Big Ten

Ezekiel Elliott not invited to New York, Big Ten's Heisman drought continues

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Ezekiel Elliott not invited to New York, Big Ten's Heisman drought continues

Ezekiel Elliott isn't going to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation. No one from the Big Ten is.

Finalists for college football's most prestigious individual award were announced Monday night, and the Big Ten wasn't represented, with finalist honors going to Alabama running back Derrick Henry, Stanford running back Christian McCaffery and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.

What it means is that for the ninth straight season, a Big Ten player won't be taking home the trophy.

It's been quite the drought for the conference, as no one from the league has won the award since Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith did it in 2006.

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While few expected Elliott to win this season's award following a late-season stumble in the Buckeyes' loss to Michigan State, Monday's announcement of the finalists made the league's Heisman dry spell officially continue.

Elliott was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year last week, and he should still finish highly in Heisman voting. Elliott ranks fifth in the country with 1,672 rushing yards, and he is tied for second in the country with 19 rushing touchdowns.

After LSU's Leonard Fournette seemed to establish himself as the runaway favorite, Elliott's candidacy — which was one of the most talked about in the nation prior to the start of the season — took a backseat. But LSU started losing games and the Buckeyes kept winning games, bringing Elliott back into the mix. Elliott remained incredibly consistent, rushing for at least 100 yards in each of Ohio State's first 10 games, including a career-high 274 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Indiana.

But when Ohio State played in its biggest game of the season against Michigan State, Elliott was curiously underutilized, carrying the ball just 12 times for just 33 yards, sinking his chances at the Heisman. Not even 214 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the regular-season finale against Michigan could vault him back into finalist position.

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All four of the other Power 5 conferences have boasted a Heisman winner in each of the past four seasons, the Pac-12 breaking an eight-year drought with Marcus Mariota's win last season and the ACC snapping a 12-year dry spell with Jameis Winston's win in 2013.

Smith is the only Big Ten player in this century to win the Heisman. Prior to Smith, the conference's previous winner was Wisconsin's Ron Dayne in 1999.

Big Ten players have still finished highly in voting in recent seasons. Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon was a finalists last season and finished second to Mariota, with Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett finishing fifth and Indiana running back Tevin Coleman finishing seventh. In 2013, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller finished ninth, and he finished fifth in 2012. Wisconsin saw running back Montee Ball and quarterback Russell Wilson both finish in the top 10 in voting in 2011.

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.