Duration Of College Football Games Explained

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: April 21, 2024

Have you ever wondered how long a college football game lasts? Are you interested in what makes them run long? Well, you might be surprised to learn that the average time is not what you think…

Factors Affecting Game Length

Many things make college football games last longer. A big reason is the TV timeouts or media timeouts.

These pauses are for commercials and last about three minutes each. They add a lot of time to the game.

The spread offense also plays a part. This style involves more ball throwing, which means the game has to stop more often, making it longer.

Length Of Football Vs. Other Sports

College football games are known for being long. In the last season, a Division I FBS game took 3 hours and 24 minutes on average. This is more time than college baseball games take.

In college football, games have four quarters. Each quarter should last 15 minutes, but real-time can be longer. This happens with pauses like clock stoppages, timeouts, and coaching challenges.

In football, the clock stops for many reasons. Players who go out of bounds, incomplete passes, and when penalties happen, all stop the clock. These stoppages in the game make the game last longer.

Remember, each quarter is made to be 15 minutes. Yet, it doesn’t always finish in that time. How long each quarter takes to play can change based on many factors.

This depends on how close the teams are in skill and how many stoppages in play there are.

If you’re looking for more rules in football and how they affect the game, check out our article here.

College Vs. NFL Game Length

College and NFL football games differ in length. College football games are usually longer than NFL games. On average, NFL games last about two and a half hours, while college games last about three hours.

One big reason college games are longer is the clock rules.

In college, the clock stops after each first down and starts when the ball is set. While this is only a 10-second delay, it gives the teams extra time to set up plays, making the game longer.

College football is also structured differently. It has four quarters like the NFL, each 15 minutes. However, the time it takes to finish a quarter can be longer due to breaks in the clock, like incomplete passes and changes of possession.

These longer college games offer fans more time to enjoy the sport. However, it can also make watching the whole game tough. Knowing this, fans should plan ahead when going to or watching college football games.

Efforts to Shorten Game Length

College football and the NCAA know games are too long. They want to shorten them without sacrificing what fans enjoy.

They are looking at making halftime shorter. This change would help cut the game’s total time. They also want fewer commercial breaks. But it’s hard because those breaks help bring in money.

Keeping fans happy is a big goal. They want to keep the fun at halftime, like the shows and traditions.

One new rule that’s being introduced is to not stop the clock after a first down, similar to what the NFL does. This should help shorten the game.

Bowl Games and Game Length

Bowl games are special and may last longer than normal games. They usually take about 3 hours and 32 minutes. Some even go on a bit longer. The reason for this is the fun halftime shows and more commercials.

Sponsors are a large part of bowl games. This is why it’s so expensive for companies to sponsor bowl games, because of all the publicity they get. TV companies aren’t going to sacrifice money for the game, so they will make it as long as possible to get as much money as possible.

If you plan to watch or go to a bowl game, know it might take up more of your time. Be ready for a few hours of football and fun!

What’s Next?

College football games are lasting longer, but there is an effort to shorten them.

The average length is about three hours and 22 minutes. Some games even go on for over four hours. Efforts are being made to make the games shorter. Conferences are trying things like shorter halftimes and fewer commercials.

The Ultimate Football Guide

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It’s hard to find an ideal fix without changing the game. Yet, everyone agrees that change is needed. They want to keep the game’s pace while making it faster.

The talk about how long these games are won’t stop. Expect to see new tweaks and ideas soon. With technology, there’s hope for a better balance. The aim is to have a game that’s fun, fast, and still true to its roots. This way, fans will stay hooked, and players will shine.

If you’re looking to learn more about football, check out our store here.

About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.