Proposed No-Huddle Rule Would Hit The Big 12 Hard
By Steve Pipps
Have you ever been in a rush and found yourself stuck behind the slowest driver on the road? Or maybe you just like to drive fast and you take your car out for a quick spin. You gun it down an empty road, cruising along until a car turns out in front of you and slows you to a crawl.
If you’re one of the many college football teams that uses a no-huddle offense, Nick Saban or Bret Bielema is driving the car that is blocking the road, or at least threatening to, and they are cackling away as they slow down everyone else.
The NCAA will vote on a possible rule change Thursday that looks to slow down hurry-up offenses. If enacted, offenses will have to wait 10 seconds before they can snap the ball, so the play clock will have to be at 29 or below. During this time, the defense can substitute players (defenses currently have to wait until the offense subs to rotate out players). This gives more time for defenses to catch their breath and set themselves for the next play.
Saban and Bielema argue the no-huddle scheme can more easily lead to injuries, but there is no evidence of this. In fact, smartly noted by Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, the rule change could actually lead to more injuries. If fresh defensive players can rotate in and out, tired offensive linemen could face injury from stronger, more rested defensive linemen.
The change would have significant impact on the Big 12. This is a conference that features a number of teams that are proponents of the no-huddle offense.
Since 2003, the Pac-12 and the Big 12 have had 15 teams average 80 plays per game. Texas Tech leads with five seasons averaging 80 plays or more. Last year, Baylor averaged 82.6 offensive plays, while Texas Tech averaged 87.3. They ranked sixth and first respectively among all FBS teams. Also on the list in the Top 50 are Texas with 77.3, Oklahoma with 72.4 and Oklahoma State, whose coach, Mike Gundy has been vocal in his opposition to the rule, with 75.9.
The conference and its coaches have to consider what it and they will lose if this rule is enacted: The excitement that has brought new viewers in droves. Last year, Oklahoma and Texas ranked 13th and fourth in FBS attendance, respectively. TCU saw a 37 percent change from 2011 to 2012 when their yearly attendance average jumped from 33,686 to 46,047. Texas Tech, Kansas State and Iowa State all saw increases in their yearly attendance averages as well.
Last year, the NCAA saw the third-highest total attendance in history. More people are watching and attending because games are more exciting.
The Big 12 thrives on fast-paced play that keeps the defense on its toes and fans on the edge of their seats. If teams have to change their schemes to accommodate this rule, you will see a different conference, and not in a good way.
Baylor averaged 52.4 points per game last season, which is tied for third all-time in NCAA history with the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers. There haven’t been numbers this high since the 2008 Oklahoma squad that averaged 51.1 points a game. Texas Tech averaged 35.7 points per game and Oklahoma State averaged 39.0. If this rule is enacted, the game will slow down.
When is the last time you sat down on a Saturday night to watch a game you had no stake in and thought, "Let’s see some three-and-outs with a final score of 7-3?" Big plays and big scores satisfy fans. Defense might win championships, but offense gets people in the stands.
It might be pure coincidence, but this rule is coming after Alabama, arguably the best team in college football, lost to Auburn and Oklahoma, both of whom run no-huddle offenses. Sorry your defense cant keep up, Saban, but let’s not get all grouchy and change the game.
As an aside that's not entirely related to the Big 12, Arizona put together a video that really sums it up in an entertaining way.