Football fan’s guide to the return of the XFL: Notable players, new rules, TV info, odds

NCAA Football, NFL

The XFL is back with a bunch of new rules, familiar faces from college football and the NFL and ready to satiate the non-stop appetite for football.

The NFL season is over but professional football is still happening with the return of the XFL this weekend.

Back for the first time since 2001 when the league folded after one season, the eight-team league is relaunching with the hope of having some sustained success. And after the failed launch of the AAF last year, which also went one year, the pressure is on Vince McMahon’s side project to satiate the appetite of football fans across the nation.

This is a great opportunity for players who didn’t find success after college in the NFL to get back on the gridiron and showcase their skills. Plus, for some of these players, it’ll serve as an opportunity to show NFL teams they still have some juice in their legs to vie for a roster spot in a training camp this summer.

The XFL also features the return of former Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops who leads the Dallas Renegades, who are the betting favorite to win the XFL championship. Other notable coaches include June Jones, Kevin Gilbride, Pep Hamilton, Jim Zorn and Marc Trestman.

XFL Bob Stoops

ARLINGTON, TX – FEBRUARY 01: Dallas Renegades head coach Bob Stoops signs autographs for fans during the open practice for the XFL Dallas Renegades on February 1, 2020 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

How can you watch the XFL?

The XFL has a 10-week regular season and the playoffs will last for two weeks with the XFL championship game set for April 26. That means half the league will make the postseason while the other half won’t.

XFL games will all be on national television, which is great for the football fans who can’t go a weekend without seeing game action but also won’t have to worry about some obscure college channel or streaming service to find the games.

Plus, the timing of the launch of the league is in the perfect soft spot after the Super Bowl and before the NFL Draft. People will definitely be watching in Week 1 out of curiosity if nothing else to see who is playing and what is different this time around.

Week 1 schedule

  • Saturday, Feb. 8: Seattle at D.C. at 2 p.m. ET on ABC
  • Saturday, Feb. 8: Los Angeles at Houston at 5 p.m. ET on Fox.
  • Sunday, Feb. 9: Tampa Bay at New York at 2 p.m. ET on Fox
  • Sunday, Feb. 9: St. Louis at Dallas at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN

Of the eight teams, the Dallas Renegades led by coach Stoops and quarterback Landry Jones is the early betting favorite to win the XFL league title. For Dallas Cowboys fans, this might be your best chance to see a football team in Dallas win a championship.

XFL Championship Odds (via Sports Betting Dime)

1.   Dallas Renegades: 3/1
2.   NY Guardians: 4/1
3.   LA Wildcats: 5/1
4.   Tampa Bay Vipers: 5/1
5.   DC Defenders: 7/1
6.   Houston Roughnecks: 15/2
7.   St. Louis Battlehawks 10/1
8.   Seattle Dragons: 10/1

XFL Aaron Murray

TAMPA, FL – OCTOBER 15: Tampa Bay Vipers quarterback Aaron Murray speaks to the media during the introductory press conference for new Tampa Bay Vipers quarterback Aaron Murray on October 15, 2019 at SpringHill Suites in Tampa,FL. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Familiar names in the XFL

Josh Johnson, LA – Johnson played for Jim Harbaugh at San Diego where he was one of the top players at the FCS level and was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award as a senior. His success at the college level resulted in him being a fifth round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s played for nine different NFL teams

Landry Jones, Dal – The former Oklahoma Sooners quarterback put up big passing numbers in college before backing up Ben Roethlisberger on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Playing again for Stoops should give Jones a solid chance at being one of the leading MVP candidates.

Cardale Jones, DC – Jones stepped in at quarterback for Ohio State after J.T. Barrett was injured and helped lead the Buckeyes to the National Championship. The big-armed signal-caller is still young enough to perhaps earn a camp invite with a stellar XFL season.

Matt McGloin, NY – McGloin led the Big Ten in passing yards and touchdowns his final. year at Penn State in 2012.

Connor Cook, Hou – Another former Big Ten quarterback hoping for a good second life in the XFL. Cook led Michigan State to the College Football Playoff but didn’t find the same success as a backup on the Oakland Raiders.

Aaron Murray, TB – Murray was one of the best quarterbacks to play in the SEC. Murray is still the SEC all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. He never was able to carry that over into the NFL but after a stint as a broadcaster, Murray is back on the field, which will be a nice sight for Georgia fans.

Jordan Ta’amu, STL – Ta’amu is one of the younger players in the XFL after finishing his college career at Ole Miss in 2018. He threw for 3,918 yards and 19 touchdowns his last year in Oxford.

Sammie Coates, Hou – Coates had more than 1,600 receiving yards and had 11 touchdowns his last two seasons at Auburn in 2013-2014 that made him a third round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. At 6-foot-2 and a tick over 200 pounds, Coates is a physical presence who should dominate in the XFL.

Cameron Artis-Payne, Dal – Another former Auburn player. Artis-Payne led the SEC in rushing in 2014 when he ran for 1,608 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. A fifth round pick by the Panthers in 2015, Artis-Payne could be the leading rusher in the XFL and it could earn him an opportunity with an NFL team.

Christine Michael, STL – Michael had more than 3,000 scrimmage yards and scored 35 touchdowns in his four years at Texas A&M before he was a second round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2013. After bouncing around in the league for years, Michael is in the XFL where he can challenge Artis-Payne for the XFL rushing championship.

Andre Williams, Hou – Williams led the nation in rushing in 2013 with 2,177 yards for Boston College. That earned him the Doak Walker Award, Consensus All-American honors and a fourth-place finish in the Heisman voting. A fourth round pick of the New York Giants, Williams couldn’t find the same level of success in the NFL.

Elijah Hood, LA – Hood had 2,534 scrimmage yards and 25 touchdowns his last two years at North Carolina before he was a seventh round pick of the Raiders in 2017. Much like the other backs on this list, the opportunity is there for Hood to show he’s still got some juice left in his legs.

Antonio Callaway, TB – Callaway had nearly 1,399 yards and seven touchdowns on 89 catches in his two seasons at Florida. The talented Callaway was a fourth round pick of the Cleveland Browns but the off-field problems that plagued him in college followed him to the NFL. Still just 23-years-old, Callaway has a great chance to impress and prove he’s worthy of another chance in the NFL.

Nelson Spruce, LA – Spruce finished his college career at Colorado with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and had 294 career catches with the Buffaloes. He’ll be one of the top receivers in the XFL.

Donnel Pumphrey, DC – Pumphrey is the third all-time leading rusher in NCAA history with 6,405 yards over his four-year career at San Diego State. He’s also 10th all-time with his 62 rushing touchdowns. Despite the production in college, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Humphrey wasn’t able to see his college skills translate to the next level after he was a fourth round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017.

Keenan Reynolds, Sea – Reynolds was one of the best players in Navy football history during his time in Annapolis. He finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 2015 and his 88 rushing touchdowns are the most in NCAA history. After playing quarterback in Navy’s option attack, he was drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens to be a wide receiver.

XFL rules

The XFL hopes their tweaks to standard NFL and college football rules will provide an added level of excitement and curiosity to their league. Just as it did the first time around in 2001 when they had players chase for the loose ball to determine who would get the ball to start the game, but this time around, most of the rules are designed to enhance the pace of play and enhance offensive play.

A full breakdown of XFL rules can be a bit daunting for the casual fan, but traditionalists may not be enthused. Then again, this isn’t for hardcore purists. This is for the fans who want excitement. I’ll go through a few of the bigger gameplay rules and tweaks, including a fun twist on overtime.

XFL overtime rules

XFL overtime will be a shootout-style competition similar to hockey. Teams get up to five one-play possessions from the 5-yard line to score. Each successful attempt will be worth two points. Similar to a two-point conversion, but from two yards back. Teams will alternate possessions until the loser is eliminated.

XFL kickoff rules

Player safety is behind this rule that sees the kicker kicking from the 30-yard line with the coverage team lining up on the opposite 35-yard line while the return team lines up on the 30-yard line. Neither side can move until the returner catches the ball. This should go a long way toward preventing the violent, high-speed collisions seen in college and the NFL.

If the kick is kicked into the end zone or downed in the end zone, it’ll be ruled a major touchback with the ball being placed at the 35-yard line. If the ball bounces in bounds and then out of the end zone, it’ll be placed at the 15-yard line. Onside kick attempts are legal but the kicking team must notify officials of their intention at which point the NFL rules will be applied.

XFL point after touchdown rules

This is going to be one of the more fun tweaks of the XFL. After touchdowns, teams will have the option of running a play from the 2,5 or 10-yard lines for one, two or three points. There will be no kicking and teams must run an offensive play. In the event of a turnover, the defense can return the ball for the same number of points the offense was attempting.

XFL punting rules

Punters are people too and in the XFL when teams do punt, there will be rules in place to enhance the quality of return, but also to limit the frequency of punts. Punting isn’t exciting, even if you’re a Big Ten fan and appreciate the art of the punt.

The punting team can’t run past the line until the kick, just like it is with kickoffs, and if it goes out of bounds inside the 35-yard line, it’ll be another one of those “major” touchbacks with the ball being spotted at the 35. No more coffin corners or pinning the opponent deep in their territory. And if it’s punted into the end zone, the same major touchback rules apply. Returners will still be able to call a fair catch.

Overall, the punting rules are designed to see teams go for it on fourth down more and when they have to punt, there will be opportunities for big returns.

XFL double-forward pass rules

This is the rule I’m most excited to see in the XFL. College and the NFL is being taken over by advanced passing schemes. But the XFL is trying to double that with the double-forward pass concept. Teams who complete a forward pass behind the line of scrimmage can throw a second forward pass provided the ball never crossed the line of scrimmage.

This should lead to more ingenuity and creativity using a double-pass concept without the risk of the first pass being ruled a fumble if it falls incomplete. My hope is we see a number of these attempts every game by all teams.

XFL pace of play rules

The XFL doesn’t want to have four-hour games like some college games with the constant stopping of the clock on first downs. And NFL games linger and linger with a disrupted pace due to several reviews and challenges. The XFL is changing all of that with the intent of wrapping up in less than three hours.

As a result, outside of the last two minutes of the half or game, the clock will only stop on incompletions and out of bounds plays until the ball is spotted.

Teams will have two timeouts compared to three per half in college and the NFL.

There will be no coaches challenges so all reviews will come from a Replay official who will review all the same types of plays the NFL has.

Halftime is reduced to 10-minutes.

Finally, while the NFL struggles to define what a catch is, the XFL is using a common-sense approach. Basically, if it looks like a catch, it’s a catch.

Next: Way-too-early 2020 rankings: 1-130

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