Should the pace of college football be regulated?

Submitted by vbnautilus on October 4th, 2012 at 11:11 PM

Nick Saban made some comments yesterday suggesting that the trend of increasing pace in college football is unhealthy:

I think that the way people are going no-huddle right now, that at some point in time, we should look at how fast we allow the game to go in terms of player safety," Saban said on today's SEC teleconference. "The team gets in the same formation group, you can't substitute defensive players, you go on a 14-, 16-, 18-play drive and they're snapping the ball as fast as you can go and you look out there and all your players are walking around and can't even get lined up. That's when guys have a much greater chance of getting hurt when they're not ready to play. "I think that's something that can be looked at. It's obviously created a tremendous advantage for the offense when teams are scoring 70 points and we're averaging 49.5 points a game. With people that do those kinds of things. More and more people are going to do it. "I just think there's got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking is this what we want football to be?"

The purity of Saban's intentions aside, is this something that should be considered? Mathlete's analysis this week showed that offense is steadily increasing in recent years. I enjoy watching offense as much as anyone, but is there a point where the balance between offense and defense tips too far in one direction and is no longer good for the game?


Buck Killer

October 4th, 2012 at 11:53 PM ^

This is the SEC and we call the shots. Hey, newsflash conferences go up and down every ten years. Soon your cheating ass WILL be caught. We all know it is happening, but most are cowards.


October 5th, 2012 at 12:01 AM ^

I think he kind of has a point and I think that they could do something to fix the issue without slowing the game down. There's already a rule that if the offense makes a substitution then the defense has to be allowed to make substitutions as well. Maybe something taking that a bit further can be implemented. Something like allowing substitutions on 1st downs while the chains are moving. If they make substitutions, they just have to hold the ball an extra few seconds while the subs get set. If they aren't hustling on and off the field, then either let the play start or call a delay of game penalty on the defense. That seems like a good compromise that will allow players to catch their breath but not really slow down the pace of the no-huddle offenses.


October 5th, 2012 at 2:16 PM ^

When you lift, you don't lift to exhaustion; you lift until you can't lift in proper form anymore. That's because your muscles start getting too tired and can't properly stabilize your joints and whatnot. That's the point where injuries occur. It's the same with football. If a DL gets stuck on the field for 10 plays, going full speed the whole time, and someone cut blocks him, he is at a higher risk of a serious knee injury because the muscles won't be able to help protect the knee from bending ways that it shouldn't.

Mr. Yost

October 5th, 2012 at 12:17 AM ^

I upvoted because rarely to we get a geniunely GREAT non-Michigan related discussion on this board.

Very good stuff. I see it both ways - some very good arguments being made, please continue!




October 5th, 2012 at 12:38 AM ^

I'm not as big of a Saban hater as a lot of people. Granted, I think he cheats--I think his oversigning schemes work because his players are "well taken care of," if you know what I mean. But he is not particularly more evil than a number of other coaches, and his players clearly like him, and he is a brilliant coach. And I don't really object to his jumping to greater and greater jobs.

But in making this statement he is an absolute coward. 

Now, I enjoy the new hyper-fast offenses aesthetically; they are usually on my television at least as a flip. But apart from that, as a fan of football, I love the innovation that it involves; these offenses are taking advantage of an opening in the game they have found and exploiting it. That is part of the evolution of football.

And sooner or later one of these offenses is going to make some plays, sustain some drives, wear down his players, and begin exploiting his otherwise impenetrable defenses. And because he wants to play a certain way, he doesn't like that. 

And he is a coward for saying this. I don't think he cares about the health and safety of players at all; if he did, he wouldn't be kicking injured players off of his team to free up scholarships.

How small. How craven. I've never respected him less.



October 5th, 2012 at 12:41 AM ^

Here's an idea: If Saban is really concerned about the safety of players, perhaps he should pioneer better, thorough PED testing for players on his and other teams. Test his players vigorously for all substances including HGH year-round and challenge other major programs to do the same.

I don't think he wants to do that.


October 5th, 2012 at 12:47 AM ^

Saban doesn't care about anything but his own self-interest.  Following the "money," one can reasonably infer that Saban sees speeding up the tempo as a way that a team with inferior personnel to his NFL Developmental League team can bridge the gap a bit.  

swan flu

October 5th, 2012 at 9:12 AM ^

Multiple Peer-reviewed studies disagree with you.


My perception is that you are referring to concussions and collision-based injuries.


The studies I linked to all refer to muscle and tendon injuries due to fatigue.  But they all pretty clearly conclude that fatigue most definitely results in increased injuries.


*Note: I absolutely and unequivically disagree with Saban on this issue


October 5th, 2012 at 3:15 AM ^

These days "player safety" is like politicians talking about "jobs."  "I propose a plan to drop nuclear bombs on every city in the projections forecast this will generate jobs both in the making of the bombs and millions of green jobs as we clean up the planet afterwards."  You can't set aside Saban's motivation here - player safety is not on his mind.


October 5th, 2012 at 8:22 AM ^

Does fatigue increase chance of injury?  Yes, I think so.  But that's why you have depth and need to know the limit of each of your players.  And the last person that should have any depth issues is Saban.

Saban is 10 times the senator that Tressel was.

the unsilent m…

October 5th, 2012 at 9:34 AM ^

"Give me your tired, your poor, and any JUCO transfer with a questionable character who can run a 4.2.  When they go down, I'll cast them aside and get another one."  I saw this crap yesterday and there was nothing but sincerity as far as the eye could see.  What a magnanimous prick.


October 5th, 2012 at 9:56 AM ^

I like to think we can be more thoughtful than that. But it's true that Saban's claim seems to hang by a slender thread: do injuries climb when the hurry-up becomes a game-long deal?

Probably very hard to prove. It's even possible they could go down--playing faster COULD even out, with Os and Ds not ON the field any more or less. You score in two minutes and the D goes off field. 

Likely different KINDS of plays are being made, which also alters your sample. 

No doubt the spread IS changing the game. It will be interesting to see over time whether manball starts to lose out, only works for elite teams, etcetera. The advantages of the spread for small and possibly less gifted squads do seem to have been established. 


October 5th, 2012 at 11:36 AM ^

I don't think the OP was challenging that. I think he/she was saying we have to question whether this pace actually leads to more fatigue. It seems it does intuitively, but maybe because teams get off the field quicker and defend/execute different types of plays, maybe they are less fatigued or less prone to injury even if they are more fatigued. Not sure I agree or think this is the case, but that's the way I took it.


October 5th, 2012 at 2:49 PM ^

first you have to prove Ds, and individual players, ARE on the field more. Then you have to show length of time on the field generalized across whole teams, because if some are on more some may be off more, substitutions may be taking place in other ways (next time O has the ball, etc.; this goes to adjustments Saban has to make.) Then--beyond knowing playing more means more injuries, you have to demonstrate that it's happening in these contexts.


October 5th, 2012 at 7:36 PM ^

Intuitively, at least, fatigue isn't solely determined by total time on the field or number of plays over a game--concentrating a lot of plays into a short period of time could cause fatigue on its own, regardless of the cumulative effect over the course of a game.

Mich Mash

October 5th, 2012 at 10:00 AM ^

Saban's concern is with the increase in probability of players being injured due to the fast pace of the game.  Further, his concern must be in regards to the players on the defensive side of the ball because the offense has most of the control over the game pace.  If he feels like his offensive players are so tired that the risk of injury is unacceptable, he has the power to slow the offense down and use the full play clock.  Or if he is supremely concerned, he can expend a precious timeout to ensure the safety of his offensive players.

So then, on to the defensive side of the ball. The meat of this argument lies in the game situation of long / extended drives: double digit play drives.  I hate to sound overly simplistic, but the defense's silver bullet here is to prevent an extended drive.  They need to display sound tackling on the players' parts.  The defensive coordinator needs to give advantageous RPS calls.  The defense needs to stop the offense's progress and therefore curtail these extended drives.

Offenses will always have an advantage because they act first and the defense reacts.  But overall, I don't think the pace of the game needs to be artificially regulated; defenses need to step up to protect their own safety.


October 5th, 2012 at 10:22 AM ^

This point is dumb. I like the fast paced offense because you get to see more plays and more action during the course of a 60 minute game. These guys are college athletes, they should be conditioned to play the full 60 minutes.


October 5th, 2012 at 10:42 AM ^

Saban: "can we please slow down the pace of football? I need to use my medical scholarships on my terrible players, and all these legit injuries are getting in the way!"


October 5th, 2012 at 11:06 AM ^

I'm not sure about the health issue here, but I am starting to feel like the offense/defense balance in CFB is becoming skewed toward the offenses (whereas in the NFL it's balanced or even in the favor of the defenses).  There definitely seem to be more and more of these 49-42 type games.  If rule changes can bring things more into balance, I wouldn't mind.  I don't know how much of this really comes down to the hurry-up concept itself, though.  Would Oregon really be that much easier to defend if it took an extra 10 seconds to snap the ball?  I don't know.


October 5th, 2012 at 11:20 AM ^

Make up your mind Nick, is that you're concerned about player health/injury prevention, or is it that you think it's bad for your team (fairness).  I think we all know the anwser to that one.  It's ironic that Saban of all people is complaining about things not being fair.  If he doesn't have all the cards in his hands, if all things don't play into his power, if he doesn't own a competitive advantage over everything he is a little baby.  He is such a good coach I would just love to see him compete on a a level playing field.  He just always seems to get so caught up in taking advantage of policies.

micheal honcho

October 5th, 2012 at 11:48 AM ^

If a coach wanted to slow down a tempo offense and be able to substitute defenders all he would have to do is tell the defender leaving the game to drop and cramp up on the way off the field. There is no rule against this currently, except that the player for whom the officials call the timeout must leave the game for at least one play.


October 5th, 2012 at 2:07 PM ^

I honestly have no idea whether slowing the game down would have any effect on injuries. However, I think this is worth talking about because I think it does mess with the game to a degree. I have no logical argument to why it can't be done, it just feels wrong sometimes. I watch an Oregon game and I don't always marvel at it. It turns the game of chess into speed. Going before the other team can even think. Sometimes I think it is tantamount to the batter's box being removed, and pitchers just hurling a ball over the plate as fast as the catcher can get it back to them. It'd be entertaining as hell for a time (seriously, wouldn't it? especially after how we've dealt with long delays between pitches) but it wouldn't be the same game anymore. 

swan flu

October 5th, 2012 at 4:20 PM ^

Here is a better comparison:


Teams like Oregon and Clemson and Tulane developed and started using the spread as a way to compete against teams with far bigger and stronger athletes and far superior recruiting prowess.


Let's say an MLB team with smaller, not-so-strong athletes and less "recruting prowess" (ie. money) wanted to compete with the big boys (like the Yankees, Tigers, or Angels).  This team would probably create a system utilizing untapped resources (like small, fast athletes) and unconventional tactics (like hit-and-runs and emphasizing OBP rather than home runs).  This team would play the game differently than we are used to, and many would say that it is a cheap way to win.  They would, however, play very well, and make the postseason often.  But in the bigger games, they'd probably shit the bed against the Yankees even when they led a best-of-5 series 2 games to 0.


Oh shit, I just hypothetically created money ball.


My point: "The Spread" has happened in every sport, just with different iterations.  It is a way for a team with inferior talent to win games using unique advantages. To say it is "not the same game" just sounds like complaining.  Oregon has to abide by all the same rules as Alabama, they are simply using their talents to their advantages while minimizing Alabama's advantages.  It is guerilla warfare.


October 5th, 2012 at 2:53 PM ^

between an OL that's conditioned to snap the ball in .0001 seconds like Oregon, and one that averages a metric ton of muscle, like Wisconsin. If anything, I'd bet Saban's model causes more injuries then Chip Kelly's.

I don't think Saban was all that worried about Western Kentucky and their defense getting injured when he started three All-American's on his OL and sent out huge TE's to block guys with no shot at doing anything against them and sent a 225lb missile up the gut of their defense.


October 5th, 2012 at 7:53 PM ^

that if we're going to allow an OL to be as big and strong as they want to be, why shouldn't we let them play as fast as they want to play?

If we're really that concerned about injuries, how about a weight limit? I think it's pretty clear that everyone would be healthier if nobody over 250 (random number) was allowed to play.


October 5th, 2012 at 8:30 PM ^

Prohibiting people from playing is a little more drastic than controlling the pace of the game, don't you think? But if addressing your concern meant an absolute crackdown on PEDs, both for the safety of the user and of his opponents, I'm all for it.

I'm not sure why people are so cavalier about injury concerns. I thought this was one of the resaons they put in the rule allowing the defense to substitute whenever the offense did, and I thought that was a good idea.

I'm not agreeing with Saban--I just don't understand why we have to dismiss the concern because Saban's the one who brought it up and I have a sense that's a lot of what's going on on the thread.