Breaking down the Big 12 championship picture

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There may no longer be a Big 12 championship game, but the conference’s championship picture certainly should not be forgotten this championship weekend. The fate of the Big 12 will be determined between a pair of games with just one guaranteed BCS spot to be filled. No. 6 Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12), No. 9 Baylor (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) and No. 25 Texas (8-3, 7-1 Big 12) all have a chance to lay claim to the Big 12 championship and a trip to a CBS bowl game that goes to the winner.

Oklahoma State has the inside track to the conference championship. Already with wins against Baylor and Texas this season, the Cowboys simply need to win their rivalry game against No. 17 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2 Big 12) to force no less than a tie for first place in the Big 12. As winners of head-to-head contests with the Bears and Longhorns, Oklahoma State will win any tie-breaker scenario possible this weekend, sending the Cowboys to their second BCS bowl game in the BCS era. Oklahoma State won the Big 12 title in 2011 and defeated Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl.

Oklahoma State is the hottest team in the Big 12, winners of seven straight games after an upset loss at West Virginia. The Cowboys had a little bit of a scare the next week against Kansas State but managed a fourth quarter rally to take advantage of a five-turnover day by Kansas State’s offense. Since then, the Cowboys have been locked in and unbeatable in the Big 12. Back-to-back wins against Texas and Baylor came by a combined score of 87-30.

How will the Cowboys keep that level of play up after a late bye week against the school’s biggest rival, Oklahoma?

The Sooners started the year off with a 5-0 mark but were handled by Texas in the Red River Rivalry, 36-20. Oklahoma’s lack of offense came back to haunt them a couple of weeks later against Baylor. Oklahoma played well on defense early on, but it was only a matter of time before Baylor’s offense exploded on the Sooners, and when it did the points came in a hurry. The Sooners have thrived more on offense when they run the football this season. Running back Brennan Clay had a 200-yard outburst against Kansas State in Oklahoma’s last game.

The Sooners have won nine of the last ten meetings with Oklahoma State, although the Cowboys look to have more going in their favor this time around. Still, if Baylor and Texas fans are looking for something to fall back on then history may be on their side. If Oklahoma can find a winning formula to take down Oklahoma State, then the door is wide open for Baylor and Texas.

Bedlam should be coming to a close as the Longhorns and Bears are kicking off in Waco for the final game in Floyd Casey Stadium. Thinking back to September, fresh after BYU shredded the Texas defense, this game looked like a disaster waiting to drive the final nail in the coffin of Mack Brown’s coaching career if he managed to survive this long. Texas could still have their problems with Baylor’s offense, but the Longhorns have proven to be capable of scoring points as well. The Longhorns outlasted Baylor last season in Austin, 56-50, but Texas continues to be banged up on offense.

The key to this game may be Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, who remains in the thick of the Heisman conversation even if Florida State’s Jameis Winston appears to be the clear favorite. Petty has completed 28 touchdown passes to just two interceptions this season. His accuracy and careful decision-making will make it tough for Texas to slow down the Bears.

Oklahoma Stat has the best shot to come out on top of the Big 12 this weekend, but Baylor could easily make their first BCS bowl trip if the Cowboys stumble. Whatever the case, the only two Big 12 game son the schedule will pack plenty of drama Saturday afternoon while the other conferences play out their conference championship games.

Who needs a conference championship game anyway?

SEC leads NFL Draft for 11th straight year as Alabama and Michigan set school records

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The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone, and once again it is the SEC claiming another NFL Draft national championship. A grand total of 53 players from the SEC were drafted by NFL teams. It is the 11th straight year the SEC has had the most players drafted by NFL teams.

The ACC ended the draft with 42 players drafted, followed by the Pac-12 (36) and Big Ten (35). The Big 12 ended the draft with just 14 players drafted.

Helping to contribute to the SEC’s NFL Draft total was Alabama setting a school record with 10 players drafted.

Alabama’s nine players drafted in the first 80 picks was also a new Alabama record.

Michigan ended up having more players drafted than any other Big Ten team, slipping past Ohio State by the time the draft closed up shop this year. For the Wolverines, 11 players ended up being drafted. The previous school record for draft picks was 10, set in 1972 and tied in 1974. Head coach Jim Harbaugh will get plenty of the praise for developing that many players getting a chance to be drafted, but Brady Hoke should be recognized for recruiting those players as well (and blamed for not developing the talent he brought in).

 

Air Force changes rules for football players with NFL aspirations

AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo
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One of the top players from Air Force was ineligible to be drafted by the NFL this weekend, and it had nothing to do with NFL rules. It also had nothing to do with NFL teams backing away from a particular player due to off-field concerns. Instead, a policy at Air Force is what is to blame for wide receiver Jalen Robinette not moving on to the NFL at this time.

The U.S. Air Force will not approve requests from academy graduates to defer their two years of active duty in order to be allowed to play professional football. Just a year ago, the Department of Defense changed the policy to allow for the possibility, which made it possible for Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds to be allowed to play. Reynolds later joined the Baltimore Ravens. Reynolds had received a recommendation to be allowed to play by the U.S. Naval Academy.

“The Air Force notified academy leaders [Thursday] that the service would not approve requests to waiver active duty military commitments for cadet athletes,” a statement from Air Force read. “Cadets will be required to serve two years active duty prior to entering Ready Reserve, which would allow their participation in professional sports. The Air Force places tremendous value on our cadet athletes and their contributions to the nation as we continue to build leaders of character, engage in combat operations overseas and continue to ensure our highest military readiness at home.”

Because of the policy change and confirmation, Robinette was not able to be drafted. He may still have been a long shot to be drafted by an NFL Team, but the policy also means he is unable to be signed as an undrafted free agent as well.

Rawleigh Williams carted off at Arkansas scrimmage

AP Photo/Chris Brashers
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Any time a player that has previously undergone neck surgery goes down on the field and needs to be carted off is quite the scary moment. On Saturday, the Arkansas football program had that exact scare when Rawleigh Williams went down on the field in pain and ended up having to be carted off the practice field during the Arkansas scrimmage.

Williams was placed on a stretcher and taken out of the facility on a cart to receive medical attention. His legs and arms were moving on the ground, a slight sigh of relief given the hit and his injury history. In 2015, Williams was carted off and had to undergo surgery on his neck. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said the injury concern on Saturday was apparently not related to the previous neck injury, which was expected to have a full recovery.

It is an unfortunate ending to the spring for Williams, because all indications seemed to be he was certainly improving running the football. Bielema said earlier in the week Williams was running with more patience, which is always a key for a running back.

Arkansas moved its final scrimmage of the spring indoors due to bad weather rolling through the area.

Justin Herbert shines in first Oregon spring game under Willie Taggart

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A glimpse of a brand new era of Oregon football took center stage in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday as the spring football season drew to a close. Willie Taggart showed fans a little bit of what to expect from Oregon in the fall as the program looks to bounce back from a down season under the coach who has shown a knack for improving programs. As is usually the case in a spring game, Oregon’s quarterback situation was under a microscope, and sophomore Justin Herbert took advantage of the opportunity.

Herbert completed 16 of 26 passes for 327 yards and established a connection with wide receiver Darren Carrington. The two connected for three touchdowns in the game. Sophomore Travis Jonson and early enrollee Braxton Burmeister also saw playing time in the game, but Carrington was confident in saying this is Herbert’s job to lose.

”Our chemistry has definitely improved this spring, and it’ll improve more by the time fall comes, but Herbert, I mean, that’s the guy right now to beat,” Carrington said after the spring game.

As for the team as a whole, Taggert knows there is much still to address as a new system and style are implemented and the roster adjusts physically to the demands of the new coach.

‘We’re still building. We’re nowhere where we need to be as a football team yet. We have some good players. We don’t have a lot of depth that we need to have, that’s going to be a work in progress,” Taggart said. ”The thing for us as coaches is just to make our guys better than they were before. If I guy wasn’t good enough we want to make him look better than he was before. If I guy was good we want to make him great.”

Og course, it wouldn’t be an Oregon spring game without having that typical Oregon uniform flair. Even with a new head coach and with the talk suggesting the Ducks will go for a more traditional approach to uniforms in the fall, the spring game was used for some sizzle on the unis.

Oregon’s spring game crowd of 36,821 assured the Ducks of having the highest spring game attendance among Pac-12 school for a third consecutive year.