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We calculated the perfect length of an IU football game

And it shouldn’t be a second longer

Connecticut v Indiana Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

This is a blog idea that I’ve had for over a year now and since it’s roughly the – checks watch – 138th day of March 2020, I don’t see a better time than now to put my passing grade in BUS-K 201 to the test and crank out some Excel formulas.

Here’s the premise: Approximately two to four times per fall, since the dawn of time, the Indiana Football Hoosiers have built an unlikely lead against a usually superior opponent, only to fumble it away, sometimes quite literally, often in dumb, excruciating, only-Indiana fashion.

There could never be another down of FBS football played and the Hoosiers have already provided enough material for an “Images that precede unfortunate events in Indiana football history” Twitter account to exist and post a different screenshot once a week until the time when the fault lines out West eventually crumble and turn Los Angeles and San Francisco into neighboring cities that are just a short Lime scooter ride away from one another.

In the words of the boss around here:

And in the words of the old boss around here:

All of those losses made me wonder, what is the perfect length for an Indiana football game? At what minute interval are the Hoosiers most often leading, such that if we could go back in time and convince Walter Camp or whoever else is in charge of this godforesaken sport that rather than playing 60 minutes, every football game should be ____ minutes long, such that the Hoosiers would have the most wins possible?

I can picture alternate-reality Indiana football fan Larry David ranting about this concept in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm after IU blows a 23-17 lead late in the third quarter on the road in a 42-26 loss to No. 9 Michigan.

“Now, come on, what’s up with football games being 60 minutes long in the first place? Not 30, not 50, heck, not even 100. And what’s up with the whole base-10 system anyway? Why do time zones exist? Don’t even get me started on the benefits of converting to the metric system. I’ll tell you what, if you want to be a Leader or a Legend or what have you, how about you fix ol’ Jim Delany’s mistakes and get Rutgers and Nebraska up outta the conference, then split the conference into two balanced, six-team divisions and voila! Big Life, Big Stage, Big Ten, Big Red Liquors, the Rose Bowl runs through Bloomington.”

Last season, IU had the lead in 10 of its 13 games through the 46 and 47-minute marks. Its first-half sweet spot was either the 13 or 16-minute mark, where the Hoosiers were leading eight times at each interval.

Since Tom Allen became the Hoosiers’ head coach prior to the 2016 Foster Farms Bowl, the perfect length of an Indiana football game is either 23 or 41 minutes – the Hoosiers have led 22 times in 38 chances at each of those intervals, which means more times than not, they’re sitting pretty through a quarter and a half of play, and then again late in the third quarter.

Those two moments in time during an IU football game feel all too accurate and all too painful for those who have spent too many a fall afternoon watching the Hoosiers over the last decade or two.

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That’s hypothetically 22 wins and 16 losses for the Cream and Crimson in the last three years if football took 41 minutes to play rather than 60 – a four-win improvement over Tom Allen’s 18-20 record at Indiana.

If the minute hand took just 41 ticks around the game clock instead of 60 in this upside-down, bizarro, cherry-picked world we’ve created where time bends to, uh, Indiana football, of all entities, that’s...

  • nine wins for the Hoosiers last season, fulfilling the #9Windiana prophecy
  • six wins and a bowl berth in 2018
  • seven wins and another bowl game in 2017

...meaning a program that’s usually pretty competitive through two and almostbutnotquitethree quarters would currently be on a streak of five consecutive bowl games.

You look out the window from the backseat of a pre-owned, four-door sedan that’s driving fast, but not too fast, down the freeway on a rainy day. “The Night We Met” by Lord Huron comes on the radio. The driver goes to change the channel to a different station – something lighter, something hopeful – but you say, ‘No, let it play. I need this.’

I went through every Indiana football game since the start of the Kevin Wilson era (because I wanted to feel something) but not any further back in time (because I’m not a masochist) to find out what is the perfect length of an Indiana football game for the last decade-ish.

Here are the results.

As it turns out, the perfect length of an Indiana football game is between 51 and 53 minutes.

In the 111 games played since the start of the 2011 season (Kevin Wilson’s first at IU), the Hoosiers have led exactly 50 times through 51, 52 and 53 minutes, or 45 percent of the time.

A 50-61 record in a world where football games are 51-53 minutes long is six wins better than IU’s actual 44-67 record during that stretch.

In the last nine seasons, there have been eight games in which Indiana has led through 53 minutes but lost the lead in the final seven minutes. That’s roughly once per season that Indiana has lost the lead in the final half of the final quarter of a game.

If you really want to trigger some horrible, repressed memories with me, I overlaid the graph shown above with markers for individual losses, showing at what minute interval Indiana lost the lead for good.

The games listed include 16 losses to ranked opponents, including 10 ranked in the top 10.


I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m trying to delete.

Feel free to print out that graph and keep it in your wallet as your get out of jail free card.

Speeding ticket? It’s alright officer, I’m an Indiana football fan.

Didn’t send that quarterly report to your boss before the deadline?

Sorry, sir, it won’t happen again. I was too busy thinking about how Indiana has led a top-10 Ohio State team three times in the final 20 minutes in the last six seasons but has zero wins to show for it. Here, take a look at this chart.

And that’s why the perfect length for an Indiana football game is somewhere between 51 and 53 minutes, and not a second longer.