College football rule changes implement a running clock after 1st downs, more to shorten games

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, August 27, 2023

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College football games are getting shorter in 2023 with the help of a running clock after first downs and other rule changes to speed up a match.

Every year in March, the College Football Rules Committee meets to discuss the state of the game. They focus their time on improving the game and making it safer. This season, rule changes to game timing will be made in an attempt to increase player safety.

“Conference commissioners had asked the committee to look for ways to cut down on the number of plays in games in an attempt to mitigate potential injury exposures,” said Eric Olsen of the Associated Press.

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The most pressing change applies to the game clock. The game clock will now continue to run after a first down is gained, except for the final two minutes of each half. 

John McDavid, SEC Coordinator of Football Officials, clarified the clock will still stop if a player is downed out of bounds after crossing the first down mark. He emphasized that the clock will also stop after first downs in the final two minutes of each half.

“This basically duplicates the rule that we see in the National Football League,” McDavid said. “We’re going to see what effect it has on our game from an overall number of plays.”

Steve Shaw, NCAA secretary-rules editor and national coordinator of officials, estimates that the rule change will shave eight plays off each game on average, totaling 96 plays over the season. This means players have 96 fewer chances to be a part of a play to get injured potentially.

Another change pertaining to game timing is the disallowance of consecutive timeouts in the same dead-ball period. McDavid said this is essentially a direct response to teams calling multiple timeouts in a row to ice the opposing kicker. 

Fouls called as time expires in a quarter will no longer be played out with untimed down in that quarter. The rule change states that a down following a foul called as time expires in the first and third quarters will be played in the next quarter. 

“If we accept the penalty, we’re going to flip the field, enforce it, and then go from there,” McDavid said.