Nation's top five pace-setters

Ka'Deem Carey and the Wildcats set the offensive pace in 2012, running a play every 19.04 seconds. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

"Tempo" is the primary buzzword circulating around college football these days. Teams want to go faster.

The use of tempo gives programs the ability to counter an elite team's talent in the box. After all, not every team can recruit the type of talent up front seen at Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State.

"What you have to do as a coach is do what you can do with the people you have to give yourself the best chance to win," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "With our personnel and the type of kids we recruit, we can always get great quarterbacks and skill. This gives us the best chance to win every single week."

To determine which major-conference offenses operated at the quickest pace on a down-by-down basis in 2012, we converted each team's average time of possession into seconds and then divided that by its average number of plays per game.

Speed doesn't necessarily equal success, but in general it does put programs in a better position to win games. Of those major-conference programs that finished in the top 10 in terms of operating at the fastest speeds, their overall record was 81-46, which equates to a 64 percent winning mark. Only two of the teams had a record below .500.

The following five teams from the major conferences stood above the rest as the fastest operators. Look for all five to keep their speed up this season.

1. Arizona Wildcats

Rate of speed: 19.04 seconds between plays

Last year's time wasn't fast enough for Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez.

"If we're that slow, we need to work better," Rodriguez said. "We have to get our execution down a little more, because that's not fast enough."

A tempo offense isn't something a program can say it's going to implement and then have it magically happen. It takes time and a concerted effort for those teams to truly evolve into a squad that wants to play faster at all times.