Sarkisian keeps Texas QB injury situation a mystery

texas longhorns
Tim Warner/Getty Images
0 Comments

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas coach Steve Sarkisian on Monday would not give any hint who will be the No. 21 Longhorns’ starting quarterback this week for a matchup with UTSA, and insisted that injured Quinn Ewers and top backup Hudson Card are “day-to-day.”

But there are signs it could be the No. 3 redshirt freshman Charles Wright on the field when the Longhorns (1-1) face the Roadrunners (1-1).

Ewers left the game with an injured shoulder after a hard hit at the end of the first quarter in Saturday’s 20-19 loss to Alabama. Ewers had his left arm in a sling after halftime and Card finished the game despite obviously limping with an ankle sprain in the second half.

Sarkisian said after the game that Ewers had a sprained clavicle and would undergo further tests, but he did not elaborate in his weekly news conference on either quarterback’s situation. Nor would he say who took snaps with the No. 1 offense in practice Sunday and Monday morning.

“That’s for me,” Sarkisian said.

“I know you guys are going to want an exact timetable,” he said. “I’m going to tell, you know, they are day-to-day. I really don’t know. We are going to have to monitor them every morning.”

And then there’s Wright, who was the No. 3 on the sideline against Alabama.

“We know that Quinn’s hurt. Hudson has his ankle. We have to get Charles up to speed and have him comfortable with everybody in the offense,” Texas running back Bijan Robinson said. “We’re going to make sure he’s right and that he understands the situation that he might be put in.”

Sarkisian said freshman Maalik Murphy, who reported to campus in January and took part in spring drills, has not been healthy but did not elaborate.

For Texas, injury problems potentially go even deeper. Defensive back and kick returner D'Shawn Jamison left the Alabama game with a leg injury.

Sarkisian would only say none of the injuries requires surgery.

Sarkisian also said Robinson, who was favoring his right shoulder after taking several hard hits, was day-to-day. But the running back said he expects to be practicing again by midweek and be ready to play the game.

Losing both Ewers and Card would be a blow to an offense that started fast against Alabama. Ewers passed for 134 yards in the first quarter before he was injured.

Card was the starter for the first two games of 2021 and filled in well behind Ewers against Alabama. Wright lingered around the offensive sideline huddles but never took the field.

“Charles was next man up,” Sarkisian said. “I give Charles a lot of credit. He’s made leaps and bounds from a year ago. I think he’s got a good grasp of our offense, a good understanding of managing things. I think he’s thrown the ball much better, much more accurately, and is a lot more confident, which is needed at that position.”

Another option would be to use running back Roschon Johnson in a “Wildcat” formation where he takes a direct snap. Johnson was a quarterback in high school and Texas used the formation with success in a season-ending win at Kansas State last year.

“Whatever we ask him to do, he does it,” Sarkisian said “I think he’s more than equipped to handle the Wildcat.”

UTSA coach Jeff Traylor said he expects any quarterback on the field will be ready to run Texas’ game plan.

“Sark can coach now,” Traylor said. “There’s no telling what we’re going to see Saturday.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.

CFP expansion talks head toward October after 7-hour meeting

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

ROSEMONT, Ill. — The conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff met for almost seven hours Tuesday to work on expanding the postseason system from four to 12 teams as soon as the 2024 season.

There is still much work to be done.

“We will not wrap up this week,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, is scheduled to convene again at the Big Ten offices for a few hours Wednesday morning. They are set to meet again in person in Dallas on Oct. 20.

“That’ll be important,” Hancock said.

Expansion talks were revived by the university presidents and chancellors who oversee the College Football Playoff last month.

By adopting a 12-team plan that had been on the table since the spring of 2021, the presidents pushed the commissioners to try to implement a new format before the end of the CFP’s current contract with ESPN. That deal ends after the 2025 season.

Expanding from four to 12 in 2024 and ’25 will require rescheduling semifinals and championship games that already have dates and sites set, plus adding four new first-round games in mid-December to be played on campus sites.

Squeezing it all into about a month and working around the NFL for television will be challenging.

Hancock said the idea of moving up the start of the college football season to the week before Labor Day to create more room at the end for the playoff has been discussed, but more for beyond the 2025 season.

“I think most people view that as a future item. As long-term item and not an immediacy item,” Hancock said. “Remember, there’s so many details.”

Hancock said CFP officials have spoken to bowl partners and hosts cities that are set to hold semifinals and championship games after the 2024 and ’25 seasons, but they have not been presented definitive new dates.

Atlanta already has been chosen as the host city for the championship game to be played following the 2024 season, on Jan. 6, 2025. The game would have to be pushed back about two weeks if the playoff grows from four teams to 12.

“(Atlanta organizers) have some work to do because of other businesses in the community,” Hancock said. “Other meeting-type business, hotel business and Convention Center business there. They’ve been great to work with.”