If you’re watching a college football game this weekend, go ahead and get comfortable.
It could take a while.
Major NCAA football games continue to last much longer than their NFL counterparts. The NCAA’s statistics show the average FBS game has lasted 3 hours and 25 minutes through the first two weeks of the season, compared to a few minutes over 3 hours for the NFL, according to statistics supplied by the league.
No. 23 Mississippi has already played two games that have topped four hours this season. The Rebels’ 45-34 loss to Florida State took 4:04 to complete while last weekend’s 48-43 loss to top-ranked Alabama lasted 4:02.
In the sweat-soaked aftermath of the Ole Miss-Alabama game — which was played on a day when the temperatures approached 90 degrees in Mississippi — Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said that there were coaches and players who needed IVs.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze acknowledged the Alabama game felt particularly long.
“It’s definitely something that has to be looked at,” Freeze said. “Certainly for the fan experience. Both teams — there were a lot of players cramping. It was a physical game.”
Ole Miss isn’t the only team that’s dealt with lengthy games. Troy’s 37-31 victory over Southern Mississippi last weekend took 4:12, while California’s thrilling 50-43 win over Texas lasted 3:56.
The gap between NFL and NCAA game times has existed for years, but is slightly more pronounced so far this season.
While fans might gripe about constant TV commercials and lengthy delays while officials review calls on instant replay, both the NFL and NCAA have to deal with those issues.
Rogers Redding, the former national coordinator of officials who sits on the NCAA’s football rules committee, says there are a few key differences in NCAA and NFL games that could lead to the NCAA’s unique issues. Among them:
— Halftime: A normal halftime in the NFL lasts 12 minutes — though there’s usually a delay as teams head to the locker rooms — while the NCAA’s usual break is 20 minutes. Halftime at both levels can be lengthened for certain situations, such as a special ceremony, but a college game’s halftime is almost always longer thanks to band performances and other pageantry.
— Clock rules: The NFL and NCAA have slightly different clock rules, including after a team gains a first down. In the NFL, the clock continues to run after a first down while in the NCAA, there is a stoppage while the referee positions the ball and the chain crew on the sidelines readjusts its position.
“I do think there’s some merit in doing what the NFL does on first downs,” Freeze said.
But overall, there isn’t a huge push to shorten the college game. Redding said he didn’t sense it was a pressing issue.
So sit back, relax and grab some extra snacks. It doesn’t look like college games are going to get shorter any time soon.
“I don’t mean to sound flippant, but most fans make college football an all-day event anyway,” Redding said. “They’re already in the stadium, so I’m not sure if they care that much.”