Big Ten

Could Spartans earn No. 1 seed in College Football Playoff?


Could Spartans earn No. 1 seed in College Football Playoff?

At this point, it appears a foregone conclusion that the winner of Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game between undefeated Iowa and one-loss Michigan State will grab one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff.

But here's an interesting topic of discussion: Is there a way one of those teams can be the No. 1 seed in the Playoff? It seems entirely possible.

If the Spartans beat the Hawkeyes in Indianapolis, will there be a better resume in the country than Michigan State's? Let's take a look.

In this scenario, Michigan State will boast wins over top-10 teams in Iowa and Ohio State, plus wins over Michigan and Oregon, two teams that will also be ranked in the top 25, likely in the top 20.

Can that quartet of wins be challenged by any team out there?

Let's say Clemson defeats North Carolina in the ACC title game. The Tigers would come close to matching the Spartans with impressive wins over Notre Dame, North Carolina and Florida State. But Clemson's fourth-best win? Let's just say the ACC isn't a mighty impressive conference this season.

What about Oklahoma, the newly minted Big 12 champs? The Sooners looked incredible in a crushing of Oklahoma State on Saturday and have three straight big wins over Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State. Is there a fourth, though? Not really. The Big 12's pretty top-heavy, too, with seven-win teams West Virginia and Texas Tech representing the next tier.

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And Alabama? That's not even a question. Just four SEC teams were ranked in the most-recent Playoff rankings: Alabama, Florida, Ole MIss and Mississippi State. Alabama's only played the Mississippi schools, only beating Mississippi State. That's right, the Tide have just one win over a currently ranked team. And after the Bulldogs lost to the Rebels on Saturday, it's possible the Tide will enter the conference championship game with no wins against currently ranked teams. The SEC certainly presents a tough schedule, but the conference has cannibalized itself as it often does, and the rankings just don't have an abundance of SEC teams. The Tide will play the two-loss Gators in the SEC title game this weekend, but the Gators have impressed no one in winning a weak SEC East Division.

The only other Power 5 conference champion will hail from the Pac-12, and to have a shot at making the Playoff, it'll have to be Stanford, as USC is currently unranked. The Cardinal have two losses but do have an impressive win over Notre Dame. But they're just not in the same class as the other four right at this moment. That could change should chaos reign on championship weekend.

When those five teams are the Power 5 conference champs, it certainly looks like Michigan State should have an edge in the impressive-wins department. Of course, there are other factors, including how teams have played throughout the season and how they've earned their wins. Certainly the Spartans have not played their best football in each and every game this season, pulling out narrow victories against weak competition and struggling on defense in several games. But look at the resume, and the wins are most definitely there.

Does it mean that in this scenario, the Spartans would get the No. 1 seed? No, the committee doesn't always do what everyone thinks it should.

But for a team that three weeks ago looked done following that loss at Nebraska, a really good chance at the No. 1 seed in the Playoff is extraordinarily impressive.

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.