Big Ten

Buckeyes keep blowing teams out, so why the hate?

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Buckeyes keep blowing teams out, so why the hate?

Ohio State is undefeated. In fact, Ohio State hasn’t lost a game since last September. Ohio State has 10 wins in 10 tries this season and the No. 3 ranking in the College Football Playoff.

So why all the hate?

The Buckeyes rolled over Illinois on Saturday, crushing the Illini to the tune of 28-3. That kind of blowout is typically cause for celebration, and it probably was inside the Ohio State locker room. But on social media and in the opinions of pundits across the country, the nearly four-touchdown win earned nothing but criticism.

Expectations have caused problems for the Buckeyes this season. Every time Ohio State hasn’t been winning a game by 40, every time a drive stalls, every time a bad pass is thrown, many in the college football world deem the team to be broken, to be undeserving of its ranking and to be “not that good.”

And it’s true that, at times, the Buckeyes have certainly not played up to their potential. The ugly performance against Northern Illinois comes to mind.

[MORE BIG TEN: Week 11 upsets help Big Ten's College Football Playoff chances]

But the problem is the word “potential.” After defeating Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon in three straight postseason games last winter en route to a national-championship win, this team was predicted in the preseason to be one of the best in recent memory. With three star quarterbacks, a favorite running back, a great offensive line and a top-flight defense, this was expected to be one of college football’s super teams, a team that would bulldoze every challenger that got in its way, swatting the opposition away like a fly.

That isn’t exactly what’s happened. But it’s also not that far off.

No, Ohio State doesn’t put up the eye-popping point totals each week like Baylor does. But the Buckeyes still score an awful lot, 36.4 points per game, leading the Big Ten in scoring offense.

No, Ohio State doesn’t have far and away the country’s best defense. But it has one of the country’s best defenses, ranking second in the nation in scoring defense (13.8 points allowed a game) and ninth in total defense (298.4 yards allowed a game).

No, Ezekiel Elliott isn’t running away with the Heisman. But he’s certainly one of the frontrunners, ranking third in the FBS with 1,425 rushing yards. His 181 yards in Saturday’s win marked his 15th straight game with a triple-digit rushing total and moved him into third on Ohio State’s all-time rushing list.

That all seems pretty good.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Buckeyes gear right here]

Then there’s the biggest marker by which folks seem to be directing their complaints. Ohio State isn’t dominating its opponents, they say. Well, actually, the Buckeyes have won their 10 games by an average of 22.6 points. That’s better than three touchdowns. A three-touchdown deficit is a pretty tough thing to overcome, and the Buckeyes are boasting that, on average, on a weekly basis. Ohio State has scored 34 points or more in seven of its 10 wins, scoring 28 in two others. Only two wins have come by fewer than two touchdowns.

It’s not dominating in the hyperbolic sense of the word, perhaps, and no one is arguing that Ohio State has been the most dominant team this season or that it’s a team without flaws. But one thing the Buckeyes don’t deserve is constant criticism for not living up to impossible expectations. No, it didn’t turn out to be one of the most eye-popping seasons in college football history, but it still has a very good chance of ending in a national championship, which would be a second straight for those scoring at home.

No, Ohio State doesn’t have one of college football’s hardest schedules. But most of the games Ohio State was supposed to win in blowout fashion, it has won in blowout fashion. Plus, the final two weeks of the regular season will pit the Buckeyes against two ranked teams in Michigan State and Michigan, and if they win both games, they’ll likely meet an undefeated Iowa team in the Big Ten title game. Win all three, and there might not exist a team that can boast a better resume.

The truth is that Ohio State has blown out opponents plenty this season. And just because the games aren’t over in the first five minutes doesn’t mean the Buckeyes are undeserving of their ranking. We’ll see in the coming weeks if Ohio State is capable of doing the same against higher-quality competition.

Until then, Ohio State is 10-0.

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.