Big Ten

Can Jordan Howard give Hoosiers a chance at an upset vs. Buckeyes?

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Can Jordan Howard give Hoosiers a chance at an upset vs. Buckeyes?

Believe it or not, a year after losing Tevin Coleman to the NFL, the Indiana Hoosiers have college football's best running back.

Through four weeks, UAB-transfer Jordan Howard leads the nation with 675 rushing yards, picking up right where Coleman left off after the now-Atlanta Falcon rushed for 2,036 yards last season, one of the 20 best rushing seasons in college football history.

Howard is just one cog in an Indiana offense that is tops in the Big Ten right now, an offense that will be tested incredibly this weekend against No. 1 Ohio State.

Both the Hoosiers and Buckeyes are undefeated, but there's still a massive gap between the two teams. Ohio State is the defending national champion and expected by many to repeat. Indiana has won four games over Southern Illinois, Florida International, Western Kentucky and Wake Forest.

If the Hoosiers are going to stage an upset, though, on Saturday — and come within one win of their first bowl trip since 2007 and just their second since 1993 — they'll be doing it behind Howard.

[MORE BIG TEN: Northwestern defense among the best, but can offense do its part?]

Indiana's explosive offense wouldn't seem to be too much of a problem for Ohio State, which boasts the nation's No. 6-ranked defense, allowing just 253.3 total offensive yards to opponents each week. But look closer, and you'll see those numbers are driven by a terrific pass defense. The Buckeyes' quartet of defensive backs — cornerbacks Eli Apple and Gareon Conley and safeties Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell — have been suffocatingly good against opposing passing attacks, holding foes to just 131.5 pass yards per game, another top-10 mark in the country and the the No. 2 mark in the Big Ten.

Against the run, however, opposing teams have been a hair more successful when compared to the rest of the defenses in college football. You have to go down to No. 36 in the national rankings — and a surprising ninth in the Big Ten rankings — to find Ohio State's 121.8 rushing yards allowed per week. Now, it's not like the Buckeyes are letting opposing backs run all over them, with no ball-carrier going over 100 yards rushing against Ohio State during the non-conference season. But the success on the ground for Ohio State opponents has been increasing, with Western Michigan's Jamauri Bogan rushing for 93 yards as part of a 169-yard rushing day for the Broncos last weekend.

It all means that if Indiana is going to breach an Ohio State defense that has been close to unbreachable so far this season, it's going to do it on the ground. Howard has been terrific and was going to be a big part of the plan anyway. After all, he's rushed for at least 145 yards in all four games. But a Hoosiers offense that's been pass-happy in the past and is helmed by the conference's second-best passer, Nate Sudfeld, should focus more on getting Howard through the Ohio State front seven than trying to get the ball past Apple, Conley, Bell and Powell.

Because that might not be possible.

The best vs. best matchups are always fun ones. We'll see if the country's No. 1 rusher vs. the country's No. 6 defense can live up to the hype.

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.