Big Ten

2015 could be final year of Big Ten's first-round QB drought

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2015 could be final year of Big Ten's first-round QB drought

It’s been quite a while since a Big Ten quarterback was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

To find the last time it happened, you have to go all the way back to 1995, when Penn State’s Kerry Collins was the No. 5 overall pick, a first-round selection of the Carolina Panthers. In fact, just two Big Ten quarterbacks have been first-round picks in the past 25 years, with Illinois’ Jeff George preceding Collins as the No. 1 overall pick in 1990.

This year’s first round was no different, with no Big Ten signal-callers getting to join Roger Goodell on stage Thursday night at the Auditorium Theater.

But there’s plenty of reason to believe that 2015 could be the final year of the Big Ten’s first-round drought when it comes to the most important position on the field.

[MORE BIG TEN: Three Big Ten players picked in NFL Draft's first round]

Next season, it's expected the streak will come to an end. And potentially in a big way, as Michigan State’s Connor Cook, Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg and Ohio State’s Cardale Jones all could be first-round selections, depending of course on how their respective 2015 seasons go.

Cook led the conference in passing yardage last season, completing 58.1 percent of his passes for 3,214 yards, the only Big Ten QB to surpass 3,000 yards through the air. Twenty four of his completions went for touchdowns as he guided one of the most prolific offenses in the country. And he left a pretty great final impression at the end of last season in the Cotton Bowl, leading Michigan State to a 20-point fourth-quarter comeback in a stunning win over Baylor.

Hackenberg’s sophomore season was somewhat of a disappointing follow-up in wake of his fantastic freshman campaign in 2013. The Penn State quarterback threw 15 interceptions and was under constant pressure as the Nittany Lions allowed 44 sacks. But despite all that, his 2,977 passing yards were the second most in the Big Ten. Plus, NFL scouts have been drooling over Hackenberg’s pro potential for years already.

[MORE BIG TEN: Hawkeyes fans' approval of Kirk Ferentz drops dramatically]

Jones might be as low as third on the Buckeyes’ quarterbacking depth chart when the season begins, but he might also be the Ohio State QB that pro teams want the most. Even if he’s used sparingly this season behind J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller — though of course, Jones could still win the job, too — that likely won’t matter to NFL teams, who would love to have the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Jones. He displayed in three eye-popping postseason wins to guide Ohio State to a national championship his remarkable ability to throw the ball 70-plus yards down the field and run over defenders with his massive frame.

Even though Big Ten schools have produced Super Bowl winners over the past decade in Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson and exported a Heisman winner in Troy Smith, NFL teams have stayed away from drafting the conference's quarterbacks in the first round. But this year could be the last in that long stretch.

One NFL Draft website, WalterFootball.com, has Cook, Hackenberg and Jones all going in the top 10 of next year's draft.

Next year, when it comes to pro-bound quarterbacks, all eyes could be on the Big Ten.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.