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The clock might run after incomplete passes during the 2023 college football season.
Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated reported “high-ranking college football leaders” could recommend the following four rule changes in an effort to shorten the length of games and the number of plays that occur:
- Banning consecutive timeouts
- Eliminating untimed downs to end the first and third quarter if those quarters finish on a defensive penalty
- Running the clock after a first down except for the final two minutes of a half
- Running the clock after the ball is spotted following an incomplete pass
One of the major rule differences between college football and the NFL comes in how the clock is treated after a first down. The clock continues to run in the NFL if someone is tackled in bounds, but it stops until officials spot the ball in college.
This allows for offenses to run even more plays in fewer time if they take a no-huddle approach. It also helps in comeback efforts, although that rule would still be in place for the final two minutes under the potential proposals.
Dellenger reported “many officials involved in the process expect at least a portion of the proposals to pass” for the upcoming season.
It isn’t a stretch to assume the one regarding incomplete passes would be one that doesn’t pass if it is only a portion that makes it through the recommendation process to the actual rulebook.
This rule, which Dellenger deemed “more controversial” than the other proposals, would fundamentally alter the way the game is approached. Teams that are winning late in games would be more likely to throw the ball if there isn’t as much risk of stopping the clock, and no-huddle offenses could look to increase the pace even more to get more plays in during less time.
That would partially negate the efforts to decrease game length and game pace.
Dellenger noted college football games last season lasted an average of three hours and 21 minutes at the FBS level, which was five minutes longer than the 2018 average. What’s more, average FBS games featured approximately 180 plays to the 155 in NFL games.
For now, the proposals are expected to be presented to the NCAA Football Playing Rules Committee during a March meeting.