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Have New Clock Rules Shook Up College Football?

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

The 2023 college football season is underway, and with it come some significant changes to the new game clock rules. The new rules are aimed at speeding up the pace of play, but many wondered how they would impact late-game strategy and outcomes. A few weeks into the season, it appears the rule changes have had the desired effects without major unintended consequences. The main changes are:

  • The play clock will be shortened from 40 seconds to 25 seconds after the referee signals the ball is ready for play. This is expected to help speed up the pace of play.

  • The clock will continue to run after a first down is achieved in the final 2 minutes of each half, stopping only for incomplete passes, players going out of bounds, penalties, timeouts, scores, or the end of a quarter. Previously the clock stopped after every first down in the last 2 minutes.

Many coaches worried these changes would reduce comebacks or diminishing excitement at the end of close games. However, the data shows late-game scoring has not decreased under the new rules. Teams are averaging about the same number of plays per game as last year. Coaches have adapted by using up-tempo offenses and saving timeouts to stop the clock when needed. With these adjustments, the continuous clock has succeeded in making the final minutes more brisk without altering outcomes.

In the end, the goal of picking up the pace of college football appears to be working. Games are moving crisper while still leaving room for dramatic finishes. The feared negatives of the clock changes have not materialized. As teams settle into the new rules, they have proven to strike the right balance between speed and strategy. College football found a way to pump up the tempo without diminishing the excitement. Through the current Week 7 of College Football, plays per game (per team) is down .5% (69.7 vs 69.4 and points per game (per team) is down 2% (27.4 vs 26.8). Check out the current full data by team below:

Plays and Points Per Game Graph


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