Big Ten

Week 2 Big Ten previews: Can Spartans get revenge on Ducks?

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Week 2 Big Ten previews: Can Spartans get revenge on Ducks?

It's all about Michigan State and Oregon this week, and rightfully so.

Two of college football's top-10 teams clash Saturday night in East Lansing in a rematch of one of last season's most-anticipated games. The Spartans dropped that one but will be favored this time around, and though revenge is not likely on their minds, can they earn a win that will boost their chances of making the College Football Playoff?

In addition to that big game, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska are all still looking for their first win of the 2015 season after upsetting Week 1 losses.

We'll have you completely covered with live coverage from East Lansing as well as updates and posts all day long. Follow on Twitter at @CSNBigTen.

But how about we now take a look at the Week 2 slate. All games on Saturday and all times are Central.

Oregon State at Michigan, 11 a.m., ABC

The Jim Harbaugh Era started with a thud, a 24-17 loss at Utah. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The Wolverines defense played well, as well as it did throughout much of last season, when it was one of the best defenses in the country. The Utes gained just 337 total yards in a game that felt like a blowout much of the way. That kind of performance ought to serve Michigan real well this week against an Oregon State team that struggled to get off the ground in its season-opening win over FCS foe Weber State, a game the Beavers were winning just 6-0 at the half and just 13-7 after three quarters. Oregon State passed for only 110 yards in that game and needed a whopping 56 rushing attempts to get to 281 yards on the ground. But the real factor as Michigan’s season moves forward is the offense. Can Jake Rudock stop throwing interceptions? Can the running backs do some significant damage? That kind of thing.

The pick: French Harbaugh

Western Illinois at Illinois, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network

The Illini have an excellent chance at keeping their momentum rolling after that huge Week 1 win against Kent State. Who knows if Illinois can replicate the 52-3 thumping it doled out last week, but an FCS opponent is a good way to try. Pretty much everything went perfectly in the season-opening win after nothing went perfectly in the week leading up to the game, what with Tim Beckman fired and severe weather postponing the game. Most encouraging for Illinois has to be the way its defense played against Kent State, intercepting three passes and limiting Kent State to just 59 rush yards. The defense played so well, in fact, that it limited its own offense’s stats, handing Wes Lunt & Co. terrific field position almost every time. In turn, Lunt — who completed four touchdown passes — threw for just 162 yards. Western had its own strong showing last week, too, though, crushing Eastern Illinois, 33-5, and forcing five turnovers.

The pick: #TIME2EAT

Bowling Green at Maryland, 11 a.m., Big Ten Network

Highlighted by Will Likely’s 233 punt-return yards — a record-breaking number — Maryland’s 50-21 win over Richmond was what you’d expect against an FCS foe. The Terps out-gained the Spiders by more than 200 yards. The best thing, aside from Likely’s performance, was a very promising rushing attack, which went for a huge 341-yard total, with Brandon Ross leading the way with 150 yards and a touchdown. If that’s a run game that can be relied on, the Terps’ best offense will be something other than praying that Likely can spring free for a TD. It’s especially important with new No. 1 quarterback Perry Hills struggling a bit in his 2015 debut. Bowling Green provides quite the step up in competition, but the Falcons were whomped in their season-opener, a 59-30 defeat against Tennessee. Still, in that game, Bowling Green totaled 557 yards of offense, 433 through the air. A fumble, 12 penalties and an inability to stop the run did in the Falcons. So if the Terps want to get a solid win over one of the better MAC squads, running the ball again might be the way to go.

The pick: Freddie and Frieda

Buffalo at Penn State, 11 a.m., ESPN 2

These are woeful times in Happy Valley, as the Nittany Lions are coming off one of their more-embarrassing losses in recent memory, a 27-10 defeat at the hands of Temple, where the Owls scored 27 unanswered points and sacked Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg 10 times. The same problems that plagued Penn State in 2014 — inability to protect Hackenberg, inability to run the ball and Hackenberg turning the ball over — are back and bigger than ever after just one week of 2015. It’d be easy to say that Buffalo provides a good opportunity for Penn State to get back on track, but then again no one saw the loss to Temple coming, the first time the Owls beat the Lions in 41 years. Buffalo scored a blowout win over FCS team Albany last week, scoring 51 points and piling up 467 yards of offense. There are a lot of things Penn State needs to do better in Week 2. Obviously keeping Hackenberg standing is chief among them.

The pick: Mr. Incredible

Indiana State at Purdue, 11 a.m., ESPNEWS

The Boilermakers experienced their own crushing defeat in Week 1, blowing a late lead in a loss to Marshall. Austin Appleby threw four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, proving to be the difference in a 10-point loss. Finishing will be the key for Purdue as the season rolls on. The Boilermakers owned a lead within the game’s final three minutes but gave up two touchdowns in that span to lose. There was a promising performance from D.J. Knox, the running back who carried the ball 22 times for 102 yards and a touchdown. But the Purdue defense will need to be better against Indiana State, an FCS opponent that scored 52 points and racked up 496 yards — including 303 on the ground — in a Week 1 win over Butler.

The pick: "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Purdue Pete."

Miami (Ohio) at Wisconsin, 11 a.m., ESPN U

Last week featured a lot of bad news for the Badgers, with a 35-7 loss to Alabama being accompanied by injuries to stars Corey Clement and Michael Caputo and a generally abysmal performance both running the ball and trying to stop it. Wisconsin rushed for just 40 yards in that defeat, with Alabama going for 238 and a trio of long touchdown runs. But things look a lot brighter for Week 2. Not only is Miami (Ohio) far from the No. 3 team in the country, but Clement and Caputo could both be back on the field and it’s another week of experience for an offensive line that struggled in Week 1. Injuries and inexperience have haunted that unit since the preseason, but as time goes on — and as the Badgers’ schedule remains pretty light throughout the remainder of the season — it could pull an Ohio State and really turn things around.

The pick: Chris Farley

Hawaii at No. 1 Ohio State, 2:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

There were a couple first-half hiccups, but really Ohio State couldn’t have looked more impressive in its season-opening win over Virginia Tech. Cardale Jones impressed with a trio of touchdowns, and Ezekiel Elliott busted off an 80-yard touchdown run. But Braxton Miller was the star of the show with two eye-popping 50-plus-yard touchdowns, one a catch and run down the sideline, another a long run with a spin move for the ages. The game as a whole was the perfect illustration of how the Buckeyes will likely blow out most of their opponents this season, as there are simply too many weapons. They all happened to play well in Week 1, and therefore Virginia Tech had no chance, outscored in the second half, 28-7. But even if one or multiple of those guys have off nights, there’s so much more to back them up. Hawaii might have beaten Colorado last week, but two interceptions and just 100 yards rushing doesn’t bode well for the Warriors’ chances in Columbus.

The pick: Cardale Jones' Braxton Miller impression

Washington State at Rutgers, 2:30 p.m., ESPN U

This matchup in the season-opener last season allowed Rutgers an impressive victory to kick off its Big Ten tenure. And while you never know what’s going to happen against a team coached by Mike Leach, the Week 1 showings from each team have this game looking like a pretty good chance for the Scarlet Knights to score another win. Rutgers torched Norfolk State by 50 points, getting strong performances from everyone. Leonte Carroo needed just three catches to go for 129 yards and three touchdowns. Chris Laviano pitched all of those TDs, three of his four passes on the afternoon. On the ground, Rutgers got a combined 291 yards and four touchdowns. And Janarion Grant had a kick-return touchdown, to boot. Meanwhile, Washington State lost to FCS opponent Portland State, 24-17, despite out-gaining its foe, 411-294. But the Cougars threw a pair of interceptions and couldn’t produce the points to match their big yardage total. Even with Rutgers’ off-field issues continuing, on the field the Knights look pretty solid.

The pick: BRUUUUUUUUUUUUUCE!

Minnesota at Colorado State, 2:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Another game that makes the Gophers’ schedule extremely tough, a road trip to Colorado Springs is no picnic for visitors. The Rams won 10 games last season, earning Jim McElwain a head-coaching gig at Florida. Minnesota is coming off a Week 1 loss to TCU, the No. 2 team in the country, and in most respects it was a pretty good showing. The Gophers’ defense played extremely well, creating turnovers and coming up with stop after stop. If only the Gophers’ offense could have done something with it. The routinely offensively challenged team continued to be just that, with quarterback Mitch Leidner making a few good plays but not enough to lead his team in an upset. This week, he’ll have to try again. Though playing an FCS team, Colorado State scored a 65-13 rout of a victory in Week 1 over Savannah State, accumulating nearly 600 yards of offense and limiting its opponent to just 183 total yards. A strong Minnesota defense should again give the Gophers a chance to win, but the offense needs to elevate its play to make this a team capable of competing for a conference title.

The pick: The Invincible Iron Gopher

Eastern Illinois at Northwestern, 3 p.m., ESPNEWS

The Northwestern defense should once again dominate after its remarkable performance in a Week 1 win over Stanford. The Wildcats kept a perennially point-producing Cardinal team out of the end zone, limiting it to just six points. And Eastern is coming off its own touchdown-less game in a 33-5 destruction at the hands of Western Illinois. It should be another successful day for the Cats’ D. But this is quite the opportunity for the Cats’ offense, which despite the big win was not exactly a well-oiled machine against Stanford. Now, the Cardinal are always strong defensively, but Northwestern will need some improvement on the offensive side of the ball if it wants to keep on winning as the season progresses. Justin Jackson was his typically excellent self, going for more than 100 yards, but the passing game was shaky under first-time starter Clayton Thorson, whose best play was a 42-yard run. Thorson will be without a few starting offensive linemen this week, making things trickier.

The pick: Dancing Jerry Brown

Iowa at Iowa State, 3:45 p.m., FOX

If the Iowa offense is really a completely different animal under C.J. Beathard, this will be the game to prove it. Last season, this matchup was an ugly one between two low-scoring teams. Iowa blew a 14-3 halftime lead and lost, 20-17, on a last-second field goal when Kirk Ferentz’s attempt to ice the kicker backfired. The Hawkeyes accumulated just 275 total offensive yards in that game under the leadership of Jake Rudock, who threw an interception and zero touchdowns. But now Beathard’s in command of the Iowa offense, and he looked good in a season-opening 31-17 win over Illinois State. The Hawkeyes out-gained the Redbirds by 200 yards and had a nice balance, going over 200 yards both passing and rushing. Iowa State, though, had its own big win over an FCS team, knocking off Northern Iowa, 31-7. So consider this week to be a solid measuring stick of where each team actually is.

The pick: Still Kirk Ferentz in a giant bird's nest

No. 7 Oregon at No. 5 Michigan State, 7 p.m., ABC

The game of the week and maybe the game of the non-conference schedule in college football this season, there’s likely no more anticipated game this September. Last season, these two teams met, and an Oregon win did a lot to wipe out Michigan State’s playoff hopes in Week 2. The Spartans had a lead at halftime after a 24-point second quarter, showing briefly that their offense could hang with the Ducks. But the opposite was proven after halftime, as Oregon outscored Michigan State, 28-3, over the final two quarters to score a 19-point win. The Spartans, of course, have no intention of letting that happen again, and there’s plenty working in their favor. The Ducks lost Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota, giving the Spartans the leg up at the quarterback position with senior signal-caller Connor Cook. Plus, this time the teams will meet in East Lansing. Week 1 isn’t the most helpful barometer, with both teams earning expected wins over weaker competition. As usual, both offenses pack a big punch. If there’s one concern for Michigan State, it’s a secondary that struggled a bit against Western Michigan last week. But Cook and a running game that had a good showing in Week 1 ought to be able to counteract any damage Oregon can do.

The pick: Mark Dantonio's ugly Christmas sweater

South Alabama at Nebraska, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network

There are fewer worse tastes in the mouths of college football teams than the one in the collective mouth of the Huskers following a stunning loss on a Hail Mary last week against BYU. It was a crazy bit of college-football karma after Nebraska beat Northwestern in nearly identical fashion two years ago. But that fluke ending aside, the Huskers didn’t play their greatest. The defense again struggled, as it has the past few seasons under Bo Pelini. BYU amassed 511 total offensive yards. Mike Riley’s new offense proved a tad tricky at times for Tommy Armstrong, though the quarterback’s numbers were still impressive: 319 yards and three touchdown passes. South Alabama provides a perfect step-down in competition, allowing Nebraska to likely come away with a much-needed bounce-back win.

The pick: Mike Riley blows up balloons 

Florida International at Indiana, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network

The Hoosiers could be in for another roller-coaster ride this week after an insane game in Week 1. Indiana beat Southern Illinois, an FCS opponent coming off a 6-6 season, 48-47, winning thanks to a dropped pass on a two-point conversion attempt in the game’s final seconds. The Hoosiers were successful on offense, gaining nearly 600 yards of offense, but the defense was again awful, surrendering more than 650 yards of offense to the Salukis. Great showings for quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard. But not so much for that defense. FIU should have some confidence, too, coming off an upset win over Central Florida. The Golden Panthers — led by former Illinois head coach Ron Turner — scored just 15 points and won on a blocked field goal. But they still racked up 260 passing yards, a number that could balloon against a miserable Indiana pass defense, one that allowed more than 400 to Southern Illinois.

The pick: Ron Turner's revenge on the Big Ten

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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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.