The Football Rules Committee appears to have gotten its wish with a reduction in the average length of games, but the 40-25 play clock instituted for the 2008 season has also cut dramatically into the number of plays.
Marty Couvillon of cfbstats.com has compiled data for Week 1 games — 73 in all involving Division I-A teams — and found that the average length of a game was 3 hours 10 minutes, a 13-minute reduction from 2007. In 2006, when the controversial 3-2-5-e rule was enacted, the length of a game was 3:07, a 14-minute reduction from 2005.
As for the average number of plays, it was 134.7 in Week 1, down from 143.4 in 2007. That's 8.7 plays. In 2006, the average was 127.5, down 13.2 plays from 2005.
Michael Clark, the coach at Bridgewater (Va.) College who was chairman of the rules committee when it approved the 40-25 clock, said in February that the change was not expected to impact the number of plays.
"It is our hope that the 40-25 clock will add a consistent pace of play," he said. "NFL studies show when they made this change it also added four plays per game. The live ball carrier out of bounds happens on average about 12 times a game. A couple of those are in the last two minutes where there will be no change and the handful of plays lost through this should be replaced by the 40-25 pace of play. It should be a push."
Although the data sample remains small, it's pointing toward shorter games and fewer plays in 2008. If anything, the average length of games was pushed upward by a 1:12 rain delay at Oklahoma and an overtime game at UCLA.
Here is the data through Monday's games:
G Plays/G Time/G
2005 717 140.7 3:21
2006 792 127.5 3:07
2007 792 143.4 3:23
2008 73 134.7 3:10
The longest games of Week 1:
Eastern Washington-Texas Tech: 3:40
Oregon State-Stanford: 3:39
The shortest games of Week 1:
James Madison-Duke: 2:35
South Carolina State-Central Florida: 2:36
Texas Christian-New Mexico: 2:44
Boston College-Kent State: 2:44
Eastern Kentucky-Cincinnati: 2:46
Update: Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News talks with Rogers Redding, NCAA secretary-rules editor and Southeastern Conference coordinator of football officials, about the early data.