Big Ten

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany offers his take on College Football Playoff picture

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany offers his take on College Football Playoff picture

INDIANAPOLIS — Once upon a time, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was quite the advocate that only conference champions should reach the College Football Playoff.

It sounds like he's OK with losing that fight, though, as one of his conference's teams, Ohio State, looks ready to become the first team to reach the Playoff without winning its conference championship.

Delany joined the crew of ESPN's College GameDay on Saturday morning in Indianapolis and discussed the current Playoff picture, which is a little clearer — and a little worse for the Big Ten — after Washington won the Pac-12 championship on Friday night.

With Alabama and Ohio State looking like Playoff locks, Washington seemingly punched its ticket to the final four with a dominating performance in a 31-point clubbing of eight-ranked Colorado. That would leave one spot up for grabs, and another Big Ten team that will finish the year without a conference championship, Michigan, is certainly still in the mix. So too are Wisconsin and Penn State, who play each other in Saturday night's Big Ten title game. The other team competing for and perhaps the favorite for that fourth spot is Clemson, currently ranked third and playing Virginia Tech in Saturday night's ACC title bout.

So Delany provided an assessment of the landscape on GameDay, though his comments revealed some politicking for either Michigan or the Big Ten champ, as he left two spots open without acknowledging Washington.

The idea that two of the four teams in the Playoff field, should both Ohio State and Michigan find their way in, would box out three champions of Power Five conference clashes with the argument Delany made just a few years ago.

"Well I was a campaign manager four years ago for the four best conference champions. We lost that election, and what we decided on was the four best teams, which I'm fine with," Delany said. "Obviously this year's unique in some ways. We have the two divisional champions playing head to head here today for the conference championship, and they won their division and they should be respected for that. The committee has another role, and that is to pick the four best teams in the country. I think there are a couple teams that are unequivocally among those four best. I think Alabama has had a great year, Ohio State. It seems to me like there's probably winners of games today plus Michigan who the committee's going to have to sort through to fill out those next two spots. But in my view, this event has been great for this conference, and the College Football Playoff has been terrific for college football in large part because people are playing people. So it should be about who you play, who you beat.

"For sure you have to — when teams have similar resumes and records are similar — you have to look at conference champions, but there are 10 conference champions. Not all conference champions are equal, OK? There are 10 in the FBS. Several conference champions are going to be evaluated, including the one out of this conference, the one out of the Pac-12, the one out of the Big 12, the ACC. I myself think Alabama has done enough whether they have a conference championship behind their resume or not. I think Ohio State has done enough. I think the committee has suggested that in their early years. So what we have right now, I think, are two slots available and probably three, four, five teams fighting for those. Conference champion is relevant, but also who you played head to head, who you beat. Who'd you play in the non-conference, who'd you beat."

Again, that seems to be some not-so-subtle campaigning for either Michigan or the Big Ten champ. The Wolverines boast a resume with three top-10 wins, including a non-conference game against Colorado. Ohio State, too, won a big non-conference game on the road against a top-10 Oklahoma team. Penn State has already beaten a top-10 team in Ohio State, Wisconsin opened the season with a non-conference win over LSU, and Saturday's winner will gain another top-10 win. Washington earned its first top-10 win Friday night after playing non-conference games against Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State.

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.