The NCAA hasn't really satisfied coaches or TV networks with revised clock rules in the past three seasons, but the NCAA Football Rules Committee hopes the latest tweaks will get it right.
The NCAA hopes an NFL-style 40-second play clock and other changes will make coaches happy by allowing them to run more plays per game and also please the networks as the games get back closer to the three-hour mark.
Under the new rule, the play clock will start when the previous play is called dead. This replaces the officials' ready-for-play signal to start a 25-second clock.
"It will streamline the game," said Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, a member of the rules committee. "It takes human error and human judgment out of it as far as officials running the clock. They say when the NFL did it, they actually gained four to five plays per game."
The NCAA also changed the clock procedures on out-of-bounds plays. The clock will start on the referee's signal following those plays rather than starting when the ball is snapped. The exception is the final two minutes of a half, when the game clock will re-start on the snap.
Bellotti says he thinks the new rule on out-of-bounds plays will result in the loss of eight to 10 plays per game, meaning the two clock rules are expected to cause the loss of a net four or five plays.
"The committee is struggling with trying to maintain a reasonable length of the game," said Rogers Redding, NCAA football secretary-rules editor and coordinator of football officials for the SEC. "The changes put in a couple of years ago – there was such a negative reaction to them we reverted to original rules, but the committee felt like there was room to improve length of the game."
Some coaches have said the new 40-second clock would favor teams that aim to dictate a fast tempo. Bellotti disagrees, but he also said he expects to see more teams run a no-huddle offense. His Ducks adopted a no-huddle strategy in recent years.
"The national commissioners for college officials, they say with the old 25-second clock, they gave their guys 13-14 seconds to start the clock," Bellotti said. "The reality is the 40-second clock should not change the tempo of the game unless you choose to change it."
Here is a refresher of other important rules changes for the 2008 season:
• Coaches who challenge a reviewable call on the field will retain their challenge if the call is overturned.
TIMES ARE CHANGING
Avg. game time
Plays per game
• There no longer will be a 5-yard incidental face mask penalty. Pulling, twisting or turning an opponent's face mask will result in a 15-yard penalty.
• Officials now will call penalties rather than give a "sideline warning." If team personnel enter the restricted area between the sideline and coaching box, there will be an immediate 5-yard penalty or a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
• The language on the chop block was simplified, allowing more of those blocks to be called. Officials will call a penalty for any high-low combination block by two players anytime during a play, anywhere on the field regardless of a delay between the two blocks.
• The "horse-collar tackle" has been banned. Officials will call a penalty when a defender grabs a ball carrier by the jersey or shoulder pads at the back or the side and immediately pulls the runner down.
• A penalty will be called if a player strikes an opponent with the crown of the helmet or targets an opponent above the shoulders.
• "The Bill Belichick Rule" extends to college football. Rules prohibit any attempts to film or tape signals given by opponents.
David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.