How Long Does a College Football Game Last?

logo by Editorial Staff | Posted on December 18th, 2022

Football games have been a part of American culture for decades and have been enjoyed by generations of fans. The length of a football game can vary depending on the level of football being played; college football games tend to last longer than professional games.

In this blog post, we will take an in-depth look at how long a college football game typically lasts and what factors may play into the length of a game. We will also explore the impact of television timeouts, player safety considerations, and the effect of game length on fan attendance. With this information, you’ll be able to appreciate the complexities that go into managing the time of a college football game and why some games take longer than others.

lots of people watching football game during sunset

How Long Does a College Football Game Last?

A college football game is the same length as an NFL game: 60 minutes. However, unlike professional football, college contests typically run much longer. The average college football game lasts three hours and 20 minutes. While NFL games last long, college football games tend to be longer due to several factors.

Rules for the Length of a College Football Game

The NCAA has rules for the length of college football games that must be followed. These regulations include the amount of time for each quarter and other game events such as halftime, timeouts, and overtime periods. The regulation also states that a college game must end no later than 2 hours and 55 minutes after the start time.

The game consists of four 15-minute quarters with a 12-minute halftime break. Teams are allowed three timeouts per half and one additional timeout if the game goes into overtime. In addition, the clock will be stopped at certain times to accommodate television broadcasts, such as after a score or a change of possession.

The NCAA has implemented a play clock rule to ensure that the game is played promptly. This regulation requires that the offensive team snap the ball within 40 seconds of the ball being spotted ready for play. Failure to do so will result in a 5-yard delay of game penalty.

Factors that May Play Into the Length of a College Football Game

The length of a college football game depends on various factors, including the pace of play, the number of stoppages, and the number of plays that run. The amount of time allotted between plays also affects the game’s length. Teams running a lot of plays quickly can finish the game in less time. When teams spend more time between plays, the game will naturally take longer.

The number of timeouts during a game can also affect its length. Teams can call two timeouts per half; however, some may use all available timeouts during a single half to maximize their strategic advantages. In addition, the referee can call a timeout for injuries or other emergencies. This can cause the game to be delayed for an extended period.

Finally, factors like weather conditions and field conditions can also play into the length of a college football game. If rain or other inclement weather is present, the field may become slippery, and it may take longer for teams to run plays. If the field is in poor condition, this can also cause delays while teams wait for maintenance crews to fix any issues.

Halftime Breaks and Timeouts

Halftime breaks and timeouts are necessary for college football games, but they can also add to the game’s length. In college football, halftime is twenty minutes long, while NFL halftime is just twelve minutes. During this time, teams can make adjustments and strategize for the second half of the game. Additionally, there is a two-minute break during college football games after the first and third quarters.

These breaks help teams regroup and rest, but they also add to the game’s overall length. College football teams are also allowed to call timeouts. Each team is allowed three timeouts per half, lasting one minute. This means that if both teams use all their timeouts, an additional six minutes could be added to the game’s length.

Finally, television timeouts can add extra time to a college football game. These are called when networks need additional commercial break time and can be up to two minutes long. This means that four minutes could be added if both teams take two television timeouts each half.

Overtime in College Football Games

When the score is tied at the end of regulation, the game enters overtime. In college football, overtime is untimed, meaning the teams will play until one team has scored more points than the other.

NCAA rules stipulate that each team receives one possession per overtime period, starting with the team that lost the coin toss at the beginning of the game. If the score remains tied after one overtime period, additional periods may be played until a winner is determined.

NCAA Regulations on Clock Management

The NCAA has established certain regulations to help ensure that games move along at a reasonable pace. The NCAA requires all games to be played in two halves of 30 minutes each, with a 15-minute halftime break.

The clock runs continuously in the second half, except for timeouts, injuries, and other delays. The clock also stops for the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half. The NCAA also requires teams to use a 40-second play clock after the ball is set to help keep the game moving.

The NCAA also has regulations regarding timeouts. Each team is allowed three timeouts per half, with a maximum of two timeouts per possession. Teams are also allowed one additional timeout per half if the game goes into overtime. These timeouts must be used within one minute of being called and may not exceed 30 seconds in length.

Finally, coaches are allowed to call consecutive timeouts to conserve time if they run out of opportunities. For example, if a team is on its third timeout in the first half and there are only a few minutes left to play, the coach may call two consecutive timeouts to conserve time.

Delays and Other Unforeseen Events That May Extend the Game Time

Delays and other unforeseen events can also add to the time of a college football game. Several incidents could cause a delay, such as weather, traffic, or player injuries. In addition, referees may call for additional timeouts or reviews. For instance, if a coach challenges a call, the game clock will stop, and the play will be reviewed. This can add several minutes to the game. Additionally, if there is a turnover, the clock will stop until the ball is snapped again.

In addition, the NCAA has introduced regulations that require the referees to add time back onto the clock if they have penalized a team and other play stoppages have not made up this time. This rule was implemented to prevent teams from running out of the clock when they have a lead and have been penalized.

Finally, television timeouts are also important in determining how long a game will last. The networks that broadcast college games typically get multiple commercial breaks throughout the game, and these can add several minutes to the total game time.

Average Length of an NCAA Football Game by Conference

The average length of an NCAA football game depends on the conference in which the game is played. The average length of games in the Power Five conferences (SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12, and ACC) was 3 hours and 24 minutes in 2019. The average length of games in the FBS was slightly lower at 3 hours and 22 minutes in 2019. The FCS games’ average length was slightly higher at 3 hours and 25 minutes in 2019.

The SEC had the longest average game time at 3 hours and 26 minutes, followed closely by the Big Ten at 3 hours and 24 minutes. The Pac-12 had the shortest average game time at 3 hours and 21 minutes.

The NCAA has taken steps to reduce the length of college football games by instituting regulations on the amount of time that can be used for television timeouts, halftime breaks, and other delays. These regulations have positively impacted the length of college football games, but they may not be enough to reduce the average time of a college football game to under three hours.

The Impact of Television Timeouts on College Football Games

Television timeouts are a major factor in the length of college football games. Television networks pay a lot of money for the rights to broadcast college football, and they want to ensure that their viewers can see all of the action. To help accomplish this, they are allotted a certain amount of timeouts during each game.

These timeouts usually last 2 minutes, but they can sometimes be longer depending on the network’s needs. During these timeouts, the network is allowed to show commercials, which helps them recoup their costs for broadcasting the game. This is why it is not uncommon for a college football game to be nearly four hours long.

While television timeouts are necessary for networks to make a profit, they can also be detrimental to the flow of the game and lead to players and fans becoming frustrated. This is why some people have suggested that the NCAA create regulations on how long these timeouts can be and how often they can occur during a game. This would help ensure that the game doesn’t become too long and boring for viewers.

Player Safety Considerations When Setting Time Limits for College Games

Player safety is a major consideration when setting the time limit for college football games. The NCAA has strict rules about the length of games to ensure that players are not exposed to an excessive amount of playing time.

The NCAA states that no game should last more than three hours and that teams should strive to keep the game within two hours and forty-five minutes. This ensures that players are not over-exerted during a game, which could lead to injuries. Additionally, teams are limited in how long they can practice during the week to avoid fatigue and reduce the risk of injury.

Does the Length of a Game Affect Fan Attendance?

The length of a game is certainly an important factor when it comes to fan attendance. Longer games can result in fans leaving before the game is over, while shorter games may result in more fans staying until the end.

Studies have shown that attendance decreases when college football games last longer than three hours. This effect is especially pronounced in regions that experience more extreme temperatures and weather fluctuations. Additionally, longer games tend to have fewer offensive points scored, which can also reduce attendance.

In addition to length, the game’s outcome is also an important factor in fan attendance. Fans are more likely to attend games that their team is favored to win or if the game is seen as having a particularly high level of importance. It is also important to consider the level of competition. Games between two top-tier teams will generally draw larger crowds than a game between two lower-tier teams.

Finally, the viewing experience’s quality should also be considered when analyzing fan attendance. Many stadiums provide amenities like food, drinks, and comfortable seating that enhance the viewing experience and may encourage fans to remain at the game until its conclusion.


The length of a college football game can range anywhere from a few hours to over four. The NCAA has set regulations on the length of a game, but factors like overtime and television timeouts can extend the time.

The average length of an NCAA football game by the conference can also vary. Ultimately, the length of a college football game can impact fan attendance, so it is important to consider the length when scheduling games. By understanding the NCAA regulations on clock management and other factors that may affect game time and player safety, you can better prepare for a college football season that meets everyone’s needs.


Editorial Staff

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