Big Ten

Six Big Ten teams in final AP poll after Alabama's title-game win


Six Big Ten teams in final AP poll after Alabama's title-game win

After winning a mighty entertaining national championship game on Monday night, it was no surprise that Alabama earned the country's No. 1 ranking when the final AP poll was released on Tuesday.

Despite having what many viewed as an ugly bowl season, though, it was the Big Ten leading all conferences with six teams in the final set of rankings, adding something to the argument that it was the nation's top conference this season.

No, the Big Ten didn't have a representative in Monday night's title bout, in which SEC champion Alabama defeated ACC champion Clemson, 45-40. But the conference finished with three teams in the top 10 with No. 4 Ohio State, No. 6 Michigan State and No. 9 Iowa. Three others teams were ranked throughout the top 25: No. 12 Michigan, No. 21 Wisconsin and No. 24 Northwestern.

[MORE BIG TEN: Penn State wide receiver Geno Lewis transfers to Sooners]

Ohio State had many thinking it was the Big Ten team that should have been playing in the College Football Playoff after a terrific performance in a 44-28 win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. That win capped a 12-1 season for the team that was the first-ever unanimous preseason No. 1 and sent Urban Meyer to 50-4 in four seasons as the Buckeyes head coach.

Michigan State got to the Playoff fair and square and deserved its spot, winning the Big Ten Championship Game for the second time in three seasons. Despite never leading until after the clock ran out in two of its signature wins against Ohio State and Michigan, the Spartans found a way to win and perhaps boasted a group of victories — with the aforementioned wins added to ones over Oregon and Iowa — better than that of any team in the country heading into the Playoff. Of course, Michigan State's postseason did not go well, as the Spartans were routed 38-0 in the Cotton Bowl by the eventual national champions.

Iowa experienced its all-time winningest season in program history with a spectacular 12-0 regular season, one of just two teams in college football to do that this season, the other being national runner-up Clemson. The dream season ended with a thud, losses to Michigan State and Stanford, the latter being a 45-16 shellacking in the Rose Bowl. But the Hawkeyes still got their due for a terrific campaign, and Kirk Ferentz won multiple national coach of the year awards.

[MORE BIG TEN: Will Likely coming back for senior season with Terps]

Michigan played just one bad game all season, a 41-7 loss to Ohio State, and ended up with double-digit victories in the first season under Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh turned the team around in a flash, taking it to a 10th win in the Citrus Bowl with a 41-7 pounding of Florida a season after the Wolverines won just five games and missed a bowl.

Wisconsin was another one of the Big Ten's bowl-season bright spots, defeating USC by a 23-21 score in the Holiday Bowl to earn its 10th victory of the year. The Badgers had one of the nation's top defenses all season and should be on to even better things with a healthy Corey Clement next season.

And despite a lopsided 45-6 loss to Tennessee in the Outback Bowl, it was a remarkable season for Northwestern, which won 10 games for just the fourth time in program history. The Cats also had one of the country's best defenses from wire to wire and boasted a big win over Stanford in the season opener. The Cardinal finished as the No. 3 team in the country.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Buckeyes gear right here]

Here's a look at the entire final AP top-25 rankings:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Stanford
4. Ohio State
5. Oklahoma
6. Michigan State
7. TCU
8. Houston
9. Iowa
10. Ole Miss
11. Notre Dame
12. Michigan
13. Baylor
14. Florida State
15. North Carolina
16. LSU
17. Utah
18. Navy
19. Oregon
20. Oklahoma State
21. Wisconsin
22. Tennessee
23. Northwestern
24. Western Kentucky
25. Florida

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.