Saturday night, Michigan State won a Big Ten championship. Sunday, the Spartans learned where and who they will play in the College Football Playoff.
Michigan State earned the No. 3 seed in the sport's final four Sunday when the field was announced. The Spartans will face No. 2 seed Alabama and former head coach Nick Saban in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Eve. The Spartans played in and won the Cotton Bowl last season.
No. 1 Clemson will face No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl in the other national semifinal.
Michigan State jumped up from the No. 5 seed in last week's College Football Playoff rankings after defeating No. 4 Iowa in Saturday night's Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. Behind a terrific defensive effort and an incredible nine-minute touchdown drive to take the lead with 27 seconds remaining, the Spartans did enough to impress the committee and jump to the No. 3 spot.
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The Spartans' season looked doomed after an upset loss to Nebraska on Nov. 7. But Michigan State pulled off the biggest win of its regular season two weeks later, going into Columbus without quarterback Connor Cook and knocking off Ohio State with a walk-off field goal. Then came a pounding of Penn State to close the regular season, followed by a win over previously undefeated Iowa on Saturday night.
Michigan State finished with four superb wins over highly ranked opponents, beating Oregon, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa.
For the second straight season, the Big Ten champion is into the field of four, Michigan State following Ohio State from last season, when the Buckeyes went on to win the national championship.
And for the second straight season, the Big Ten champion gets Alabama in a national semifinal. The Buckeyes knocked off the Tide in last season's Sugar Bowl.
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 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.