Big Ten

Big Ten Power Rankings: Spartans score season's most impressive win


Big Ten Power Rankings: Spartans score season's most impressive win

Sparty on!

Michigan State scored the most impressive win of the 2015 season to date with its 31-28 win over Oregon on Saturday night in East Lansing. It's made the Spartans one of the country's best teams, but are they better than the Buckeyes?

Ohio State moved to 2-0, too, thanks to a 38-0 blanking of Hawaii, and the defending national champs still look the part.

Bottom line: This is going to be a fun season watching Ohio State and Michigan State duke it out in the polls before duking it out for real in November, perhaps with a trip to the College Football Playoff on the line.

Northwestern, Iowa and Illinois stayed perfect, too, with Week 2 wins. How do all the teams shake out this week?

Take a look:

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0, 0-0)

Last week: 1

Until the Buckeyes give us a reason why they shouldn’t be ranked No. 1, they’ll stay at the top spot. Yes, Michigan State had the season’s most-impressive win to date, knocking off then-top-10 team Oregon on Saturday, but Ohio State was pretty darn impressive, too, even if it was a much easier task in blowing out Hawaii, 38-0. Yeah, maybe there were some folks concerned about a mere 17-0 lead after three quarters. But Ezekiel Elliott hit the end zone three times, and the Buckeyes’ defense was astounding, holding the Warriors to just 165 total yards and forcing four turnovers. No need to panic, people. Ohio State is as dominant as they come.

2. Michigan State Spartans (2-0, 0-0)

Last week: 2

Though while Ohio State remains the king of the Big Ten, Michigan State has closed the gap in mighty impressive fashion, moving into the top four after Saturday night’s monstrous win over Oregon and lining things up nicely for a shot at a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Spartans learned from last year’s loss against the Ducks, refusing to yield when Oregon threw a punch on Saturday, responding with big plays on both sides of the ball. It was a team effort, with all facets contributing: Connor Cook and Aaron Burbridge had a nice connection going, L.J. Scott had two touchdowns and the defensive front flustered Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams all night long. There’s no resume in college football right now stronger than the Spartans’.

[MORE BIG TEN: Revenge, achieved: Spartans stand strong, beat high-powered Oregon]

3. Northwestern Wildcats (2-0, 0-0)

Last week: 3

Eight quarters. No touchdowns. That’s a pretty good start for the Northwestern defense, which shone again in Week 2 after suffocating Stanford in Week 1. Eastern Illinois is an easy opponent, sure, but out-gaining a team 496-138 in a 41-0 blowout is still an impressive feat. Matt Harris had two picks in this game, returning one for a touchdown. Northwestern registered three sacks. Clayton Thorson is coming along nicely, but it was the running game with a massive afternoon, gaining an eye-popping 344 yards on the ground. A tough challenge awaits in Week 3, which brings a road trip to play Duke away from the comforts of Evanston.

4. Iowa Hawkeyes (2-0, 0-0)

Last week: 5

Iowa hasn’t played any world-beaters in two games, turning in wins over Illinois State and Iowa State, but the fashion with which its recorded those victories has been something to cheer about. The Hawkeyes slogged through games last season behind a generally ineffective offense. Not the case so far in 2015, as they followed up 431 yards in a 31-14 win over Illinois State with 475 yards in a 31-17 win over Iowa State. This time around, C.J. Beathard was downright excellent, throwing for 215 yards and three touchdowns, and Jordan Canzeri had a big day on the ground, going for 124 yards and a score. There are injury concerns moving forward, with star defensive end Drew Ott injured in the win over the rival Cyclones. But two weeks in, the Hawkeyes are looking like one of the Big Ten’s better teams.

[MORE BIG TEN: Northwestern No. 23, Spartans up to No. 4 in AP poll]

5. Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 4

It sure wasn’t easy — is it ever with this Minnesota team? — but the Gophers were able to bounce back from a season-opening loss with a win over Colorado State in Week 2. The schedule has been and will remain extremely tough, and it showed. Minnesota needed a late scoring drive and a Colorado State fumble in overtime to squeak by with a 23-20 victory. The numbers ended up looking pretty good as the Gophers out-gained the Rams by 100 yards and Mitch Leidner threw two touchdown passes. But there’s no dancing around the fact that the Gophers’ offense is still not where it needs to be. It was enough against Colorado State — and this was a quality win after a “quality” loss to TCU in the opener — but will it be against Ohio State and Wisconsin?

6. Wisconsin Badgers (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 7

Now that’s how you bounce back. Injury concerns still linger, as Corey Clement couldn’t go in Week 2 after seeing limited action in Week 1. But generally this was a perfect day for the Badgers, who followed up an embarrassing season-opening loss to Alabama with a 58-0 dismantling of Miami (Ohio). Joel Stave was great for the second week in a row, throwing for 236 yards and three touchdowns. And Clement backups Taiwan Deal and Dare Ogunbowale combined for 157 rushing yards and three touchdowns, boosting a run game that did nothing against Alabama. The Wisconsin defense answered the bell after getting run all over by Alabama, holding Miami to negative-three rushing yards. The Badgers can’t play Miami every week, but they’ll take it as a confidence booster after the way the Paul Chryst Era got started.

[MORE BIG TEN: It's only Week 2, but Spartans look to be on playoff track]

7. Illinois Fighting Illini (2-0, 0-0)

Last week: 8

Also from the “great performances against terrible opponents” department, the Illini are a rock-solid 2-0 after smoking Western Illinois, 44-0, on Saturday. That brings Illinois’ two-game scoring total to 96-3, and much like the other Land of Lincoln team, the orange-and-blue defense has also gone eight quarters without allowing a touchdown. That defense continued to impress this week, holding Western to 141 total yards, grabbing a pair of interceptions — both from Taylor Barton — and blocking a punt that was returned for a touchdown. Wes Lunt was good again, throwing for 316 yards. For a team that two weeks ago was deemed to be in total disarray, the 2015 has gotten off to a very good start under interim head coach Bill Cubit. A step up in competition comes in Week 3 with a road trip to North Carolina.

8. Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 6

Nebraska didn’t lose on a Hail Mary this weekend, and that’s a step in the right direction. No, it was a very good week for the Huskers, who blew out South Alabama, 48-9. Nebraska posted 561 yards of offense, 303 through the air and 258 on the ground. Tommy Armstrong was again strong and now has 589 passing yards and five touchdowns through two games. But this was the Terrell Newby Show, a bust-out game for the Huskers’ new top back. He rushed for 198 yards and a pair of touchdowns and added a touchdown catch, too. While South Alabama is not an impressive foe and still managed to pass for 313 yards, the Huskers held the Jaguars to just 19 rushing yards on 24 attempts and kept them out of the end zone. Not bad for a defense carved up by BYU a week earlier.

[MORE BIG TEN: Illini crush Western Illinois, two straight dominant wins under Cubit]

9. Michigan Wolverines (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 9

Another nice bounce back in the Big Ten, Michigan needed it after that season-opening loss to Utah. The Wolverines got a big day on the ground to power the first win of the Jim Harbaugh Era. The team rushed for 225 yards, and De’Veon Smith scored three touchdowns in a 35-7 win over Oregon State. The Wolverines’ defense impressed, too, limiting the Beavers to a staggeringly low 138 yards. Some of that had to do with Oregon State mistakes, but it was a tremendous effort from the Michigan defense, nonetheless. Jake Rudock isn’t exactly out of the woods yet, throwing another pick in this game to come within one of his 12-game total a season ago. But overall, it was a very good day for the Wolverines.

10. Indiana Hoosiers (2-0, 0-0)

Last week: 12

Well, the Hoosiers have two wins. And if we’re going to stop there, that’s a perfectly fine start. The Indiana defense was actually improved in a Week 2 win over Florida International, but it again seemed way too close for comfort against a team the Hoosiers should have beat handily, much like the Week 1 near-loss to Southern Illinois. This time, Indiana out-gained its opponent but still allowed more than 400 yards of offense and trailed in the fourth quarter. But a game-tying field goal was followed shortly by a go-ahead touchdown pass from Nate Sudfeld — who had three total touchdowns — and the Hoosiers defense responded with a big play, a pick six late in the fourth to go up two scores. Indiana had 11 penalties but got another big day from Jordan Howard. There's good and bad, but the Hoosiers are 2-0.

[MORE BIG TEN: De'Veon Smith, defense lead Michigan to first win of Harbaugh Era]

11. Purdue Boilermakers (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 13

After a late collapse to lose in Week 1 at Marshall, Austin Appleby and Purdue bounced back nicely against Indiana State, taking down the FCS opponent, 38-14. Appleby threw four interceptions in that game against Marshall, but Saturday the quarterback had four touchdown passes (and no picks). The most-impressive was a 51-yard Hail Mary score to end the first half. It was another good day on the ground, with 251 rushing yards, D.J. Knox going for 91. It might not have come against high-quality competition, but it was a win the Boilermakers needed.

12. Penn State Nittany Lions (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 14

Speaking of a much-needed win, Penn State was the talk of the country for all the wrong reasons after a stunning Week 1 loss to Temple. But the Lions avoided disaster a second week in a row, beating Buffalo relatively easily, 27-14. Christian Hackenberg’s numbers still remain unimpressive, as he threw for 128 yards and a touchdown. But Penn State might be onto something with running back Saquon Barkley, who with just 12 carries amassed 115 yards and scored a touchdown. Barkley was a highly rated recruit in the Class of 2015, and he busted out with a big game Saturday. Perhaps a little more Barkley will do the Lions good as Hackenberg and the passing attack continue to underwhelm.

[MORE BIG TEN: Rutgers' receiver Leonte Carroo suspended for second time this season]

13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 10

Losing a home game is never good. Losing a home game to a team that lost to Portland State the week before is terrible. Rutgers looked so good in Week 1, winning by 50. But in Week 2, a not-so-great Washington State team took it to the Knights, winning a 37-34 decision. The Knights almost pulled off a tremendous comeback, erasing a two-touchdown deficit and scoring 22 points in the fourth quarter, the team’s third touchdown of the final frame coming with just a minute and a half remaining. That was Janarion Grant’s second kick-return touchdown of the quarter. But the Cougars hit the end zone with 13 seconds to play, ending the game in crushing fashion. The Knights could’ve used a big win to distract from the off-the-field issues — which kept coming with the indefinite suspension of Leonte Carroo on Sunday — but instead it lost in gut-wrenching fashion.

14. Maryland Terrapins (1-1, 0-0)

Last week: 11

Will Likely had another punt-return touchdown, and the Terps led at halftime. If only it could’ve ended there. After a long halftime caused by a lightning delay, Maryland and Bowling Green traded touchdowns in an extremely exciting second half. But then Bowling Green kept going without Maryland answers, and one big play after another had the Falcons cruising to victory thanks to a 28-7 fourth-quarter scoring edge. Maryland lost the game, 48-27, but the bigger headaches might come at quarterback. Randy Edsall pulled the plug on Perry Hills after the starting quarterback threw a costly interception. But backup Caleb Rowe fared even worse, throwing two interceptions in his three passing attempts.

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


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


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.