I was having a comment conversation with another BR member at the end of an article on Oklahoma about whether or not they ran up the score for numbers' sake this year. As I was posting this, I thought it would be interesting to put it out there as an article with a poll to get other opinions. So here goes.
My take is that if the game is well in hand, a team should try to go to a run-oriented (although not run exclusively) offense, call plays that go to the middle of the field to stay in bounds, and put in their backups. I think that's good sportsmanship. If a team still can't stop it, then it's not a sportsmanship issue because the winning team did its part.
A rhetorical question was asked if fans would complain if that happened routinely because of the price they paid for tickets. I think they would be just fine with it, and here is why.
Let's say I'm a fan of the team that's winning going away, and they show some class by calling off the dogs similar to what USC did in the Rose Bowl this year with Penn State. If my team shows some class, I get to leave the game without that slimy feeling that my team is kicking another team while they're down.
Besides, just like during the wintertime, you can't really tell the difference between 10 below zero or 20 below zero. All you know is that it's really darn cold.
Well, if my team wins by 28 or 42, it's still a beatdown. There's not much further enjoyment in those last two scores, so why take the PR hit that goes along with them?
Finally, if I'm up, I want my team to be playing backups. It gets them reps and keeps my star players from possibly sustaining bad injuries.
Alabama had some team like Western Carolina down by 45 or so a few years ago and was throwing the ball deep downfield rather than running the clock. Tyrone Prothro, a future NFL star receiver, was still in the game (and so was Brodie Croyle), and Prothro badly broke his leg in multiple places and never played again due to the boneheaded decision of leaving in the starters. That decision was the beginning of the end for Mike Shula.
Now, let's switch sides and say I'm a fan of the team getting pummeled. While I don't like the fact that the other team got so far ahead that they could afford to let up, I nonetheless want to not have my team's confidence completely shattered. This is because, unless it's the end of the year, they still have more games to play, and football is as much mental as physical.
As fans of college football in general, we all win when the games are more competitive. Confident teams make for competitive games, where teams lacking confidence tend to get blown out.
So there are the reasons that the fans from not just one team but both teams are appreciative when a team takes their foot off the gas and runs the clock out as quick as they can when a game is out of hand. It's not just acceptable but preferable.
Besides, this way, the game ends sooner and you can go have that burger or beer at that great hangout near the stadium.