The NCAA Rules Committee approved the following rule changes for the 2012 season (mainly for safety reasons):
Kickoffs will be moved up to the 35 yard line from the 30, mirroring a similar change by the NFL in the 2011 season and rescinding a rule change made in the 2007 season.
The kicking team will only have a five yard running head start on kickoffs, again mirroring the NFL changes in 2011.
Touchbacks will move from the 20 yard line to the 25 yard line only on kickoffs and free kicks after a safety. Touchbacks on punts rolling into the end zone or fumbles into the end zone will remain at the 20-yard line.
Players will be forbidden to leap over other players when blocking punts.
Players who lose their helmets during a play (except when caused by fouls such as grabbing the facemask) will have to leave the field for one play.
Offensive players in the tackle box at the snap who are not in motion are allowed to block below the waist legally without restriction. All other players are restricted from blocking below the waist with some exceptions (i.e. blocking straight-on), modifying a rule change from the 2011 season.
† – BCS representative as champion x – Division champion/co-champions y – Championship game participant
North Carolina ineligible for championship and postseason due to NCAA sanctions. Miami ineligible for championship and postseason due to a self-imposed postseason ban. As of January 8, 2013 • Rankings from AP Poll