Morris: Game lengths tire fans

September 15, 2013 

Ron Morris

TRACY GLANTZ — The State

AT HALFTIME OF South Carolina’s victory against Vanderbilt on Saturday, thousands of fans began heading to the exits. They never returned despite having witnessed one of the best halves of football played by a Steve Spurrier team at USC.

Who could blame the fans?

The first half lasted nearly two hours. Burdened by lengthy TV timeouts, an official’s injury and a bizarre scene at the end of the first quarter when the head referee shooed USC dignitaries off the field, the game never seemed to find a rhythm.

Here is how bad it was: From the time Elliott Fry’s extra-point kick went through the uprights to give USC a 7-0 lead until USC snapped the ball on its next possession, 10 minutes and 41 seconds elapsed. Only 2:09 of game clock expired during that period of four Vanderbilt plays and one punt.

The problem of lengthy games certainly is not unique to USC. It is a college football problem, one the NCAA has attempted to work on the past few years. Re-starting the clock after the chains are set following a first down and stricter control over the length of TV timeouts have aided the cause.

Still, the average time of eight SEC games on Saturday was 3:19. The longest of the group was USC-Vanderbilt, which dragged on for 3:38.

By comparison, the average length of the 13 NFL games in Week 1 was 3:08. Part of the difference from the college game is halftime. NFL halftimes last 13 minutes. College halftimes, because of band performances, last 20 minutes.

The NFL realized long ago that it was important for TV programming and for the entertainment value of the fans to keep length of games to three hours. College officials should continue to take note.

Be prepared boys

If you want to understand the influence of TV on college football, go no further than Air Force’s schedule.

The Falcons play two games on Thursdays, two on Fridays and eight on Saturdays. They have scheduled kickoffs for 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.

“A bunch of our guys one day will be asked to do something where they can’t tell you that kickoff is going to be 1:15, two weeks from tomorrow,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said on the weekly Mountain West Conference teleconference. “They’re going to be asked to carry out an assignment of significance where you don’t always know where kickoff is, and you’ve got to be prepared.”

Tournament update

The NCAA football tournament’s third round saw 12 more teams eliminated from the field this past weekend, leaving 40 teams with a chance to play in the BCS Championship Game.

Those eliminated this week were Boston College (loss to Southern California), Duke (loss to Georgia Tech), Illinois (loss to Washington), Nebraska (loss to UCLA), Penn State (loss to Central Florida), Kansas (loss to Rice), TCU (loss to Texas Tech), Utah (loss to Oregon State), Mississippi State (loss to Auburn), Tennessee (loss to Oregon), Vanderbilt (loss to USC) and Ball State (loss at North Texas).

Rhode Island

Ohio State extended its nation-best winning streak to 15 games with a 52-34 victory against California. Stanford has won 10 straight after a 34-20 victory against Army.

On the other end, Southern Mississippi has lost 15 straight games after dropping a 24-3 decision to Arkansas, and New Mexico State lost for the 14th consecutive time, this one a 42-21 decision to Texas-El Paso.

Among FCS programs, Rhode Island proved to be Ram tough by ending a 15-game skid with a 19-16, overtime triumph against Albany.

Computer rankings

Jeff Sagarin is one of many who use computer data to rank college football teams. His ratings appear weekly in USA Today.

His ratings prior to this past weekend’s games exposed the major flaw in early season rankings: A computer must have a baseline to rate teams before the season. It is apparent by the ratings following the second weekend of play that the preseason ratings carried a very heavy slant toward SEC teams.

How else to explain that Georgia was ranked No. 4, USC at No. 9 and Clemson at No. 17, even though Clemson opened the season with a victory over Georgia, and Georgia defeated USC.

The ratings will become a better gauge of a team’s strength as the season unfolds. Until then, any computer ratings early in the season do not tell you much, other than what biases were built in before play started.