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NCAA changes football rules to run clock after 1st downs, shorten games

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The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved multiple rule changes in an effort to shorten football games and reduce the number of plays, the organization announced Friday.

The clock will now continue to run after first downs are achieved in Division I and Division II games, except for in the last two minutes of each half.

Additionally, teams will no longer be allowed to use consecutive timeouts and penalty calls that take place at the end of the first or third quarter will be carried over instead of playing an untimed down.

The changes are expected to reduce the number of plays and thus reduce the number of opportunities for collisions, potentially reducing player injuries, according to Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic.

A field study conducted last year indicated that college football games would have seven-to-nine fewer plays per contest if the clock kept running after a first down, according to Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated.

The rule changes also bring college football in line with the NFL, which does not stop its clock after first downs are gained and doesn't allow coaches to call back-to-back timeouts. The clock stoppage had differentiated college football from the NFL since 1968.

College football games currently average approximately 180 total plays per game, while it's about 155 in the NFL, Dellenger and Auerbach noted. The average duration of an FBS game in 2022 was 3 hours and 21 minutes - with about one-fifth of games exceeding 3:30 - and NFL games tend to average around 3:10 in length, according to Dellenger.

Other potential rule changes, such as letting the clock run after incomplete passes, were not approved.

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