Big Ten

Big Ten preview: Joey Bosa the focal point, but entire Buckeyes D warrants praise

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Big Ten preview: Joey Bosa the focal point, but entire Buckeyes D warrants praise

Joey Bosa is so good, he made the president shrug.

Bosa, who ranked among the country's leaders with 13.5 sacks last season, was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year a season ago, when he was the best player on the defensive side of the ball for the national-champion Ohio State Buckeyes.

Bosa was the conference's top pass-rusher, getting to celebrate sacks an awful lot, and he came up with a custom celebration. This: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Yes, Bosa shrugged his way to stardom with a celebration based on the popular Internet expression. His shrug-a-bration become so renowned that when President Obama welcomed the Buckeyes to the White House, even the leader of the free world got his shrug on.

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: How big an impact will Braxton Miller make at H-back?]

Bosa enters the 2015 season as one of the most-hyped defensive players in the country, and the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year deserves to be favored to repeat.

But Bosa is hardly alone on an Ohio State defense that doesn't get nearly as much attention as its offensive teammates across the ball. While J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones, Ezekiel Elliott and Braxton Miller — not to mention arguably the best O-line in football — are under a microscope, the Buckeyes' defense deserves its share of credit, too, for not just taking Ohio State to a national title a year ago but setting it up for a repeat performance this season.

In 2014, Ohio State ranked 19th in the country and fifth in the Big Ten in total defense, allowing an average of 342.4 yards to opposing offenses each week. Like the Buckeyes in general, the level of play stepped up once the team reached the postseason. The Buckeyes defense shone in the Big Ten title game, limiting Wisconsin and its potent running game in a 59-0 win, keeping Melvin Gordon out of the end zone. While Alabama scored 35 points in the Sugar Bowl, Ohio State kept the Tide's run game to just 170 yards. Oregon rushed for even fewer (132) in the national title game, and the Buckeyes held the prolific Ducks offense to just 20 points, just two touchdowns, as Heisman-winner Marcus Mariota couldn't engineer much.

Heading into 2015, the Buckeyes will have the benefit of championship experience to go along with all that talent. And that talent is everywhere.

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Will Buckeyes' Ezekiel Elliott win the Heisman Trophy?]

Lining up with Bosa on the defensive line is senior Adolphus Washington, who has 18 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in 37 career games (19 starts).

The linebacking corps is particularly stacked. Darron Lee is just a sophomore but was the Defensive MVP of the Sugar Bowl as a redshirt freshman, making seven tackles in that game, including three tackles for loss and two sacks. Joshua Perry led the Buckeyes in tackles last season with 124. The senior had made 24 starts over the past two seasons. And Raekwon McMillan didn't start as a true freshman last season — he did play in all 15 games — but he was one of the Buckeyes' top recruits last year, ranked as the top inside linebacker in the Class of 2014.

In the secondary, the safeties are strong with juniors Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell. Powell — perhaps better known for his Twitter back and forths with best friend Cardale Jones — started every game last season and was named the Defensive MVP of the national championship game. Bell has grabbed seven interceptions in his first two seasons, including one in the Big Ten Championship Game and a huge one on the goal line in the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. Powell and Bell rank second and third in tackles over the past two seasons, trailing Perry.

So the lineup is stacked, not a surprise considering that's the case at just about every position for this year's Ohio State squad.

While the offense and its stars command most of the attention — and Bosa commands all the attention on the defensive side — the entire Buckeye defense is a strong unit that will be at least half the reason Ohio State makes another run at a national title in 2015.

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.