Big Ten

Carli Lloyd and Todd Frazier have turned Rutgers into America's team

carli-lloyd-todd-frazier-0714.png

Carli Lloyd and Todd Frazier have turned Rutgers into America's team

There might not be a nationwide rush on Scarlet Knights gear, but for the month of July, anyway, Rutgers has been America's team.

In little more than a week's time, a pair of Rutgers' sporting alumni has captivated the country. First came Carli Lloyd, who led the women's national soccer team to a World Cup championship, its first since 1999. She scored three goals in the final, propelling the U.S. to a 5-2 win over Japan in what became the most-watched soccer game ever in the U.S.

Here's Rutgers showing its full support for Lloyd — who won the Golden Ball trophy as the World Cup's top performer — at the parade honoring the team last week in New York City.

[MORE BIG TEN: While in France, Michigan's Jim Harbaugh visits ... McDonald's?]

Lloyd was joined in nationwide admiration Monday night by fellow Rutgers product and fellow New Jersey native Todd Frazier. The Cincinnati Reds third baseman won the Home Run Derby with a sensational performance in front of his hometown fans. The atmosphere during all three Frazier at-bats was incredible, and coupled with a new format that revitalized the event, it was arguably the best Home Run Derby ever, drawing rave reviews across social media.

Rutgers was certainly part of that social-media presence, rooting on Frazier all night on Twitter.

[MORE BIG TEN: Most Likely to succeed? Terps DB lands on another preseason watch list]

So, a year after joining the Big Ten Conference, have the Scarlet Knights established themselves as America's favorite college sports team? Not quite. But take a look at the accomplishments for a school whose addition to the league was initially laughed at as a pure money grab. Lloyd and Frazier aside — and of course their days in Piscataway came before the Knights made the switch to the Big Ten — Rutgers has impressed in its own way.

An 8-5 finish in football wasn't predicted by many. That first season in the conference included a win over Michigan, one of the Big Ten's traditional powers (even if last year was a down year), a record-setting comeback win over fellow newcomer Maryland and two non-conference wins over Power 5 opponents at NFL stadiums: a regular-season defeat of Washington State at Seattle's CenturyLink Field and a bowl win over North Carolina at Ford Field in Detroit.

And while Eddie Jordan has a long way to go to make his basketball program a competitive one in the uber-competitive Big Ten, you can't just brush aside a win over Wisconsin. The Knights' takedown of an albeit Frank Kaminsky-less Badgers team was perhaps the biggest win in program history, and Rutgers was the only team besides national champion Duke and highly ranked Maryland to hand Wisconsin a loss last season.

[MORE BIG TEN: Spartans' Valentine, Terps' Trimble picked for USA Basketball roster]

So Rutgers isn't doing half bad. The school's first year in the Big Ten wrapped up on June 30, and since all that's happened is a pair of former Scarlet Knights turning into national sports superstars. Not only has the emergence of Lloyd and Frazier been great fun to watch, but it's helped wipe away the memory of the school's former most famous sports alum, the infamous Ray Rice, and produce plenty of positive attention for the school.

Way to go, Carli Loyd. Way to go, Todd Frazier. And way to go, Rutgers, the new America's team.

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

jeremy_larkin.jpg
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

anderson.jpg
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.