College football tempo: A Quick Look at Pace of Play through Week 3

George Frey

Which conferences and teams are playing fast and which ones aren't?

I’ve been doing some work on the topic du jour in college football, namely the generally increased pace of play that is stemming from wider adoption of the Hurry-Up, No Huddle (HUNH) philosophy. As you may have heard, not everybody is enamored with this new dynamic in the game. But despite resistance from some traditionalist quarters, there is little doubt that the HUNH is changing the pace of the game overall.

Once (like, way back in 2010) an oddity that was only used by a few renegade coaches at the FBS level, there are now multiple programs in all conferences that have more or less adopted the HUNH as a full time modus operendi.  I don't have an exact count of how many teams are running a true HUNH right now, but a quick look at the national numbers should give readers a pretty good idea.

I really would like to be able to show you a graph that shows the national average and median pace of play over the last several years. I hope to be able to do that soon, but it requires more number crunching than I have managed to do so far. In the interim, I wanted to share some data showing who is playing fast, who isn't, and how fast fast is.

The methodology I have used for quantifying pace is pretty simple: I take time of possession (TOP) in seconds and divide by number of offensive plays run, in order to calculate seconds of clock time elapsed for each play. None of these numbers has been adjusted to take into account differences in run-pass mix, which definitely have an impact on pace of play. Clearly teams that pass a lot will tend to be able to fit more plays into a given TOP by virtue of the clock stoppages on incomplete passes.

I should also add that no attempt has been made to make any adjustments for game context. As is customary during the first several weeks of the season there have been quite a few very lopsided contests and those types of games may lead teams, that would otherwise be playing faster, to milk the clock a bit...either out of a sense of mercy or for simple self-preservation purposes.

Conferences

Before I show the full rankings for all 125 FBS teams, let's look at the breakdown by conferences.

Seconds/Play 30:00TOP
Median Average Plays/G
MWC 23.6 23.6 76.4
Pac-12 23.6 23.7 76.4
Big XII 23.9 23.6 75.3
Sunbelt 24.5 25.9 73.6
ALL FBS 25.1 25.2 71.7
CUSA 25.3 25.1 71.0
AAC 25.9 25.4 69.5
Indep. 25.9 24.8 69.5
MAC 26.0 25.8 69.3
ACC 26.1 25.6 68.9
SEC 26.8 26.5 67.1
Big Ten 27.5 26.7 65.4

The chart above is sorted by the median Seconds/Play. I also presented the average and a representative number of plays per game based on the median Seconds/Play multiplied by an average 30 minutes time of possession.

Despite what teams like Indiana, Texas A&M and Ole Miss are doing, the old school (some might say plodding) pace of yesteryear is still alive and well in both the Big Ten and the SEC. Nick Saban, Jerry Kill, Bret Bielema and Will Muschamp are certainly all doing their part to defend old-timey orthodoxy when it comes to pace of play.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, out West the pace of play is FAST, even if the pace of life isn't. The MWC and Pac-12 are basically tied at the top of the speed chart, narrowly nudging out traditional (if the last 5 years can be counted as "tradition") speed king the Big XII. It is also worth noting that the team currently playing the fastest in all of FBS (BYU) is physically located in the Western US, but isn't in a conference.

Teams

As I mentioned earlier it is clearly very early in the season and lots of things can change, but here are the way all of the FBS teams stack up right now:

Rnk Team G Plays Plays/G TOP/G Sec/P
1 BYU 2 192 96.0 28:28.0 17.8
2 Wyoming 3 241 80.3 24:04.0 18.0
3 Oregon 3 216 72.0 22:17.7 18.6
4 California 3 284 94.7 29:35.3 18.8
5 Houston 2 184 92.0 30:01.5 19.6
6 Fresno State 2 171 85.5 28:13.0 19.8
7 Oklahoma St 3 222 74.0 24:33.3 19.9
8 Texas Tech 3 242 80.7 26:52.7 20.0
9 Clemson 2 171 85.5 28:31.0 20.0
10 Marshall 3 247 82.3 27:44.0 20.2
11 Baylor 2 152 76.0 25:39.5 20.3
12 Texas A&M 3 224 74.7 25:45.0 20.7
13 SMU 2 167 83.5 28:57.0 20.8
14 N. Illinois 2 160 80.0 27:46.5 20.8
15 UCLA 2 160 80.0 27:53.5 20.9
16 Indiana 3 227 75.7 26:39.3 21.1
17 Mississippi 3 238 79.3 28:01.7 21.2
18 Louisiana Tech 3 205 68.3 24:20.0 21.4
19 Washington 2 170 85.0 30:22.5 21.4
20 Hawai'i 2 129 64.5 23:21.0 21.7
21 Temple 3 229 76.3 27:40.3 21.8
22 Tulsa 3 212 70.7 25:52.7 22.0
23 North Carolina 2 156 78.0 28:50.0 22.2
24 Texas 3 228 76.0 28:10.7 22.2
25 Ball State 3 209 69.7 25:50.0 22.2
26 Arizona State 2 173 86.5 32:05.0 22.3
27 Boise State 3 241 80.3 30:02.3 22.4
28 W. Michigan 3 234 78.0 29:18.0 22.5
29 Syracuse 3 236 78.7 29:42.3 22.7
30 Southern Miss 3 206 68.7 26:08.7 22.8
31 UNLV 3 219 73.0 28:01.7 23.0
32 Iowa State 2 139 69.5 26:55.0 23.2
33 Missouri 2 159 79.5 30:55.0 23.3
34 Ark State 3 228 76.0 29:36.3 23.4
35 Utah State 3 242 80.7 31:35.3 23.5
36 Wash State 3 213 71.0 27:51.3 23.5
37 ULL 3 203 67.7 26:37.0 23.6
38 San Diego St 2 167 83.5 32:51.0 23.6
39 Colorado 2 153 76.5 30:06.0 23.6
40 Kentucky 3 202 67.3 26:32.3 23.6
41 Auburn 3 205 68.3 27:05.3 23.8
42 Miami (Florida) 2 122 61.0 24:11.0 23.8
43 West Virginia 3 219 73.0 29:05.7 23.9
44 Buffalo 3 227 75.7 30:13.0 24.0
45 Utah 3 206 68.7 27:26.7 24.0
46 Arizona 3 205 68.3 27:22.3 24.0
47 Duke 3 221 73.7 29:31.7 24.1
48 Kansas 2 134 67.0 26:53.5 24.1
49 Mid Tenn 3 223 74.3 30:02.0 24.2
50 San Jose State 2 128 64.0 25:51.5 24.2
51 ULM 3 233 77.7 31:29.7 24.3
52 S. Alabama 3 205 68.3 27:47.0 24.4
53 Troy 3 239 79.7 32:32.3 24.5
54 Northwestern 3 228 76.0 31:09.0 24.6
55 New Mex St 3 210 70.0 28:42.7 24.6
56 Connecticut 2 134 67.0 27:43.5 24.8
57 East Carolina 3 194 64.7 26:48.0 24.9
58 Air Force 3 204 68.0 28:14.7 24.9
59 Penn State 3 208 69.3 28:48.3 24.9
60 North Texas 3 238 79.3 32:59.7 25.0
61 Nebraska 3 236 78.7 32:44.3 25.0
62 UMass 3 193 64.3 26:52.3 25.1
63 Cincinnati 3 213 71.0 29:43.0 25.1
64 Akron 3 196 65.3 27:25.7 25.2
65 Oklahoma 3 242 80.7 34:07.0 25.4
66 Iowa 3 249 83.0 35:06.7 25.4
67 Nevada 3 239 79.7 34:00.3 25.6
68 Idaho 3 231 77.0 32:55.0 25.6
69 NC State 2 163 81.5 34:52.0 25.7
70 Colorado St 3 207 69.0 29:35.3 25.7
71 Tulane 3 213 71.0 30:27.7 25.7
72 Wake Forest 3 212 70.7 30:29.0 25.9
73 Rice 2 166 83.0 35:54.0 26.0
74 Toledo 3 195 65.0 28:08.3 26.0
75 Ohio 3 204 68.0 29:26.3 26.0
76 Ohio State 3 225 75.0 32:42.3 26.2
77 Cent. Michigan 3 200 66.7 29:05.3 26.2
78 Notre Dame 3 204 68.0 29:40.3 26.2
79 Maryland 3 211 70.3 30:54.0 26.4
80 Vanderbilt 3 188 62.7 27:36.3 26.4
81 S. Carolina 3 207 69.0 30:33.7 26.6
82 UTSA 3 225 75.0 33:15.0 26.6
83 S. Florida 3 187 62.3 27:42.0 26.7
84 TCU 3 202 67.3 29:56.3 26.7
85 Army 3 205 68.3 30:36.3 26.9
86 Ga. State 3 179 59.7 26:46.0 26.9
87 Pittsburgh 2 107 53.5 24:05.0 27.0
88 Tennessee 3 204 68.0 30:39.3 27.0
89 Memphis 2 133 66.5 29:59.0 27.1
90 Virginia 2 160 80.0 36:22.0 27.3
91 Boston College 3 180 60.0 27:21.3 27.4
92 W. Kentucky 3 219 73.0 33:29.7 27.5
93 Illinois 3 205 68.3 31:21.3 27.5
94 Georgia 2 146 73.0 33:40.0 27.7
95 Bowling Green 3 239 79.7 36:50.7 27.7
96 Michigan St 3 222 74.0 34:20.7 27.8
97 Va. Tech 3 205 68.3 31:50.7 28.0
98 LSU 3 189 63.0 29:22.7 28.0
99 UTEP 2 150 75.0 34:58.5 28.0
100 Navy 2 152 76.0 35:27.5 28.0
101 Rutgers 3 193 64.3 30:01.0 28.0
102 Oregon St 3 223 74.3 34:42.0 28.0
103 UAB 2 134 67.0 31:20.5 28.1
104 Stanford 2 124 62.0 29:05.5 28.2
105 Michigan 3 202 67.3 31:41.3 28.2
106 Kansas State 3 181 60.3 28:36.0 28.4
107 Florida Intnl 3 170 56.7 26:54.7 28.5
108 Purdue 3 189 63.0 29:57.0 28.5
109 Wisconsin 3 205 68.3 32:36.0 28.6
110 Miss State 3 225 75.0 35:47.7 28.6
111 Florida Atl 3 202 67.3 32:17.3 28.8
112 Georgia Tech 2 137 68.5 32:58.5 28.9
113 Eastern Mich 3 211 70.3 34:12.3 29.2
114 Florida State 2 126 63.0 31:03.5 29.6
115 UCF 3 190 63.3 31:21.0 29.7
116 Kent State 3 194 64.7 32:13.7 29.9
117 Louisville 3 202 67.3 33:41.7 30.0
118 New Mexico 3 192 64.0 32:09.0 30.1
119 Minnesota 3 180 60.0 30:13.0 30.2
120 Arkansas 3 211 70.3 36:07.3 30.8
121 Alabama 2 128 64.0 32:53.5 30.8
122 USC 3 199 66.3 34:06.3 30.8
123 Miami (Ohio) 2 114 57.0 29:29.0 31.0
124 Florida 2 147 73.5 39:04.0 31.9
125 Texas State 2 132 66.0 36:14.0 32.9

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