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Spinal condition forces Northwestern’s leading rusher to retire

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Harsh and decidedly unexpected news coming out of Evanston Monday afternoon will have a significant impact on Northwestern’s football team moving forward.

The football program confirmed earlier today that Jeremy Larkin will be forced to retire from the game of football as a result of a recent diagnosis of cervical stenosis.  The good news is that the condition is not considered life-threatening even as it precludes any future participation in the sport.

Obviously, the sophomore running back’s decision to retire, which came as the football program was coming off its one bye weekend of the season, is effective immediately.

“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,” said Larkin in a statement. “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.”

“This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete,” head football coach Pat Fitzgerald. “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.”

Through three games, Larkin’s 346 yards rushing were easily tops on the Wildcats.  In fact, Larkin currently accounts for an astounding 98.6 percent of the Wildcats’ 351 rushing yards as a team.  Additionally, he has five of their seven rushing touchdowns on the season.

Northwestern will open up Big Ten play this weekend as they host No. 14 Michigan.

Virginia Tech QB Josh Jackson set for surgery, out indefinitely

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Virginia Tech’s embarrassing weekend came with a rather substantial personnel loss.

This past Saturday, starting quarterback Josh Jackson went down with a lower-leg injury in then-No. 13 Tech’s historic loss to Old Dominion; it was the Conference USA program’s first-ever win over a Power Five school after nine straight such losses over the last decade.

Monday, the Hokies’ worst fears were realized as Justin Fuente confirmed that Jackson suffered a fractured left fibula during the game and will be sidelined indefinitely.  The signal-caller is set to undergo surgery on Tuesday to repair the damage.

This season prior to the injury, Jackson completed a little over 62 percent of his 58 passes for 575 yards, five touchdowns and an interception.  His 170.3 pass efficiency rating is currently 18th nationally and second among ACC quarterbacks (Boston College’s Anthony Brown, 175.5).

With Jackson sidelined for the foreseeable future, the keys to Tech’s offense will be handed off to Ryan Willis.  The Kansas transfer had to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, and has attempted 25 passes for the Hokies this season.  In that limited action thus far, he has thrown for 195 yards and a touchdown.

The good news is that Willis isn’t exactly new to the starting game at the collegiate level.

Willis started two games during the 2016 season; after throwing three interceptions in each of those mid-October starts, Willis was benched and never played another down for the Jayhawks. In his first season in Lawrence in 2015, Willis set a KU freshman record by throwing for 1,719 yards and nine touchdowns as part of his eight starts.

“I feel badly for Josh,” Fuente said in comments distributed by the school earlier today. “He’s a competitive, tough young man. He just kind of got landed on wrong on the play, but know he’ll come back better than ever.

“We turn to Ryan Willis and he performed pretty well last week when he went in there. He’s competitive and he’s been training and working for this opportunity and it’s up to everyone else to step up their game as well and help him out and support him.”

Nick Bosa’s parents indicate star Ohio State DE won’t even be reevaluated until November

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Instead of when will Ohio State gets it’s star defensive end back, perhaps the question should be will they.

Nick Bosa suffered a core muscle injury in the Week 3 win over TCU, with surgery subsequently confirmed by head coach Urban Meyer that left the All-American defensive lineman’s availability in the near future up in the air.  Not long after Meyer confirmed Monday that Bosa would indeed miss this weekend’s huge matchup with Penn State, both of the third-year junior’s parents indicated that it could be quite a while, if at all, before their son returns to the playing field — at least at the collegiate level.

John Bosa told the Columbus Dispatch “the reality of what’s going on [is that] Nick won’t be evaluated by the surgeon until November”; Cheryl Bosa stated as much to ESPN.com as well.

While Bosa’s head coach stated that “we expect him back” this season, his mom intimated there’s a chance her son, widely expected to be a Top Five pick in the 2019 NFL draft if/when he leaves OSU early, could opt not to return at all in 2018.

“Cheryl said her son wants to return for Ohio State this season,” ESPN.com wrote, “but that they’ll discuss his situation (NFL) as a family before making a decision.”

Regardless of whether he returns to the Buckeyes or not, the good news is that, per the father, the injury “is 100-percent fixable.”

OSU will play four regular season games in the month of November: Nebraska (Nov. 3), at Michigan State (Nov. 10), at Maryland (Nov. 17) and Michigan (Nov. 24).  The Big Ten championship game is set for Dec. 1.

It’s unclear if Bosa’s decision will be impacted by the Buckeyes qualifying for the conference title game or, further down the road, the College Football Playoffs if they’re one of the four semifinalists.

No. 15 Oklahoma State one of five ranked teams to lose to unranked teams in Week 4

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Especially when it comes to the middle of the rankings, it was a brutal Week 4 for ranked teams.  The most recent example: No. 15 Oklahoma State.

Coming off a huge Week 3 win over then-No. 17 Boise State, OSU was expected to handle business against Texas Tech in Stillwater — oddsmakers had installed them as essentially a 14-point favorite.  Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the game is played on the field and not on a betting slip as the Red Raiders stunned the previously-unbeaten OSU in a 41-17 win at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Alan Bowman, the true freshman who passed for 60-plus yards a week ago, was “held” to 397 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win that pushed the Red Raiders’ record to 3-1.  Tech also took advantage of its hosts in the running game as they gouged the Cowboys, who came into the game seventh nationally in run defense at 74 yards per game, for 224 yards and three of its touchdowns; OSU had allowed just one rushing touchdowns in its first three games combined.

Including OSU, five ranked teams lost to unranked teams in Week 4*.  In fact, just one of the teams ranked between Nos. 13-17 came out of the week unscathed — No. 16 UCF.  The others?  Not nearly as fortunate.

  • No. 13 Virginia Tech — lost 49-35 to Old Dominion.
  • No. 14 Mississippi State — lost 28-7 to Kentucky.
  • No. 15 Oklahoma State — well, ya know.
  • No. 17 TCU — lost 31-16 to Texas.

Throw in a 30-13 loss by No. 23 Boston College to Purdue, and there’s certain to be quite a bit of movement when the Associated Press Top 25 is released Sunday afternoon.

(*No. 10 Washington is currently playing Arizona State and, as of this posting, holds a slim 17-10 lead at halftime.)

After knocking off No. 14 Mississippi State, Kentucky is now 2-0 in SEC play for first time since 1977

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This is shaping up to be a very historic season for the Kentucky football program.

Earlier this month, Kentucky snapped its 31-game losing streak to Florida, beating the Gators for the first time since the 1986 season.  Two weeks later, UK scored 21 second-half points to stun No. 14 Mississippi State 28-7 in Lexington.

First and foremost, the unbeaten Wildcats are now 2-0 in SEC play for the first time since 1977.  1977!!!  The 4-0 start to the season is also its best since 2008; that’s also one year after the last season in which the Wildcats were ranked in football, which should change come Sunday afternoon.

And, finally, with the win tonight as well as the win over then-No. 25 Florida, Kentucky has now won back-to-back games for the first time since the 1977 season.

While there’s still a lot of work left to do — they still have South Carolina, Texas A&M, Georgia and Tennessee on the schedule (OK, maybe not the Vols) — Big Blue Nation could be set up to party like its 2006-07.  Or, perhaps, like it’s 1976-77?