Big Ten

Michigan's Peppers, Lewis, Butt highlight Big Ten's national award finalists

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USA TODAY

Michigan's Peppers, Lewis, Butt highlight Big Ten's national award finalists

With 10 wins in their first 11 games, things have gone mighty well for the Michigan Wolverines this season, and the folks in charge of handing out the national end-of-season awards have noticed.

A trio of Michigan stars were among the announced finalists for four different national awards Monday. Do-it-all playmaker Jabrill Peppers was a finalist for the Maxwell Award, honoring college football's best player, and the Bednarik Award, honoring college football's best defensive player. Cornerback Jourdan Lewis was a finalist for the Thorpe Award, honoring college football's top defensive back. And tight end Jake Butt was a finalist for the Mackey Award, honoring the nation's best tight end.

Peppers has starred in every facet of the game for Michigan this season. On defense, he ranks second on the team with 65 tackles and four sacks and leads the team with 16.5 tackles for loss. He's also forced a fumble and is tied for the team lead with eight quarterback hurries. But he also ranks third on the team in all-purpose yardage. He has 305 punt-return yards, 216 kick-return yards, 163 rushing yards and three receiving yards. Plus, he's scored four touchdowns, three rushing and one via a punt return. If Peppers wins the Bednarik Award, he'll become the second all-around Michigan star to do so. Charles Woodson won back in 1997. The last Big Ten player to win the award was Dan Connor, when he made it three straight Bednarik wins for Penn State linebackers. Two Wolverines have taken home the Maxwell Award: Tom Harmon in 1940 and Desmond Howard in 1991. The last Big Ten player to win the award was Penn State running back Larry Johnson in 2002.

Lewis could make it three Thorpe Awarrd wins for Big Ten players in a four-year span. Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard won in 2013, and Iowa's Desmond King is the reigning winner. Lewis has been recognized as one of the best cornerbacks in college football over the past two seasons. This year, he has 19 tackles to go along with 2.5 tackles for loss, a pair of interceptions and 10 pass breakups. Woodson is the only other Wolverine to win the Thorpe Award. He did it back in 1997.

Butt is Michigan's second leading receiver with 38 catches. He also ranks second on the team with 460 receiving yards and four touchdown catches. Butt is the reigning Big Ten Tight End of the Year and seems to be heading toward the award again this season. He'd be the first Michigan player to win the Mackey Award, which has thrice gone to a Big Ten player since it began in 2000: Purdue's Tim Stratton (2000), Iowa's Dallas Clark (2002) and Minnesota's Matt Spaeth (2006).

Michigan's opponent in the all-important regular-season finale Saturday was also well represented among the national award finalists. Ohio State saw punter Cameron Johnston named a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, which honors the nation's top punter, and center Pat Elflein named a finalist for the Outland Trophy, which honors the nation's top interior lineman. The last Big Ten player to win the Ray Guy Award was a Buckeye, B.J. Sander in 2003. A Big Ten player took home the Outland Trophy just two years ago, when Iowa's Brandon Scherff won in 2014. Four Buckeyes have taken home the Outland Trophy: Jim Parker (1956), Jim Stillwagon (1970), John Hicks (1973) and Orlando Pace (1996).

Additionally, Northwestern's Austin Carr was named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which honors the country's top wide receiver. Carr leads the Big Ten in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches and ranks in the top 10 nationally in all three categories, as well. Four Big Ten players have won the Biletnikoff Award since it was first handed out in 1994, though it's been 12 years since the last win for the conference, when Michigan's Braylon Edwards was named the winner in 2004.

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.