Big Ten

Clemson moves on in College Football Playoff, Spartans next?

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Clemson moves on in College Football Playoff, Spartans next?

The nation’s No. 1 team is still undefeated.

Clemson picked up its 14th and most important victory of the season Thursday night, beating Oklahoma, 37-17, in the Orange Bowl to advance to the College Football Playoff national championship game.

Should Michigan State beat Alabama in Thursday night’s Cotton Bowl, the Spartans would meet the undefeated Tigers for the national title a week from Monday in Arizona.

Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson and running back Wayne Gallman had huge days rushing the ball, combining for 295 running yards, and Clemson’s defense bottled up a normally explosive Oklahoma offense, limiting the Sooners to just 67 rushing yards and keeping quarterback Baker Mayfield relatively in check.

Mayfield and the Sooners zipped down the field on the game’s opening drive, going 75 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. Watson responded later in the quarter, taking the Tigers all the way to the Sooners’ nine-yard line but having to settle for a field goal.

Clemson kicked off the scoring in a much more eventful second quarter, going on a 96-yard scoring drive capped by a Watson touchdown run. That score, though, was only made possible thanks to a big trick play, a fake-punt pass from punter Andy Teasdall to defensive tackle Christian Wilkins that gained 31 yards.

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The teams then both reached into the red zone but had to settle for field goals, and Clemson kicked another field goal after getting to the Oklahoma 26-yard line. But Mayfield struck again with a lightning-quick touchdown drive featuring passing gains of 20 and 42 yards before an 11-yard touchdown toss that gave the Sooners a 17-16 lead. Clemson reached field-goal range right before the half, but Watson chucked a pass to the end zone that was intercepted.

But the third quarter belonged to the Tigers. A 12-play, 75-yard drive to open the second half ended in a Gallman touchdown rush to put Clemson back in front. Oklahoma got good field position following a missed Clemson field-goal try, but the Sooners turned the ball over on downs, which was immediately followed by a four-play, 70-yard touchdown drive by the Tigers, capped by Watson’s 35-yard scoring toss to Hunter Renfrow. Before the quarter’s end, Oklahoma again reached the Clemson 40-yard line, but Mayfield threw an interception to end that drive.

Clemson tacked on seven more points to open the fourth quarter, capping a nine-play touchdown drive — all runs — with another Gillman scoring rush to give the Tigers a 20-point lead. Mayfield and Oklahoma answered with a strong drive, getting all the way down the Clemson five-yard line, but a Mayfield pass was intercepted by Ben Boulware to bring the Sooners’ scoring chance to a screeching halt.

Clemson finished with a whopping 530 total yards and limited Oklahoma to just 378 yards. Watson finished with 145 rushing yards to go along with 187 passing yards. Gallman rushed 26 times for 150 yards.

The Tigers will face the winner of Thursday's Cotton Bowl between Michigan State and Alabama in the national championship game.

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.