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Stat of the Week: New Clock Rules Meaning Less Plays a Game for Oklahoma State?

So far, OSU is averaging about eight less plays a game compared to last season.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

If you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, then that means you don’t score on 100% of the plays you don’t get.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has mentioned this season the NCAA’s new clock rules and how it has affected college football, even outside of Stillwater. Whether it’s the new rules or not, Gundy is correct on one thing — the Cowboys are getting a lot less plays to score on than before.

The NCAA debuted three new clock rules for the 2023 college football season. First, the clock still runs after first downs (like in the NFL), except for the last two minutes of each half. Second, a team can’t take consecutive timeouts. And third, untimed downs can occur only in the second and fourth quarters, so if there’s a flag at the end of the first or third quarter, it will carry over into the next quarter.

The main goals of these new rules were to shorten games for viewership and reduce the number of plays that could possibly expose student-athletes to injuries.

The Cowboys are averaging 68.67 plays a game through their three-game nonconference schedule. At the end of last season, OSU averaged 76.92 plays per game. That means so far in 2023, OSU is getting about 8.25 less plays a game. If the Cowboys continue their bowl streak and get a 13th game like they have the last 17 years, that would have OSU missing out on over 107 plays total this season, based on the current average.

YearPlays Per GamePoints Per Game

Last season was not a great year offensively for the Cowboys, but they averaged about 0.35 points a play. Again, all based on math, averages and the trend holding steady, that would leave OSU missing out on about 37.54 points total or 2.89 points a game for 2023. That could be significant for a program with a knack for finding itself in one-possession contests.

But what about the rest of the country? Three full weeks into the college football season is still a minute sample size, but there are still comparisons to be made. However, this plays per game stat is not an easy stat to find because before four weeks ago, no one really cared. has the stat for every FBS team and rankings for each season, but those stats are based only off FBS vs. FBS matchups. That negates one game a season for most programs, including OSU, which hosted FCS opponent Central Arkansas Week 1.

Just a general consensus, according to, South Florida is averaging more plays a game than anyone else right now at 89.5. For comparison, Texas Tech was the leader in 2022 with 89.2. That’s nearly no difference at all, and actually more this season.

Despite misleading viral posts on X saying otherwise, FootballScoop reported after Week 1 that the difference compared to this season and last so was 66.9 to 68.7, respectively. That’d be about two less plays a game per team.

I threw all those numbers at you and did all that math to basically tell you we don’t know the real difference yet that these new clock rules will have on college football as far as plays per game. Gundy believes it has already made a difference, though, and thought so from the beginning.

“It’ll be a big factor in the games, in my opinion,” Gundy said at Big 12 Media Days in July.

The last time OSU was outside’s top 50 in plays per game was 2014, a year the ’23 Cowboys really don’t want to be in the same company as. That was the last time OSU averaged fewer than 70 plays per game and fewer than 30 points a game. It seems the Cowboys are headed toward similar numbers.

In theory, this all seems simple: the less chances you have to score, the less you score. OSU is running a lot less plays compared to normal and scoring a lot less points. However, whether that’s more because of new clock rules or just a bad offense is still up for discussion.

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