Big Ten

Buckeyes' Ezekiel Elliott named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year


Buckeyes' Ezekiel Elliott named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year

Ezekiel Elliott’s Heisman hopes might have been dashed after he was underutilized and went up against a strong defensive effort in Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State.

But that one day wasn’t enough to prevent him from being the best offensive player in the Big Ten this season.

The Buckeyes’ junior running back was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year on Tuesday, when the conference announced its offensive award and offensive members of the All-Big Ten teams.

Elliott rushed for 1,672 yards in 12 regular-season games, good for first in the Big Ten and fourth in the country. He led the conference with 19 touchdowns and 1,861 all-purpose yards.

Elliott brought a five-game streak of triple-digit rushing games into this season and extended it to 15 with at least 100 yards on the ground in each of the first 10 games of the season, including  a career-high 274-yard performance against Indiana. Against Michigan State, he gained just 33 yards on the ground, snapping the streak, but he was back at it in a big way in the regular-season finale, rushing for 214 yards and a pair of scores in a win over Michigan.

Elliott entered the season as one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy, though his chances were significantly damaged when the Buckeyes lost their biggest game of the season. Elliott, though, could still finish in the top three in voting for college football’s most prestigious individual award, getting an invitation to the ceremony in New York City.

Elliott’s win marks the third time in the past four seasons the award has gone to an Ohio State player. Braxton Miller, the team’s former quarterback and current receiver, won the award in consecutive seasons in 2012 and 2013. Overall, this is the seventh time a Buckeye has been named Offensive Player of the Year since the award’s first presentation in 1990. Former winners include Miller (twice), Troy Smith, Joe Germaine, Orlando Pace and Eddie George.

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The conference handed out its offensive positional awards, as well, on Tuesday.

Elliott was also tabbed as the Big Ten Running Back of the Year, becoming the second Buckeye in the past three seasons to win the award. Carlos Hyde won in 2013.

Michigan State’s Connor Cook was named the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year. Cook, who will lead the Spartans in this weekend’s Big Ten Championship Game, ranks fifth in the conference with 2,730 passing yards and is tied for the league lead with 24 touchdown passes. Cook started his senior season in somewhat mediocre fashion before reeling off four straight games with at least 300 passing yards, totaling 1,428 yards and 11 touchdowns in those games against Rutgers, Michigan, Indiana and Nebraska. Cook is Michigan State’s all-time winningest quarterback.

Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge was named the Big Ten Receiver of the Year. Burbridge led the league with 75 receptions and 1,158 receiving yards. He had seven games with at least 100 receiving yards and caught a touchdown pass in five different games, including a three-touchdown day in a win over Air Force. Burbridge follows Tony Lippett, who won last season, making it two straight Receiver of the Year wins for Michigan State wideouts.

Jake Butt was named the Big Ten Tight End of the Year. Butt caught 48 passes for 620 yards and three touchdowns this season, serving as an always-reliable target for Jake Rudock.

Ohio State’s Taylor Decker was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. The Buckeyes led the conference with 2,903 rushing yards and allowed just 17 sacks on the season. This is the sixth time a Buckeye has won the award, Decker joining LeCharles Bentley, Orlando Pace and Korey Stringer, the latter two winning two times apiece.

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The Big Ten also announced its all-conference selections on offense Tuesday after announcing the defensive and special teams selections on Monday.

Here are the offensive selections for the All-Big Ten First Team:

QB: Connor Cook, Michigan State
RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
RB: Jordan Howard, Indiana
WR: Aaron Burbridge, Michigan State
WR: Jehu Chesson, Michigan (coaches)
WR: Alex Erickson, Wisconsin (media)
TE: Jake Butt, Michigan
OL: Jack Allen, Michigan State
OL: Pat Elflein, Ohio State
OL: Jack Conklin, Michigan State
OL: Taylor Decker, Ohio State
OL: Jordan Walsh, Iowa (coaches)
OL: Dan Feeney, Indiana (media)

Here are the offensive selections for the All-Big Ten Second Team:

QB: C.J. Beathard, Iowa
RB: Justin Jackson, Northwestern
RB: Saquon Barkley, Penn State
WR: Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska
WR: Alex Erickson, Wisconsin (coaches)
WR: Chris Godwin, Penn State (media)
TE: Dan Vitale, Northwestern
OL: Austin Blythe, Iowa
OL: Brian Allen, Michigan State
OL: Jason Spriggs, Indiana
OL: Dan Feeney, Indiana (coaches)
OL: Alex Lewis, Nebraska (coaches)
OL: Jordan Walsh, Iowa (media)
OL: Tyler Marz, Wisconsin (media)

Here are the offensive selections for the All-Big Ten Third Team:

QB: Nate Sudfeld, Indiana
RB: Josh Ferguson, Illinois
RB: Jordan Canzeri, Iowa
WR: Michael Thomas, Ohio State
WR: Chris Godwin, Penn State (coaches)
WR: Leonte Carroo, Rutgers (media)
TE: Josiah Price, Michigan State
OL: Jacoby Boren, Ohio State
OL: Erik Magnuson, Michigan
OL: Donavon Clark, Michigan State (coaches)
OL: Billy Price, Ohio State (coaches)
OL: Tyler Marz, Wisconsin (coaches)
OL: Ted Karras, Illinois (media)
OL: Kyle Kalis, Michigan (media)
OL: Alex Lewis, Nebraska (media)

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.