Why Are There Ties in NCAA Football?

College football used to have ties before the 1996 season. Tie games were eliminated and the championship game resembled a panda exhibit in the National Zoo. Today, ties are rare, but they do happen. If a game reaches overtime, both teams must try a two-point conversion after a touchdown. If the score is still tied after overtime, the losing team must try a two-point conversion.

In the early 1880s, Yale and Harvard did not reach a decision after five overtimes. When the point values were adjusted, the number of ties dropped dramatically. Yale led Harvard by 60 points per game, so the change may have made ties less likely. In 1883, Yale and Harvard averaged 60 points a game, but the score was a tie five times. As a result, ties are rarer and could become a thing of the past.

A tie in NCAA football can be a major upset for either team. A famous example is the 1988 Sugar Bowl, where Army tied Notre Dame but won by a single point. It ended in a tie after the third overtime period. Then, Pat Dye decided to order a 29-yard field goal for the Fighting Irish to avoid defeat. That game was a tie and the referee, Joe McKay, received a large gross of neckties from the crowd.

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In NCAA football, overtime rules are different from the NFL. College games go into overtime if both teams score. In the NFL, an overtime period ends when one team scores a touchdown. College games are usually decided by one team’s final score. The NFL playoffs, on the other hand, have only one overtime quarter. Unlike college football, NFL overtime is not a sudden death experience. In college football, each team gets equal chances to score, so OT is never a sudden death scenario.

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