Big Ten

Is this the year of the return man in the Big Ten?

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Is this the year of the return man in the Big Ten?

Only one player in college football has two kickoff-return touchdowns through the first two weeks of the season. Only one player in college football has two punt-return touchdowns through the first two weeks of the season.

Those two players both play in the Big Ten.

Yes, through the season's first two games, the conference boasts college football's best kick returner and college football's best punt returner.

Maryland's Will Likely is no surprise, coming into the season expected to be one of the nation's finest return men. He's already racked up 315 punt-return yards and a punt-return touchdown in each of Maryland's first two games. That ridiculous punt-return yardage total is a full 166 more than the country's next-best guy. Likely broke a 70-something-year-old record with his 233 punt-return yards in Week 1.

Here's his return TD from Saturday's loss to Bowling Green.

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten Power Rankings: Spartans score season's most impressive win]

But the Big Ten is dominating the kickoff-return game right now, too. Rutgers' Janarion Grant is the only player in the country with a pair of kickoff-return touchdowns, both taken to the house during the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss to Washington State. Grant has a total of 312 kickoff-return yards on just nine attempts. His two touchdowns Saturday went for a combined 155 yards, the second giving Rutgers a four-point lead with a minute and a half remaining.

Grant had a mind-blowing 337 all-purpose yards in that game.

It's only been a couple weeks, but Likely and Grant could make this the year of the return man in 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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USA TODAY

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.