The Sweep

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Sam Bradford and the Sooners have adapted very well to the
new clock rules.
Damian Strohmeyer/SI

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops didn't complain when the NCAA changed the play clock rules this offseason. Unlike many of his colleagues, Stoops adapted. He and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson first discussed the idea of adding no-huddle elements to the Sooners' offense before the Fiesta Bowl in January. Originally, Stoops wanted to keep up with the elite offenses in the Big 12. After the NCAA adopted the 40/25 second play clock, Stoops and Wilson knew they'd struck gold. This past Saturday, while fellow coaches continued to complain about the new rule, the Sooners ran 97 plays in a 45-31 win against Kansas.  

The change at Oklahoma proves that the new clock rule doesn't have to hamstring an offense. In fact, the solution is really pretty simple.

Snap. The. Freaking. Ball.

We've seen it all season. A team lines up with about 20 seconds remaining on the play clock. After the quarterback barks signals for a few seconds, all 11 offensive players turn in unison toward the sideline. There, the offensive coordinator, two backup quarterbacks and a graduate assistant look like an interpretive dance troupe that got into a bad bag of mushrooms. The play clock reaches 10 seconds, and the offense shifts. Then, as the clock winds down and the back judge reaches for his flag, the center finally snaps the ball.

Florida coach Urban Meyer is the most vocal critic of the new rule, and with good reason. His offense routinely bleeds the play clock, flirting with a delay-of-game penalty dozens of times each game. Most of the Gators' plays involve multiple motion, and the quarterback in Meyer's offense typically is responsible for reading the defense and adjusting the play if necessary. But in most cases, while Florida goes through its machinations, the defense alters its alignment, its coverage or both. Given their physical and athletic advantage against most teams, if the Gators snapped the ball as soon as they got to the line, they probably would enjoy just as much success.

Florida, which lost 3.1 plays a game between 2007 and 2008, actually has adjusted to the rules better than its SEC brethren. The entire conference continues to crawl like a tortoise. Of the 11 FBS conferences, SEC teams run the fewest plays a game (64.9) after losing 5.2 plays per team per game from last season. The Big Ten hasn't adjusted, either. The original home of three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-snow has lost an average of 6.1 plays per team per game. Conference USA -- home of scoreboard-breaker Tulsa -- has adjusted the best, giving up only 3.1 plays per team per game.

Big Ten
68.5 74.6 -6.1
Independents 63.6 68.8 -5.2
SEC 64.9 70.1 -5.2
Pac-10 68.1 73.2 -5.1
Sun Belt 67.8 72.5 -4.7
ACC 65.1 69.5 -4.4
Big 12 70.1 74.4 -4.3
WAC 68.2 71.9 -3.7
Mid-American 67.4 71.1 -3.7
Mountain West 69.2 72.6 -3.4
Big East 67.1 70.4 -3.3
Conference USA 70.5 73.6 -3.1
Conference '08 Plays '07 Plays Change


I'm perfectly happy to concede to esteemed colleague Jay Christensen that the NCAA changed the clock rule to mollify bloodsuckers television executives who want to shave time off games so they can gradually add more commercials during the next few years, bringing games back to their old length while providing the viewers with less actual football. But there's a simple solution. The three FBS schools in the state of Oklahoma have figured it out. They call the play, line up and run the play. Eventually, the rest of the nation will figure it out.

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