Why waste time on the ground when it's easier to go through the air?

That's now the motto in college football. The days of the wishbone and veer and grind-it-out football are dying. Dawns again the age of the bomb. The backdrop quarterbacks with the quick releases have replaced the quick-footed rollout option artists at many schools.

Quarterbacks like Gifford Nielsen and Marc Wilson of Brigham Young, Mark Herrmann of Purdue, Guy Benjamin of Stanford, Douglas Williams of Grambling, Leamon Hall of Army and Jack Thompson of Washington State, among others, are rewriting the NCAA record books the easiest way they know: by throwing the ball over the pages.

NCAA Division I teams are scoring at a 40.4-point-a-game clip this season, compared to 39.2 average at this point in the season a year ago.

The reason for the increase is the forward pass. Passing yardage is up an average of 22.2 yards a game. This season, each game is producing an average total of 266.8 yards through the air compared with 244.6 last year.

That may not seem like much, but it is the biggest increase since 1958.

Passing attempts, completions and every other passing statistics also are up.

The two key starts are average yards per pass and completion percentage. This season's passers are gaining 6.64 yards a completion (it was 6.52 yards last year) and are completing 48.3 per cent of their passe (47.4 per cent a year ago).

Footbal goes in cycles, and it is now at the tail end of the ground-attack cycle dominated by the wishbone.

Only six Division 1 teams are wishbone teams now, but they are the top three teams in the national rankings - Texas, Alabama and Oklahoma.

For most schools, though, the wishbone just doesn't pay. The defenses have caught up to it and a team has to have highly skilled players in a number of positions to execute it properly.

To have a good passing game, all you really need are a thrower, one or two catchers, a set of average blockers and a commitment to go ahead and risk the interceptions. More teams are taking that chance.

Last week's games set two season highs. Division 1 teams passed for an average of 298.2 yards a game and, on average, the games produced 44 points.

When it comes to throwing the ball, two youngsters, Wilson of BYU and Herrmann of Purdue, could end up as two of the all-time best statistically.

Herrmann, a freshman, already has passed for 2,215 yards and is almost certain to break the Big 10 season passing record. The Boilelrmakers host Michigan today, and Wolverine coach Bo Schembechler is concerned.

"Whenever you have a player like Herrmann, you make the other coach nervous," he said.

"BYU had the nation's leading passer in Nielsen. He had 16 touchdown passes in four games before he tore up his knee a month ago. In stepped Wilson, and Nielsen, a candidate for he Heisman Trophy before his injury, is hardly missed.

Wilson was Nielsen's mop-up man, but now the 6-foot-5 youngster has passed for 1,515 yards and 17 touchdowns in four starts.

Wilson Wilson set an NCAA record last week by passing for 571 yards in a 38-8 victory over Utah. He completed 26 of 41 and threw five touchdown passes.

The Congress are leading the nation in passing, averaging 347.6 yards a game, and are second in scoring, averaging 40.2 points.

Their big game will be tonight in Tempe, Ariz., where they challenge Arizona State for the Western Athletic Conference title.

Both teams are 7-1, BYU is 5-0 in the conference and Arizona State 4-0.

The Sun Devils are no offensive slouches. While the Cougars are second in the nation in total offense with 472.6 yards a game, Arizona State is fourth with 468,4 and third in the nation in scoring with 38.5 points a game.

"We've played pass-oriented teams before, but this ridiculous," said Arizona State coach Frank Kush. "BYU sends the student body out on pass patterns."

Lucily for No. 1-ranked Texas, just about anybody can play quarterback for the Longhorns. After having its first three signal callers injured, fourth-string freshman Sam Ansley will get the call against Texas Christian.

"So what? Is that supposed to make a difference?" was the response of TCU coach F.A. Dry.

The big game in the Southwest Conference is between Arkansas (7-1) and Texas A & M (6-1). A & M, like Texas, is unbeaten in the conference.

The Rose Bowl picture should become a little clearer after Southern California and Washington tangle in Seattle. Both are tied with UCLA for the Pacific-Eight lead.

In other games, visiting Notre Dame will find out if Clemson 7-1-1) is for real, Colorado will challenge Oklahoma and Indiana will be Ohio State.