Big Ten

Big Ten allows independents, AAC teams to fill Power 5 requirement

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Big Ten allows independents, AAC teams to fill Power 5 requirement

Beginning next season, the Big Ten is requiring its teams to play one non-conference game per season against a team from one of the other four Power 5 conferences.

But, somewhat strangely, that requirement can also be filled by playing one of a select number of teams from outside the Power 5 conferences.

What?

According to a Tuesday report from ESPN's Brett McMurphy, the Big Ten will allow games against independents Notre Dame, BYU and Army, as well as games against Group of 5 teams such as Cincinnati, Connecticut and Navy, to count toward that requirement.

It seems a little silly, establishing the requirement for strength-of-schedule purposes and then allowing it to be filled by teams that in most cases do nothing to elevate the strength of schedules.

[MORE BIG TEN: Intangibles the driving force behind Northwestern's dominant defense]

Now, the most logical explanation for this is currently established schedules, games that have been in place since before this requirement was announced. For example, four Big Ten teams have scheduled six games against Cincinnati in coming seasons. Two Big Ten schools have scheduled four games against Connecticut in coming seasons. That would likely explain the inclusion of Cincinnati and Connecticut on this list, as the conference wouldn't want to blow up the schedules of these teams. Future non-conference scheduling has already been impacted enough by the Big Ten's move to a nine-game conference schedule, which also begins next season.

But McMurphy's report also includes that teams can ask for exemptions to the Power 5 requirement and the Big Ten can grant them depending on recent RPI rankings. So, if a non-Power 5 team has been as good as most Power 5 teams over the past few seasons, that team could qualify for the Power 5 requirement.

It, of course, makes total sense that Notre Dame and BYU would be considered Power 5-caliber games, as those programs have lengthy histories of high-quality football. But the military academies and some of these American Athletic Conference teams don't seem to be in the same class. And, if the Big Ten begins routinely granting these exceptions to lower-level teams — rather than just to already scheduled games — it would seemingly nullify the requirement's mission of strengthening its teams' schedules.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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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.