The 2014 NFL Draft may be viewed as a down year for the Big 12, with just 17 players from the conference being called by NFL franchises. Unfortunately for the Texas Longhorns, none of those 17 players from the Big 12 are coming out of Austin. This marked the first time since before the start of World War II that Texas was without a player drafted by the NFL (1937 to be precise). With just three players drafted in each of the drafts in 2013 and 2012, should fans of the Longhorns be concerned about the state of the program?
Not for long.
Charlie Strong has already been hard at work in setting the tone for the future of the Texas program. He has gone on record saying Texas will not be a national title contender in 2014. He has said Texas needs to be the top program in the state, and he genuinely means it. Better yet, Strong is just the right kind of coach to be taking over a program that has been ditched and forgotten about by Texas A&M, pushed aside by Baylor and is witnessing Texas Tech attempt to build some momentum in Lubbock. Strong knows what it takes to make a program find a new level of toughness, and that is just what Texas needs right now. Texas still has plenty going their way but you can see why Mack Brown‘s career had seen better days at this point. Six draft picks in three years is representative of the quality of play on the field during that span, and that is not going to be good enough for Strong.
Texas fans should take solace in seeing what Strong’s most recent program did in this year’s draft. Louisville sent four players through the NFL Draft, three of which came in the first round. That is a tremendous credit to Strong and the staff he put together in Louisville, as this was the results of his first recruiting class going through a full four-year cycle. That resulted in the Cardinals sending a potential franchise quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater with a late first round draft pick in addition to two defensive contributors (Calvin Pryor to the Jets and Marcus Smith to the Eagles).
Strong knows Texas needs to get tougher, and fortunately for the Longhorns this happens to be his speciality. This should be a temporary draft drought for Texas.
No. 21 Auburn (5-2, 3-1 SEC) rushed for more yards against No. 17 Arkansas (5-3, 1-3 SEC) than any team has since before the turn of the century en route to a smashing 56-3 victory over the Razorbacks Saturday evening in Jordan Hare Stadium. When all was said and done, the Tigers racked up 543 rushing yards.
Kamryn Pettway led the ground attack with 192 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Eli Stove had a 78-yard touchdown run to boost his 94-yard day and Stanton Truitt rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns to add to Auburn’s wildly productive day on the ground. Quarterback Sean White was a part of the fun too, with 61 rushing yards and a score to go with his 77 passing yards and passing touchdown.
On the other side, Auburn’s defense never allowed Arkansas to get a running game going. The Razorbacks ran 31 running plays and managed just 25 rushing yards in the game. A combined loss of 14 yards were credited to Arkansas quarterbacks Austin Allen and Ty Storey. Allen was forced to leave the game in the first half due to an apparent knee injury but he returned after a brief absence. Rawleigh Williams III was the leading rusher for the Razorbacks with 22 yards on 13 carries.
Auburn also played a pretty clean game with just two penalties for 10 yards and no turnovers (Arkansas had two turnovers). The Razorbacks are going to have to think long and hard about this one, or simply put the game film in the trash and forget about it. Either way, there was no denying this was one of the worst losses Arkansas has experienced under Bret Bielema.
Arkansas will get a little extra time to prepare for their next game. The Razorbacks have a much-needed bye week coming up next weekend, giving them an extra week to prepare for a home game against Florida.
OK, so time to look forward for Auburn. Before you start looking to the end of the year with the Iron Bowl matchup with Alabama, Auburn has to go on the road next week to play Ole Miss. Yes, the Rebels may be a fringe top-25 team this season, but there is no question they can be a dangerous opponent. However, Auburn’s defense has been playing very well the past month and has now held each of their past four opponents to fewer than 15 points. Doing that against Ole Miss may be difficult, especially on the road, but Auburn is playing with confidence.
Alabama’s win over Texas A&M came at a steep cost to both its defense and special teams.
Early in the fourth quarter of the 33-14 win, Eddie Jackson sustained an injury to his left leg and did not return. Following the game, head coach Nick Saban confirmed that Jackson had suffered a broken leg.
As a result, both the senior’s season and his career have come to an abrupt end.
“Eddie was a fantastic player for us and a great leader,” the coach said in quotes distributed by the school. “I think he was an All-American player as a safety, at least in my book. We’re certainly going to miss him, but what a great player, what a great competitor, and what a great guy to have in this program for the time he’s been here.
“He’s done a fantastic job for us and I’m just sick for him and his family. I hate it that it’s one of the things about sports, all sports, and that we have to deal with sometimes as injuries. It’s unfortunate, especially when it happens to a great guy and a very, very good player. We’re certainly going to miss him.”
The loss of Jackson, who some consider the heart and soul of a very talented Tide defense, is a huge one.
Jackson had started the last 23 games at safety after starting 14 games at cornerback his first two seasons with the Tide. The past two seasons, Jackson has returned three interceptions for touchdowns. He’s also one of the best punt returners in the nation, having returned two for touchdowns this season.
Entering the 2016 season, Jackson was widely viewed as a likely first- or second-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft.
Apparently the grass can indeed be greener on the other side of retirement.
Two games into the 2016 season, Joe Williams announced his retirement from the sport because of unspecified health issues. Less than four weeks later, the senior running back returned to a Utah squad just last week because of a backfield decimated by injury.
In his first game post-retirement, Williams ran for 179 yards in a win over Oregon State last Saturday. A week later, Williams trumped that effort.
In the Week 8 win over UCLA, Williams ran for a career-high 332 yards and four touchdowns as Utah kept pace with Colorado in the Pac-12 South. Williams had entered his brief retirement with 549 career rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns; the past two games, the senior has totaled 511 yards and five touchdowns.
Not surprisingly, Williams’ Week 8 performance set a couple of school records.
The win allowed Utah to keep pace with Colorado, with both the Utes and Buffaloes, thanks to a 10-5 win over Stanford, sitting at 4-1 in Pac-12 South play. Those two teams will meet in the regular-season finale in a game that could very well determine which team represents the division in the conference championship game.
USC, which handed Colorado its lone league loss, could also be factor in the divisional race as they sit at 3-2 on a bye this weekend.
It took one play for Auburn to put some points on the scoreboard, and the Tigers have yet to look back on Arkansas. Auburn holds a decisive 28-3 lead on the Razorbacks at the half. Auburn has run for 268 yards to just 26 yards on the ground by Arkansas.
Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen left the game in the first half with an apparent knee injury. He was helped off the field and replaced with redshirt freshman Ty Storey. Allen did return to the game.
Eli Stove (85 yards) took off for a 78-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play Auburn got to run after Arkansas was forced to punt on the game’s opening possession. Auburn’s second touchdown drive took a little longer (10-plays, 91 yards). Kamryn Petway (117 yards) finished off the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead. Arkansas fumbled away the ensuing possession after just three plays, and Auburn capitalized with a Stanton Truitt touchdown run from 20 yards out.
It’s just been a mess of a first half by Arkansas, and the bad news is there is a second half to play.