College football is a marvelous sport that many reading this very post would agree trumps the National Football League in a variety of categories. The pageantry, tradition and rivalries in college football have a different feel to them compared to the NFL counterparts. While many of us would agree college football is a more enjoyable experience, there is one key area the NFL still delivers where the NCAA doesn’t. The time it takes to play a 60-minute game continues to drag at the college level while the NFL has its pace of play pretty much locked down.
The Wall Street Journal breaks down the latest numbers regarding the length of time it takes to play a 60-minute game, and college football continues to lag. So far this season the average college football games takes three hours and 20 minutes to play. A total of 201 games have already gone at least three-and-a-half hours. In 2008 the average game took nine fewer minutes to play and there were just four games all season that took more than four hours to play. This season has already seen 18 four-hour games. Do you know how many NFL games have gone at least four hours long since 1996? Four.
I suspect there are a few reasons why college football games have started to drag on. For starters, offensive approach on the field is attempting to hurry up the game, but in fact it may be dragging it down. An offense that can move up and down the field at ease with great tempo is nice, but those extra scoring drives lead to more stoppages in the game between extra-point attempts and kickoffs and the media timeouts that sometimes accompany them. Don’t blame the coaches or the players for this one. That is just the nature of the game, and despite the wishes of Nick Saban and Bret Bielema, there are few rules restricting what an offense can do to speed up the pace of play. The game has evolved to allow offenses to thrive, and some coaches continue to expose the utilize the rules to their advantage.
College football also has a review system set up for every play, including targetting fouls. Perhaps there are too many instances where instant replay comes into the game. I realize I come across contradicting myself in this situation, as I have always been an advocate for using any and every technology available to make the best possible calls on the field. If the game benefits by allowing for human error on the field from the officials (and there is plenty of that), then it may be wise to cut back on how many plays are automatically reviewed by the officials in the booth. Technology currently being researched and discussed behind closed doors will one day help us out when it comes to spotting the football and determining if a ball reached the first down marker or crossed a goal line. It’s coming, and it is going to solve a lot of the nonsense we see when it comes to ball-spotting. Until then, it’s a guessing game as much as it is a waiting game.
College football does not have a two-minute warning (making this particular person happy), but odds are there will come a day when it does get introduced to the game. A two-minute warning is purely a ploy for television revenue, and it should only be a matter of time before these big bad power conferences realize they can add it to their conference television packages as well. Here’s hoping when that day does inevitably come that the two-minute warning is added at the expense of one or two other media timeouts in a half or quarter.
Any other bright ideas on how the game can be sped up without diminishing the on-field product?