College football is on the clock … again.

Another tinkering of the play and game clocks, something that has been adjusted each of the last three years, has coaches eager to see how they and their players will manage the game.

Both coaches Tommy West of Memphis and Houston Nutt of Ole Miss anticipate their teams will handle the transition smoothly in Saturday’s 6 p.m. season opener in Oxford.

“I think the clock will affect the teams that huddle a lot and have substitution patterns,” West said. “But we try and play an uptempo game. We’ve put the clock on us at scrimmages, and we’ve been snapping the ball with 20 seconds left.”

Added Nutt, “The 40-second clock really averages out to about being a 25-second clock by the time you snap it. We’ve worked really hard on managing the clock so I don’t see a problem with that.”

So what are the new clock rules?

The play clock: It now is a 40-second clock that starts as soon as the umpire places the ball on the ground and steps away. That replaces a 25-second clock that didn’t begin until the referee gave the ready-for-play signal.

However, the clock can be reset from 40 to 25 for administrative purposes, such as marking off a penalty, a timeout or tending to an injured player.

The game clock: Now when a play goes out of bounds, the game clock will start as soon as the ball has been reset. It previously didn’t begin until the snap. That will change in the final two minutes of each half, when the clock won’t start until the ball is snapped.

Why tamper with the clocks? It’s simple, said West.

“We’re trying to speed up games,” West said. “We’ve had some TV games in college football approach four hours, and that’s way too long.

“And now with the passing game as popular as it is in college football, we’ve got to do everything we can to speed games up.”

A couple of years ago, when the NCAA football rules committee first tinkered with the clock rules to speed up games, there were grumbles from coaches about their offenses getting fewer snaps.

So the rules committee went back to the drawing board.

“There was such a huge outcry from all coaches in all NCAA divisions,” said Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, “that the rules committee has vacillated again on the rule.”

Coaches have been adjusting to the rule last spring and in preseason, but haven’t done so quietly. Many of them don’t care that Division 1-A games averaged 3 hours, 23 minutes last year compared to 3:07 in 2006.

“Why don’t we make a change and stay with it a couple of years and see how it works out rather than having knee-jerk reactions and changing it every year?” Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said. “I’ve dealt with the 40-second rule in the NFL. That’s not a problem.

Memphis Commercial Appeal