was spiked as the clock has expired; however, it has simply moved the issue forward three seconds.
Also, doesn't it seem like the chances that UVA loses a game when the team spikes the football with under 3 seconds remaining are close to 100%?
Here are the rest of the (minor) rule changes. (They seem reasonable. In fact, it surprises me that some of this was legal before):
To add a 10-second runoff with less than a minute remaining in either half when the sole reason for the clock stoppage is because of injury.
To require a player that changes numbers during the game to report this to the referee, who will announce it.
To preclude multiple players from the same team from wearing the same uniform number (for example, two quarterbacks on the same team are not allowed to have the same number).
To allow the use of electronic communication by the on-field officiating crew (the practice was used successfully on an experimental basis by the Southeastern Conference). This is a permissive rule and not a requirement.
To allow instant replay to adjust the clock at the end of each quarter. Previously, this provision was in place only for the end of each half.
To clarify uniform rules as follows: "Jerseys must have clearly visible, permanent Arabic numerals measuring at least 8 and 10 inches in height front and back, respectively, and be of one solid color that itself is clearly in distinct contrast with the color of the jersey, irrespective of any border around the number." This rule goes into effect for Football Bowl Subdivision teams in 2013. Football Championship Subdivision, Division II and Division III teams will have until 2014 before the rule becomes effective.