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Would A Running Clock Have Helped Arkansas State?

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson is considering, just like his counterpart of the Pac-12, implementing a measure to make college football shorter. Could that be good news for A-State?

Michael Chang/Getty Images

College football games are 11 minutes longer than six years ago but if Pac-12 and Sun Belt commissioners have their say, this could come to an end soon.

Indeed, Larry Scott and Karl Benson believe the games drag on for too long and want to do something about it. Namely, they want to keep the clock running as the chains reset after first downs.

There's an instant #hottake-like reaction of "leave this be, if you don't like it go to the NFL" that I'll spare you here. The bottom line is, if the powers that be want this to happen then it will. (By powers, I mostly mean the Pac-12 in this case, and not the Sun Belt.)

We'll cross that bridge when we get there, but for now let's entertain the possibility. Let's say that the clock had run after first downs this past season, would it have been a good thing for Arkansas State?

On Offense

A-State was among the very best FBS offenses, scoring almost 37 points per game (i.e. good for 19th) and finishing with more than 216 yards rushing (i.e. good for 27th) and 260 yards passing (i.e. good for 40th) per game. The team had the 20th best offense in the country in yards per game.

An howl is usually long, piercing and drawn-out, but Fredi Knighten, Michael Gordon, Tres Houston and the gang were explosive and ranked near the top of the leaderboard for long scrimmage plays. The team had 23 first downs per game on average on offense, which is excellent, but a running clock wouldn't necessarily have helped. It would have helped A-State's putrid time of possession, sure, but a time of possession has never scored a touchdown.

I'm against any measure that would limit the number of plays per game, because this would mean fewer plays for the Red Wolves' offense.

On Defense

And yet, fewer plays on defense would certainly have been a positive. By just about any measure, from points per game (i.e. 92nd at 30.5 points), rushing defense (i.e. 105th at 205 yards), and total defense (i.e. 85th at 421 yards), the Red Wolves had a bad defense in 2014. They also allowed more long scrimmage plays than your average FBS defense but when they did manage to tackle the opponent, they were good. Against the A-State defense, opponents converted third and fourth downs at a below average rate.

The Verdict

There's a perfect balance somewhere but I have enough faith in Knighten and co. to be just as effective in fewer plays that I believe that a running clock could have helped. Learning how to tackle would have as well, of course, but nobody's perfect.