Years ago, when offered the prompt “Which rule would you change in college football?” the answer was a no-brainer to me.

Keep the clock moving on first downs. There’s no reason for games to take an hour longer to complete than their NFL counterparts.

Stopping the clock to reset the chains didn’t have much effect on game time when half the teams in the country were using the wishbone or the I-formation. But the increase in incompletions on top of first-down pauses can make certain games inexorably long.

Example: last year’s Big Ten Championship Game, which kicked off at 8:17 p.m. and did not end until midnight on the dot.

That’s a ridiculous amount of time stuck watching an inevitable 43-22 Michigan win in which the Wolverines attempted 6 passes in the second half.

Super Bowl LVII, a back-and-forth 38-35 game that was chock-full of commercial breaks and further lengthened by a Rhianna halftime show, was 12 minutes shorter than the B1G Championship.

That’s ridiculous. In theory, it shouldn’t be possible for a non-overtime game to take longer to complete than a Super Bowl.

Yet that’s where college football was at — until Friday. The NCAA approved a rule change that eliminates clock stoppages on first down outside the final 2 minutes of each half. It changes a rule that’s been in place since 1969.

But as soon as the change was announced, it was quickly evident that not everyone shares my affinity for the idea.

An unpopular move — for now

Based on immediate fan reaction, you’d think the NCAA had banned marching bands from playing at college football games.

On the loud halls of the internet, anyway, there was a near consensus that speeding up college football will somehow do irreparable harm to the game.

A commonly voiced concern is that this will somehow cut down on the number of dramatic finishes we see in college football.

My guess is that will be proven false.

The most interesting half-hour of any fall sports weekend is the final 30 minutes of the early window on NFL Sunday.

Each week, up to a half-dozen games are coming to an exciting conclusion, and those finishes are taking place at virtually the same time. That’s why NFL’s RedZone channel is such a wildly popular product. And there are plenty of thrilling comebacks and finishes in the pros without the clock stopping on first down.

The same will be true for college football, especially since rule makers made the wise decision to keep the timing rules the same for the final 2 minutes of each half.

In a classic case of reading the headline rather than the story, many critics of the rule change appeared to be unaware that first downs still stop the clock at the end of the half. We won’t be cheated out of scenarios where both teams get the ball and score in the final 2 minutes.

Fact is, this will make the college football viewing experience far better.

A very real issue is that it’s possible to miss almost an entire quarter of your team’s game because the previous game scheduled on that network has yet to conclude. Not everyone has ESPN News or FS2 or whatever other sub-channel the beginning of their game gets punted to on Saturday afternoons.

Ideally, those scenarios will happen with far less frequency. Even if that’s a change so subtle most fans don’t notice it, they’ll surely appreciate it.

‘Why not cut commercials?’

The most popular complaint about the first-down rule change is aimed at the true culprit: TV commercials.

After all, the real villain is the commercial break before a kickoff that’s followed by yet another commercial break. Without question, it’s the worst sequence in sports.

But eliminating commercials is a quixotic solution. It’s about as realistic as trying to push away a hurricane with a box fan.

FOX, CBS and NBC are about to pay the Big Ten $7 billion to air games the next 7 seasons. And the networks are paying that much money because they’re banking on making it back from their advertisers. And then some.

Dissuade yourself of the notion that TV breaks are going away or somehow getting shorter. This isn’t just football anymore. It’s moneyball, too. Creating a more TV-friendly product will in turn make the product more valuable for the next series of contract renewals.

There was handwringing among baseball traditionalists when MLB introduced a pitching clock this season. But my guess is it will pay off in better ratings across the board at the end of the season. (Except in Oakland.)

It’s a fair critique that the quicker MLB games alter the in-game experience, and the same may prove true in college football.

But the pageantry will still be there even if 6-8 additional plays per game are not. Fans will still love college football for the same reasons they already do. If anything, this change will expedite the length of dreary blowouts far more than it robs us of magic moments.

You may not like it now. But that first time you get home before 2 a.m. after watching your team lose by 24 points, maybe it’ll hit.

Stopping the clock on first down isn’t what makes college football great. Everything else is. And none of those things are going away.