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« Quotational Therapy: Part 124 -- Milton Friedman Day. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 409 -- GDP Growth In Perspective. »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 408 -- New NCAA Football Clock Rules.

Even In College Football, Policies Have Consequences-

A month or so after the thrilling 2006 Rose Bowl game between Texas and USC, the greatest football game of all time, the NCAA football rules committee met. And what did they do?

They essentially guaranteed that there could never again be a come-from-behind victory like the one engineered by Vince Young in the final moments of the 2005 BCS championship game.

Nothing was broken, but they fixed it anyway.

They (the ones that hate America) passed sweeping clock rule changes (3-2-5-e) to shorten the game for television. You can read the rules yourself here (.pdf).

The gist: the clock starts on the kick of a kickoff rather than when the ball is touched by the receiving team; the clock starts on the ready-for-play signal following a change of possession rather than at the snap; and, the clock starts on the ready-for-play signal after a first down rather than at the snap.

The changes had some major consequences on the game. Bad consequences, if you are a college football fan.

For one, games were shortened, lengthwise. In 2005, games lasted an average of 3 hours and 21 minutes. In 2006, games lasted 3 hours and 6 minutes. More than that, there were fewer plays, thus fewer opportunities for exciting plays, and fewer opportunities to reach significant statistical plateaus. And fewer opportunities for late game comebacks. And so on.

A look at some of the consequences of the new clock rules:

Fewer Plays-


(Nearly 10% fewer.)

Roughly 5 minutes and 47 seconds worth of football game.

Messed Up Team Stats-


54% fewer teams averaging 400 yards per game.
41% fewer teams averaging 30 points per game.
63% fewer teams averaging 200 rush yards per game.
129% more teams averaging under 300 yards allowed per game.
163% more teams averaging under 14 points allowed per game.

Messed Up Player Stats-


39% fewer rushers averaging 100 yards per game.
69% fewer receivers averaging 100 yards per game.
47% fewer receivers averaging 6 catches per game.
40% fewer players averaging 250 offensive yards per game.
72% fewer players averaging 150 "all purpose" yards per game.
71% fewer players averaging 10 points scored per game.

Messed Up Overall Rushing Stats-


Roughly 11.5% fewer rushes. About 11% fewer rushing yards. More than 15% fewer rushing touchdowns. The collegiate running game was harmed more than the passing game, if only out of necessity. Running the ball eats a lot of clock, so teams shifted their offenses toward passing. But even passing stats took a hit due to the new clock rules.

Messed Up Overall Offensive Stats-


6+% fewer pass yards per game.
Nearly 11% fewer points per game.
More than 8% fewer offensive yards per game.

Not to mention: fewer pass attempts, fewer completions, fewer pass TDs, fewer INTs, fewer punts, fewer penalties, fewer field goals attempted, and fewer field goals made. On defense, the new clock rules produced fewer tackles, fewer sacks, fewer forced fumbles, and fewer turnovers. In just about every category, the numbers remained fairly consistent each year from 2000 to 2005 but diverged substantially in 2006.

No matter which way you slice it (there are countless anecdotal examples in addition to the stats), the new clock rules harmed NCAA football in 2006, while only saving 15 minutes per game.

My recommendation: Unfix what wasn't broken to begin with.

Go back to the old clock rules. There was nothing wrong with them. They made games exciting. If there's an urgent and pressing need for shortening games, find a way to cut out some commercials, or shorten halftime, or shorten the time between quarters. Or instruct the officials to be sticklers on enforcement of the old rules, prodding the game along without nuking actual football plays in the process. Or something.

When the rules committee meets Feb. 11-14, just give us back our good ole college football.

You can download the entire Excel Spreadsheet I painstakingly worked up from various NCAA statistical pages. The file is still somewhat raw and not entirely organized, but it's still moderately informative.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Ethanol Truth.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 January 2007 01:03 PM


Will, was there any distinction in your analysis for televised games vs. non-televised games?

Posted by: Hoodlumman at January 30, 2007 02:16 PM

All games are included for the stats I put together. In terms of the length of games, I just took that figure from the "lengthwise" article.

Posted by: Will Franklin at January 30, 2007 02:19 PM

Those clock changes also allow teams to kill time without playing football. 20 seconds left in the half on the kickoff? Kick it out of bounds. 4 times. Half over.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at January 30, 2007 05:18 PM

Wow Will, great analysis.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at January 30, 2007 09:26 PM


Posted by: Will Franklin at January 30, 2007 09:35 PM

I was just curious because if they were really interested in shortening games (the televised ones) they could make the commercial breaks shorter and fewer.

Alas, that is biting the hand that feeds them.

I've been to televised and un-televised games and there's a noticeable difference with no TV.

It's a stupid rule change. Those that watch the games in person and on TV do so because they enjoy it... so the NCAA is 'nerfing' the statistics for the sake of no one.

Posted by: Hoodlumman at January 30, 2007 10:11 PM

The running clock at change of possessions is the worst part. NFL rules with regard to clock starting on incomplete passes and out of bounds plays when the ball is spotted except in the last five minutes of the 2nd and 4th quarter work. Getting a key defensive stop and then having to rush your offense in because the clock starts when the ball is spotted sucks.

I have a better idea to shorten games. Old Clock rules, but force teams to run the ball on every single first and second down so that the clock doesn't stop. Hell, outlaw passing or running out of bounds. Why not have players wear dresses and have the coin flip replaced by a game of spin the bottle.

It is a travesty. The last five minutes of a college game is the best sports experience there is because the clock stops on first downs and it gives team far more opportunities for comebacks. Now teams can run clock like never before and it leads to more and more conservative playcalling, fewer points, and a less exciting albeit shorter game.

Posted by: Justin B at January 31, 2007 12:03 AM

I didn't even know this happened.

This is really a dunderheaded move.

When someone uses that multiple out-of-bounds trick that someone mentioned earlier to preserve a lead, there will be hell to pay.

I'm guessing they could have saved all the time they needed by cutting down the allowed time between an incomplete pass and the next snap, and between an out-of bounds play and the next snap. Does nothing to the number of plays that can be run, but might buy you a 2-3 minutes.

Also tighten the time between a touchdown scored and the PAT -- has the added advantage of cutting down on endzone celebrations.

Make the penalty-calling exercise quicker by having one ref move the ball while the other explains it (I think the guy who moves it is the guy who explains it, or he doesn't start explaining it until the ball has been moved, which isn't necessary).

Posted by: Thomas Blumer at January 31, 2007 09:46 PM


There were some shenanigans already this year. Kicking the ball out of bounds over and over, etc. Just not in big games.

Posted by: Will Franklin at January 31, 2007 09:49 PM