Big Ten

Northwestern going back to Outback Bowl

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Northwestern going back to Outback Bowl

Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern will be back in a familiar setting as they look to complete the winningest season in program history.

The Cats are heading to the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day, where they will square off against the Tennessee Volunteers. It's the same bowl game Fitzgerald's Cats played in on Jan. 1, 2010, a wild overtime loss to Auburn during which Mike Kafka threw for 532 yards.

“Our entire football family is thrilled for the opportunity to cap the 2015 campaign and kick off 2016 at the Outback Bowl,” Fitzgerald said in the announcement. "We’re grateful for the opportunity to take the field one more time in what has been a special season for our student-athletes. The Wildcats last visit to Tampa was one of the most memorable games in Northwestern history, we’re looking forward to another unforgettable Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day."

“This is a tremendous honor and opportunity for our student-athletes,” athletics director Jim Phillips said. “Their remarkable accomplishments in the classroom, in the community and in competition, makes the Northwestern family proud each day. Wildcats across the country and around the world look forward to celebrating the New Year together in Tampa at the Outback Bowl."

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The Cats have played the Vols just once before. Coincidentally, that was Fitzgerald's final game as a player for the Cats, the Citrus Bowl to cap the 1996 season. Northwestern lost that game, 48-28.

The Cats have already turned in one of just four 10-win seasons in program history, losing just twice during the regular season and earning the No. 13 spot in the final College Football Playoff rankings. An 11th win against Tennessee would mean the first-ever 11-win season for a Northwestern team.

This is just the 12th all-time trip to a bowl game for Northwestern, though Fitzgerald has made it a habit, leading the Cats to six of those postseason games. The Cats missed a bowl in each of the past two seasons but secured a spot in a pretty high-level one this season.

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.