Big Ten

Top-five showdown between Ohio State and Oklahoma highlights Week 2 Big Ten previews and picks


Top-five showdown between Ohio State and Oklahoma highlights Week 2 Big Ten previews and picks

Ohio State. Oklahoma. Bring it on.

Last year's matchup in Norman ended in one of the Buckeyes' signature wins of the season. Coupled with the win over Michigan in the regualr-season finale, this game propelled Ohio State to the Playoff despite its lack of a conference championship. So the stakes are obviously high.

This time around it's a battle between two top-five teams, the second such game nationally in as many weeks. You've got to love that.

Ohio State had a shaky start against Indiana before figuring things out and running away in a second-half blowout win. Oklahoma pounded UTEP. So expect some points.

Who's going to win? My pick for that game and my picks for every other one of this weekend's contests featuring a Big Ten team are below. Read on and get ready for Week 2.

Friday, Sept. 8

Ohio at Purdue, 7 p.m., FS1

You’ve got to like the Boilers’ chances against this MAC opponent after what they showed in the season-opener against Louisville, holding a fourth-quarter lead on a top-20 team. But turnovers told the story of that game, for better and worse, with Purdue benefitting from a trio of Louisville fumbles and sealing its own fate with a trio of interceptions from the quarterbacking tandem of David Blough and Elijah Sindelar. Again, you’ve got to like the Boilers’ chances this week, but they’ve got to stop throwing so many interceptions.

The pick: Purdue

Saturday, Sept. 9

Cincinnati at No. 8 Michigan, 11 a.m., ABC

I’ll say it again: No Big Ten team looked better than Michigan in Week 1. The defensive performance was incredible considering the 10 new starters on that side of the ball. Yeah, Florida has been notoriously inept on offense in recent seasons, but I don’t think that should take away from what this reloaded group of Wolverines did. Former Ohio State assistant Luke Fickell is now helming Cincinnati, but the Bearcats only scored 26 points against and had just a six-point fourth-quarter lead on Austin Peay last week, so expect another big day for Jim Harbaugh’s boys.

The pick: Michigan

Florida Atlantic at No. 9 Wisconsin, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network

Lane Kiffin’s Owls will have more important things on their minds than football considering the hurricane hitting down in Florida. This game will be played in Madison, and after the Badgers ran off 59 unanswered after a shaky first half against Utah State, you’d figure that more of the same is coming. The Bradrick Shaw-Jonathan Taylor combo at running back is, as the kids say, fire.

The pick: Wisconsin

Northwestern at Duke, 11 a.m., ESPN U

I’d be mighty worried if I were Northwestern after both its own performance in the season-opener and the 60 points Duke dropped in its first win of the season. While the Cats’ 1-2 punch of Justin Jackson and Clayton Thorson looked as good as ever, personnel changes didn’t prevent carry-over woes from seasons past such as missed field goals, dropped passes and the inability to cash in on some scoring chances. Northwestern was favored to beat Nevada by more than three touchdowns. Instead, they need two touchdowns in the final five and a half minutes to turn a three-point deficit into an 11-point margin of victory. And did I mention Duke dropped 60? Interesting note, though, Northwestern has beaten the Dukies in each of the past two seasons, including a 2015 trip to Durham.

The pick: Duke

Iowa at Iowa State, 11 a.m., ESPN 2

The last two meetings between the in-state rivals have been blowout wins for the Hawkeyes. But it was the Cyclones that took three of the previous four, with some ugly performances by Kirk Ferentz’s team in there. Anyone remember the 9-6 loss? Yuck. But Iowa showed a lot in its season-opening win over Wyoming, completely embarrassing Josh Allen, the Cowboys’ quarterback who’s getting hyped as a potential No. 1 draft pick. The Iowa defense destroyed him and his mates, keeping them out of the end zone completely. Iowa State dropped 42 in its season-opening win over Northern Iowa. But that Iowa defense though!

The pick: Iowa

Towson at Maryland, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network

The Terps are riding incredibly high after that 51-point performance in the upset win at Texas. That result and the performance of Kasim Hill are helping to ease the blow of losing starting quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome for the season to a torn ACL. Hill wasn’t asked to do too much vs. the Horns, but he showed some flashes of brilliance. Getting his first full game in against Towson certainly helps.

The pick: Maryland

Pittsburgh at No. 4 Penn State, 2:30 p.m., ABC

This in-state rivalry is suddenly alive and kicking after last year’s instant classic, a 42-39 loss for the Nittany Lions. But Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley are a year older and already have the Penn State offense humming after last weekend’s beatdown of Akron. While Pat Narduzzi certainly has the ability to pull off another upset — his Panthers beat both Big Ten champ Penn State and eventual national champ Clemson last season — Pitt blew a 21-0 lead last weekend, needing overtime to beat FCS foe Youngstown State.

The pick: Penn State

Indiana at Virginia, 2:30 p.m., ESPN U

The Hoos have been one of college football’s worst Power Five programs for a very long time now, with just one bowl appearance since 2008. They went just 2-10 last season in Bronco Mendenhall’s first year coaching the team. That bodes well for an Indiana team on the rise. Despite getting run away from in the second half of last weekend’s season-opening loss to Ohio State, much of that game served as a demonstration of what the Hoosiers can do. Simmie Cobbs and the rest of the Indiana receiving corps made quarterback Richard Lagow look amazing, while the defense held the Buckeyes at bay for more than a half.

The pick: Indiana

Western Michigan at Michigan State, 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Mark Dantonio’s team got an easy win in the season-opener, something that’s been a rarity over the last calendar year. Even last season’s Week 1 win against Furman came by just 15 points. But Sparty gets an immediate — if perhaps unexpected — test now against a Western Michigan team that gave USC everything it could handle last weekend. The Broncos, who figured to be far less fearsome without P.J. Fleck rowing the boat, were within four points of the Trojans in the game’s final five minutes. Things fell apart in the fourth quarter, USC scoring 28 points, but Western Michigan should still scare Michigan State, which had three turnovers against Bowling Green.

The pick: Western Michigan

Eastern Michigan at Rutgers, 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

It’s been a while since praising Rutgers was en vogue, but that was a nice showing against a high-powered Washington team in the season-opener. The Knights didn’t get the win, but the defense looked great, limiting a team that went to last season’s Playoff to very pedestrian numbers. Rutgers will be favored against Eastern Michigan, a team that was actually well improved last year, winning seven games after totaling seven in the previous four seasons.

The pick: Rutgers

Nebraska at Oregon, 3:30 p.m., FOX

Take Oregon’s Week 1 pounding of Southern Utah with a grain of salt because, you know, it was Southern Utah. But the Ducks put up some Chip Kelly Era style numbers in that win, scoring 77 points and going over 700 yards of total offense. That ought to spook the heck out of the Huskers, who had a shaky defensive performance against Arkansas State in their Week 1 win, allowing 36 points and nearly 500 yards of offense. Nebraska can take pride in running back Tre Bryant, who rushed for 192 yards. But that defense would seem to be cruising for a bruising.

The pick: Oregon

No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 2 Ohio State, 6:30 p.m., ABC

I don’t expect a repeat of the 2016 edition of this highly anticipated non-conference matchup, when Ohio State went off down in Norman and crushed Oklahoma. But that’s not to say it’s not possible. As great as the Sooners looked last weekend — Baker Mayfield was 19-for-20 for 329 yards and three touchdowns — the Buckeyes showed plenty in pulling away from Indiana with a huge second half. There might still be question marks about the Ohio State offense, and they’d be deserved. But those questions existed much of last season only for the Buckeyes to put up big numbers — just like they did in the season-opener.

The pick: Ohio State

Western Kentucky at Illinois, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network

A win is a win, but the Illini did not look good in their season-opening victory over Ball State. The offense was mostly stuck in the mud — save some bright spots from Mike Dudek and Mike Epstein — and the defense was thoroughly marched on by Ball State. Western Kentucky no longer has Jeff Brohm at the helm, though it is coming off a conference-championship season. The Hilltoppers played and beat an FCS opponent in their first game, so it’s hard to say what they’ll do Saturday night. But the Illini will have to be better if they want to win, it would figure.

The pick: Western Kentucky

Minnesota at Oregon State, 9 p.m., FS1

P.J. Fleck’s first dip of the oars into the water didn’t look great, just a 17-7 win over Buffalo, but it was a victory nonetheless. The good news is that Week 2 opponent Oregon State is not very good. The Beavers appeared to have turned a corner by ending last season with surprising wins against Arizona and Oregon. But they got beat up bad in their first game of this season by Colorado State and narrowly edged FCS foe Portland State last weekend, bringing former Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen’s record at Oregon State to a gross 7-19. Maybe the Fightin’ Flecks figure things out this time.

The pick: Minnesota

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.