If Passed, How Would Defensive Substitution Rule Impact Big 12 Football?

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If Passed, How Would Defensive Substitution Rule Impact Big 12 Football?
LM Otero/Associated Press

The unpopularity of last year's targeting rule seemed hard to top. But somehow the NCAA found a way to do it with last week's controversial defensive substitution proposal, drawn up by the Football Rules Committee.

The proposal states defenses can take the first 10 seconds of the 40-second play clock to substitute players. If an offense snaps the ball before those 10 seconds expire, it ironically receives a delay-of-game penalty. The only time the rule would not apply is in the final two minutes of each half. 

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

The committee cited player safety as the reason for the proposal, even though there's no hard data proving hurry-up, no-huddle offenses cause more injuries. 

Naturally, coaches who employ that attack opposed the idea. 

"If the food tastes good, don't change the recipe," Baylor coach Art Briles told USA Today. "We've got a good game. Let's let the fans enjoy it. I just don't see the sense behind it."

Briles is far from the only coach who feels that way. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy took to Twitter last week to express his disapproval:

Briles and Gundy have a history of running up-tempo offenses. Understandably, they're worried that the proposal, up for consideration by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel on March 6, may pass.

According to Dennis Dodd of CBSSports, Baylor went, on average, 19.8 seconds in between each snap last season. In all, the Bears ran 82.6 plays per game; only Texas Tech ran more plays per game (87.4) in the Big 12. 

Football is a game that inherently benefits the offense. By nature, the hurry-up, no-huddle attack enhances that benefit. By not allowing defenses to substitute, an offense can repeatedly attack a weakness once it's found. That leads to big plays and more points. 

No team scored more points in 2013 than Baylor. The Bears also ranked second in the country in long scrimmage plays (10 or more yards and 10th in long passing plays, according to cfbstats.com. Combined with world-class speed at running back and wide receiver, Baylor utilized its up-temp offense as well as any team in college football. 

When Baylor executes on offense, it's a deluge of speed, and there's little defenses can do about it. 

By allowing defenses to substitute, whether for fatigue or schematic reasons, the proposal would take some of that built-in advantage away. 

Interestingly, though, only two Big 12 teams—Baylor and Texas Tech—would have been truly affected by the substitution rule had it been implemented last year. The only other Big 12 teams to rank in the top 30 in plays per game were Texas and Oklahoma State. 

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That's a far cry from the up-tempo reputation the conference has earned over the years. 

Still, tempo has its place even for slower-paced teams. Oklahoma, for example, used tempo brilliantly in its 45-31 Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. 

"We knew they [Alabama] didn't see it, they hadn't seen a lot of tempo teams," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said after the game, via Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. "And the ones that did gave them trouble.  So we felt that would play into a positive way for us."

Does the outcome of the Sugar Bowl change if the Sooners weren't allowed to use tempo? If so, by how much?

Point being, since there's always a time and place for tempo, the proposal would affect every team to some extent. 

Ultimately, it's a question of how much an offense uses tempo. It's no surprise, then, that up-tempo disciples like Briles and Gundy are the biggest voices to oppose the proposal. 

 

Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. 

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