Fixing College Football, Part 2 of ?: Speeding Up the Game
College football is the world’s greatest sport. But it could be improved.
Previously, I wrote about the absurdity of the divisional alignment of the SEC, ACC, and Big Ten. As it relates to my beefs with major college football, it is my opus: why does it take 9 years for Georgia and Texas A&M, conference ‘rivals’, to play?
Today, let’s take down an issue that rears its ugly head occasionally: the length of games and pace of play. The College Football Playoff championship game lasted until almost 1 a.m. this year. CBS games (you know…the SEC’s headliner matchup each week) averaged about 4 hours. With the advent of high-tempo spread offenses and ALL of the TV money, its no longer feasible to sit down for a nice noon/3:30/7 schedule on a Saturday and not have the day’s most compelling matchups overlap.
Not all of these ideas will be good, but a combination of a few would help.
- Get rid of clock stoppages for first downs. This is so stupid. College football necessitates a stoppage to reset the chains, but the NFL doesn’t?
Old Dominion was right in the middle of FBS’ 128 teams with 273 first downs this past year, or 21 per game over their 13-game season. Assuming Old Dominion is perfectly average and their defense gave up the same, you’re looking at 42 first downs per college game (with certain conferences and teams skewing this, obviously). Assuming maybe 7 of these are touchdowns, the clock stops for those already. It seems fair to call it 12 seconds for the ref to blow the clock live, so for 35 touchdowns you’re at 420 seconds, or 7 minutes saved.
Solution: Only stop the clock for first downs in the last two minutes. Seems a fair compromise, and you’ve taken 5-7 minutes off a game’s average runtime.
Regulate commercial stoppages.lol this won’t happen, but can we at least eliminate the touchdown-commercial-kickoff-commercial-play from scrimmage combination? I don’t need to get a beer after the kickoff, Isaiah McKenzie isn’t here anymore to force a celebratory chug.
This definitely won’t happen, but in a nice utopian society it would at least be considered.
- Stoppages for out-of-bounds plays. Again, you can do this in the last two minutes of each half for competitive purposes and compelling finishes, but a 2nd-quarter 6-yard bubble screen where the slot receiver steps out to avoid getting crushed by a sideline-to-sideline defensive end does not necessitate stopping the clock.
Army runs the triple option, and is our median in plays per game at 70. Let’s say there are 140 (which, given the above info, is low), and 30 (again, seems low) end up out of bounds.
At 15 seconds per play (low again!) you’ve cut out another 6 1/2 minutes. A more radical solution follows:
- Stoppages for incompletions. Won’t happen, because its so ingrained in our football-watching DNA. But what if the clock kept running after an incomplete pass?
Our old friends at Old Dominion check in at #64 in passing offense, and threw 154 incomplete passes over 13 games. Assuming their opponents did the same, you’re looking at 23.7 incompletions. 20 seconds of stoppage per, and you whack another 6 minutes of time off the clock. For a more plodding offense (cough Georgia) the time elapsed between plays is closer to 30 seconds, so your 3:30 SEC on CBS slugfest could realistically be 11 1/2 minutes shorter.
I propose a compromise: stop the clock for a set amount of time (8 seconds was the top speed I remember the good Oregon teams running) and then start it. It would shave 5 minutes off the runtime for any game.
Are any of these solutions good? Do you have something better? Hell, given that we’re obsessed with college football, are long games even a problem? Let us know.