Big Ten

Big Ten preview: Can Purdue get out of the Big Ten's basement?

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Big Ten preview: Can Purdue get out of the Big Ten's basement?

The Darrell Hazell Era is not off to a very good start.

Purdue has won just four games in the past two seasons, with only one of those wins coming against a Big Ten opponent. That translates to a 1-15 conference record in two seasons. And that is not good.

Heading into Year 3, it’s as tough as ever for Purdue fans to get excited about their team’s prospects. It looks like another season dwelling in the league’s cellar is on tap for the Boilermakers, if you look at the schedule. Most everyone has projected Purdue to again finish last in the Big Ten West.

"Any time you've had the seasons we've had, you have to expect that,” wide receiver Danny Anthrop said last month during Big Ten Media Days. “It'd be kind of tough to see where else they'd put us because we haven't shown what we're capable of. You just kind of have to not really worry about that and just keep working towards what we want to do.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Can Rutgers' Paul James pick up where he left off?]

Purdue actually wasn’t that far from winning some of those conference games a season ago. The loss to Minnesota came by just a point, and Purdue was in many of those games for a good long while until letting the opponent pull away at the end.

But silver linings aside, 2015 games against Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan State don’t look like winnable ones. And the non-conference portion of the schedule contains a tough season-opening road trip to Marshall — a 13-1 team a season ago — and games against bowl teams Virginia Tech and Bowling Green.

So what will be different this season? What will make 2015 different from the two last-place finishes that came before it?

"I feel like any time you don't make your goal, it's going to be disappointing. We've got big goals for this year, and I think just what we have to do is we have to keep our nose to the grindstone,” Anthrop said. “I think this season's going to be exciting for us because we're finally going to get our chance to break out. We've had some hard years the last two years, going through the coaching change. And I feel like we're on our way to earning the season we want to have."

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Is Rutgers' Leonte Carroo the Big Ten's best wide receiver?]

Anthrop is one of the positives, sure. He showed a good deal of promise last season, twice going over 100 receiving yards in a single game, including a season-high 133 yards against Michigan State. He missed the final three games but still finished in the top 15 in the Big Ten with 616 receiving yards.

And though three wins is nothing to crow about, that slight improvement is improvement nonetheless. Three wins is three times as many as the one win from 2013. Purdue was not the lowest-scoring team in the league, ahead of three others. The Boilermakers were ahead of two other teams when it came to stopping opponents from scoring.

Anthrop wouldn’t project wins and losses, and how can he? How can anyone with this team? Predicting another one-win season is just too depressing.

But Anthrop assured that the Boilermakers would be better in 2015. Fortunately, there’s really nowhere to go but up.

"I think that we're capable of a lot more than what we've shown,” Anthrop said. “Wins and losses? I can't tell you that, I don't think anybody can. But I know that we're going to be prepared for that first game at Marshall, and I know it's going to be one heck of a show to watch.”

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

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USA TODAY

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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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.