Big Ten

Will the Big Ten get two teams in the Playoff? And should one of them be Michigan?

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Will the Big Ten get two teams in the Playoff? And should one of them be Michigan?

The Big Ten is in a very tricky situation when it come to the College Football Playoff.

Yes, the conference has had a better go of it than any other this season, placing four teams in the top seven of the most recent rankings from the selection committee. That would figure to not just set things up for one of the league's teams to make the sport's final four but perhaps two.

Things get weird, though, when you realize that the Big Ten's two best teams — which squared off in a double-overtime epic Saturday afternoon in Columbus — are not playing for a conference championship next weekend in Indianapolis.

Ohio State is the clear No. 1 squad in the Big Ten. After defeating rival Michigan, it will keep its No. 2 spot in the Playoff rankings, and there doesn't seem to be much of anything that can knock it out of the Playoff bracket, mostly because the Buckeyes don't have to play another game between now and selection Sunday. Penn State won the head-to-head matchup, meaning the Nittany Lions are representing the Big Ten East Division in Indy.

So if Ohio State has a Playoff spot on lockdown — and the same can be said for No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Clemson, should those two teams win their respective conference title games next weekend — who gets that last Playoff berth? It figures to go to a Big Ten team, but which one?

The logical answer is whichever team wins the Big Ten title game: sixth-ranked Wisconsin or seventh-ranked Penn State. Whoever wins, they'll add another top-10 win to their resume, something far more important for the Badgers, who boast No. 16 (and soon to be lower) Nebraska as their best victory. The Lions, meanwhile, have a win over Ohio State. Getting a second top-10 win would all but certainly cement them into the Playoff.

The mystery becomes what the committee thinks between a potential one-loss, Pac-12 champion Washington team and whoever emerges from the Wisconsin-Penn State clash. Ohio State and Michigan have remained ranked ahead of Washington for weeks. But the Huskies could add their own top-10 win in the Pac-12 title game over Colorado. That would become a signature win at just the right time for Washington and perhaps enough to vault it into the final four.

But here's another question: What about Michigan?

The Wolverines lost Saturday in Columbus, and the thinking is that without an opportunity to play for a league title and their now two-loss record there's no way Jim Harbaugh's team could reach the Playoff. But if Ohio State is able to lock up a Playoff spot without a conference championship, will the thinking on conference title apply elsewhere? Michigan is a two-loss squad with a sparkling resume: wins over three top-10 teams in Wisconsin, Penn State and Colorado and a double-overtime loss to another top-10 team in Ohio State. Even whichever team wins the Big Ten title game won't have a resume like that. There looks to be a case made that the Wolverines would be more deserving of a Playoff spot than either the Badgers or Lions.

If the selection committee's appeared preference for the Big Ten holds true, it wouldn't be difficult to see two of the four Playoff teams hailing from the conference. But as for which one it will be, there's plenty left to be determined.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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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.