Big Ten

It sure looks like Michigan could still make the College Football Playoff, maybe even over Big Ten champ

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It sure looks like Michigan could still make the College Football Playoff, maybe even over Big Ten champ

Here’s something that looks like a real possibility following the reveal of the final College Football Playoff rankings of the regular season:

Ohio State and Michigan both make the final four, with the Big Ten champion missing out.

The Buckeyes seem to be as close to a lock as there is, staying the No. 2 team in the country following their double-overtime win over the Wolverines last weekend. And while Urban Meyer’s team certainly would’ve liked the opportunity to play for a conference title, losing the Big Ten East tiebreaker to Penn State could prove a positive, as Ohio State doesn’t have a game to lose between now and when the Playoff bracket is announced Sunday.

But Michigan looked to have its Playoff chances very much alive Tuesday, dropping just two spots after losing from No. 3 to No. 5. Selection committee chair Kirby Hocutt revealed multiple times in his comments after this week’s rankings were released that there is very little separating fifth-ranked Michigan from fourth-ranked Washington. That means there’s a legitimate chance that the Wolverines could jump the Huskies — perhaps even regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s Pac-12 title game between Washington and No. 8 Colorado.

The committee has indicated several times in its rankings this season that it isn’t overly impressed with Washington’s resume compared to other top teams. And while the Huskies are worthy of praise for their one-loss record, the truth is that their resume does pale in comparison with others. Washington has two wins over currently ranked teams this season, coming against No. 18 Stanford and No. 20 Utah. Obviously a win in the Pac-12 Championship Game would give the Huskies their signature win of the season. But Michigan already has three of those signature wins, three victories over top-10 squads in Wisconsin, Penn State and Colorado. And, with the Wolverines beating the Buffaloes by 17 earlier this season, perhaps even a close win by the Huskies wouldn't be enough to keep their slight edge on the Wolverines.

And then there's this: Michigan making the Playoff over whichever team wins this weekend’s Big Ten Championship Game. The Wolverines have beaten both Wisconsin and Penn State and have three top-10 wins (and took No. 2 Ohio State to double overtime). The Badgers’ best win is against current No. 21 LSU, while their two losses have come against No. 2 Ohio State and No. 5 Michigan — by a combined 14 points, no less, with one of those games going to overtime. The Nittany Lions have that huge win over Ohio State, but that’s their only win over a currently ranked team, with losses coming against No. 5 Michigan and No. 25 Pittsburgh.

So the committee is faced with a tricky situation. Either Wisconsin or Penn State will add a top-10 win this weekend. Washington could, too. Would a top-10 win added to the resume of two of those teams be enough to box out Michigan?

Currently, the Huskies are ranked ahead of the Wolverines, which could indicate that if Washington beats eighth-ranked Colorado it will stay ahead. It’s possible there might not be a situation in which both Clemson and Washington win their conference championships and Michigan still makes the Playoff.

But should Washington or Clemson lose, Michigan could take the vacated spot over whichever team wins the Big Ten title game. That seems to be what the committee could be thinking, keeping the Wolverines ahead of both the Badgers and Lions in this set of rankings.

And here’s one more wild scenario to chew on: What happens if both Clemson and Washington lose? Do Michigan and the Big Ten champ take both those spots and make it three Big Ten teams in the Playoff? That might’ve sound farfetched a little while ago, but that’s how the rankings stack up right now. That would definitely be crazy.

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

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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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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.