AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Transfer Payton Thorne has won Auburn’s starting quarterback job.

Coach Hugh Freeze said Thursday that the Michigan State transfer is set to start for the Tigers in their opener Sept. 2 against Massachusetts. Thorne, who signed with Auburn in May, has been competing with returning starter Robby Ashford and redshirt freshman Holden Geriner.

“The reason Payton is getting the nod is just the leadership ability and understanding of the offense,” Freeze said. “He’s been in some really good battles, and it just seems like he was more efficient in the decision-making to this point. Not that the others were terrible by any means. It was not just a slam-dunk.”

Freeze and Thorne are trying to improve a passing game that ranked 119th in yards per game last season, averaging just 173. Ashford proved dangerous as a runner and completed only 49% of his passes while Tigers quarterbacks combined for just nine passing touchdowns.

Inconsistent quarterback play has plagued Auburn in recent seasons and contributed to the Tigers’ sixth-place finishes in the Southeastern Conference Western Division in the past two years.

Freeze emphasized that Ashford would have a role in the offense and said he hoped he continues to compete.

“My gut is saying it’s the time to do this, to get us best prepared for the opening of the season,” Freeze said. “I’m hoping that all three will handle that news extremely well and continue to work.

“I believe with all my heart Robby Ashford gives us an absolute better chance to win the game if he accepts this news and continues to work and develops himself, because he might be the most freakish athlete I’ve ever had at quarterback.”

Thorne was a two-time team captain for the Spartans, going 16-10 as a starter. He left ranking fourth in career touchdown passes at Michigan State, fifth in completion percentage and sixth in passing yards.

Thorne started all 12 games last season, passing for 2,679 yards with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The fifth-year senior, who has two years of eligibility remaining, led Michigan State to a Peach Bowl victory.

Spartans coach Mel Tucker had said the two-year starter was part of an open competition during the spring.


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Entering its final Pac-12 season, Utah has a shot to make a little history before leaving for the Big 12.

The 14th-ranked Utes will try to become the first team to earn three straight Pac-12 championships since the conference added them and Colorado in 2011. Oregon was the last to pull that off, winning titles from 2009 to 2011.

“Three-peat would be great,” coach Kyle Whittingham said. “No one has ever done that in the Pac-12. We haven’t been to the (College Football Playoff) yet. There’s a lot of things we have not accomplished that would be a big step for our program and those two are right at the forefront.”

Uncertainly at quarterback potentially stands in the way of a third championship. Starter Cam Rising is still recovering after tearing an ACL during the third quarter of Utah’s 35-21 loss to Penn State in the Rose Bowl.


The Utes were judicious with Rising in training camp. He worked on his throwing mechanics and footwork but was careful to avoid sudden movements and change in direction.

Whether Rising will be healthy enough to start before the Utes’ season opener Aug. 31 against Florida is unknown. Rising sounded optimistic at Pac-12 media day last month that he would be back in time but was much more guarded when asked recently.

“There’s no timetable,” Rising said. “Talk to the doc and go from there.”

If Rising can’t go, Bryson Barnes would start. Brandon Rose won the backup job in the spring but he is out indefinitely after suffering an undisclosed injury during a team scrimmage.

This isn’t the first time Rising has entered a season rehabbing a major injury. He also missed much of the 2020 season after suffering a shoulder injury against USC.

“It just gets rigorous and it’s kind of tedious because it’s the same thing over and over,” Rising said. “I just got to go attack it each and every day.”

When at full strength, Rising gives Utah’s offense a reliable and dynamic playmaker. Over three seasons, he has passed for 5,572 yards and 46 touchdowns while totaling 953 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.


Ja’Quinden Jackson made a strong first impression after a late-season move to running back a year ago. Now he enters his first full season at the position as Utah’s lead back.

Jackson switched from quarterback to shore up a backfield depleted by injury and off-the-field turmoil. He immediately flourished in his new role. Over his final six games, Jackson ran for 466 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 7.5 yards per carry.

“He’s got the skill set and physical tools that you look for in a running back,” Whittingham said. “We all know what he did for us last year. He was a saving grace in the run game for us last year and he is determined to be even better this year.”

Utah has extensive depth and experience to complement Jackson. Micah Bernard is poised to share the backfield load again. Bernard has rushed for 1,132 career yards with the Utes.


The Utes grew even stronger at linebacker this season by adding Stanford transfer Levani Damuni. He racked up 207 tackles, nine tackles for loss and three sacks in 31 career games with the Cardinal.

The Utah native wanted to return home to play his final college season in front of his mom. She sold her engagement ring when he was a child so he and his brothers could afford to play youth football.

“Money was tight and my mom just did that for us kids because she knows we love the game,” Damuni said. “Just sacrificing something that means a lot to her to help her kids is something I’ll always remember and never take for granted every time I step on this field and strap it up.”

Damuni joins a linebacker group that returns Karene Reid and Lander Barton. Reid was named to the preseason All-Pac-12 first team while Barton was a second-team selection. The duo combined for 118 tackles, 17.5 for loss, and 9.5 sacks in 2022.


Utah opens its season against Florida on Aug. 31. The Utes lost to the Gators 29-26 on the road to open their 2022 season.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chip Kelly has faced nearly every scenario since becoming UCLA’s coach in 2018. The one thing he didn’t have to worry about, though, was who would play quarterback.

After Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s graduation, Kelly enters his sixth season in Westwood with a quarterback competition between four players.

Even though Kelly has not named a starter for the Sept. 2 opener against Coastal Carolina, he isn’t overly stressed about it.

“Someone has to take a snap on the first drive and tell everyone who that will be,” Kelly said when asked if he was getting closer to a decision.

Ethan Garbers and Dante Moore remain among the favorites to win the job. Garbers is in his third season with the program after transferring from Washington in 2021.

The redshirt junior has seen action in 11 games over the past two years. Garbers came in late during last year’s Sun Bowl against Pitt and led the Bruins on an eight-play, 70-yard TD drive that gave the Bruins a 35-34 lead with 34 seconds remaining. The Panthers, however, won on a field goal on the final play.

“Dorian was a starter for five years, and him leaving, there’s a gap that needed to be filled,” Garbers said. “Everyone wants to step up. Whether that’s just saying little things here and there or being a vocal leader all the way around, it’s just a role you’ve got to fill.”

While Garbers has the experience, Moore carries the most expectations. The 18-year-old freshman — and first five-star recruit at UCLA in the Kelly era — was an early enrollee and participated in spring drills.

Moore continues to impress coaches and teammates with his athleticism and confidence.

Wide receiver Kyle Ford said he has seen Moore make a throw and turn away before it is caught, drawing comparisons to Steph Curry after baskets.

“A lot of times, when you have great receivers, you put it in a spot that you feel you release at, you don’t have to watch the play because you know the receiver is going to come down with it,” Moore said. “A lot of times, it’s like that. Sometimes, if I feel a little bit odd, I’m going to stare it down.”

Collin Schlee, who made 11 starts for Kent State last season, and redshirt freshman Justyn Martin have also taken snaps with the first team.

Whoever wins the starting spot, Kelly said he would not have a short leash if that person struggles.

“If you’re a quarterback, you don’t need to be looking over your shoulder. You have to go play,” Kelly said.


UCLA is up to its full allotment of 85 scholarship players, which is quite a change from Kelly’s first season when he had just 57.

“I do want to say it, but I don’t want to jinx it,” Kelly said when asked if this is his best roster depth at UCLA. “There’s not as much experience, but the depth is better. Now it is trying to raise the maturity level.”


The Bruins were ranked 21st in last season’s final Associated Press poll but did not make the Top 25 in the preseason poll. They were picked to finish sixth in their final season in the Pac-12 in the conference’s preseason poll.

UCLA was 10-21 during Kelly’s first three seasons but has gone 17-8 the past two years.


The Bruins are counting on Ball State transfer Carson Steele to come in at running back after Zach Charbonnet left early for the NFL. Charbonnet led the nation last season in all-purpose yards, averaging 168 yards per game.

Steele, who owns a pet alligator named Crocky-J, had nine 100-yard games last season.


D’Anton Lynn, who spent nine seasons as an NFL assistant, takes over as defensive coordinator. The Bruins were 87th in the nation in total defense last season, and their best finish in the past five seasons was 69th in 2020.

Lynn has an experienced unit, led by defensive lineman Laiatu Latu and linebacker Darius Muasau. UCLA and Utah were the only teams with multiple players on the Pac-12’s preseason first-team defense.


After their opener, the Bruins travel to San Diego State on Sept. 9. UCLA opens conference play at No. 14 Utah on Sept. 23. Other notable games include an Oct. 14 trip to No. 18 Oregon State, an Oct. 28 home date against Colorado and at No. 6 USC on Nov. 18. The Bruins bid farewell to Pac-12 play on Nov. 25 when they host California.


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Brennan Armstrong arrived at North Carolina State trying to get a feel for new teammates as a graduate transfer from Virginia.

As for the offense? No problem.

That’s because Armstrong thrived under first-year coordinator Robert Anae at his previous stop, making this one of multiple passer-playcaller reunions nationally — including at schools like No. 4 Alabama, Pittsburgh and Louisville — with the potential for productive returns.

“I’m just trying to be that bridge to connect all the pieces together,” Armstrong said.

Last year illustrated how valuable these reunions can be. Look west to a pair of Big Ten-bound programs, where Caleb Williams won last year’s Heisman Trophy at USC after leaving Oklahoma with head coach Lincoln Riley.

And at Washington, Michael Penix Jr. was a star after transferring from Indiana, where Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer was Penix’s coordinator in 2019.

This year’s teams would love anything approaching that production.

At Alabama, Tommy Rees left Notre Dame to shape an offense replacing former Heisman winner and No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Bryce Young. Neither backup Jalen Milroe nor former five-star recruit Ty Simpson seized control in the spring, so the Crimson Tide landed Tyler Buchner from Notre Dame.

He began last year as the Fighting Irish’s starter before going down with a shoulder injury in Week 2. He returned to lead Notre Dame past South Carolina in the Gator Bowl.

“Ty’s a guy I recruited at a young age, obviously spent two seasons with him,” Rees said. “He provides a little bit of veteran presence in the room and adds competition. I think he’s hit the ground running with the rest of the guys on the team, especially with the rest of the quarterbacks, and it’s been really a healthy transition.”

Pittsburgh had multiple appeals for Phil Jurkovec as he left Boston College as a graduate transfer. One was being in his hometown. The other was offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr., who coached Jurkovec at BC in 2020 and 2021 before taking over Pitt’s offense last season.

“Being able to come home is huge,” Jurkovec said, “but Coach Cignetti was probably the key to it all.”

Jurkovec’s most productive BC season came in 2020, when he threw for 2,558 yards and 17 touchdowns.

“Phil knows these plays,” Cignetti said. “He knows what they look like, he knows what is expected. So if a quarterback has more reps in certain things, he’s going to play faster. He’s going to make more decisive decisions. That’s the beauty of some of these pro-football quarterbacks that have played in the same system their whole career.”

New Louisville coach Jeff Brohm, with his brother Brian as the offensive coordinator, hope for similar in their Cardinals homecoming. They have two transfers who played for them at Purdue: senior Jack Plummer, who spent four years there before playing last season at California; and redshirt freshman Brady Allen, who appeared in one game last year.

Brian Brohm pointed to Plummer’s experience as an asset in everything down to knowing how the staff runs practices.

“I think we definitely can do more,” Brohm said.

“When you have a new quarterback and a new system, you’ve got to slowly put it in and install it, and see how much they can handle and see how fast you can go based upon the quarterback. … Now it’s trying to get all the other players up to speed because we know at the quarterback spot, he knows what we’re looking for. He’s helped everyone else move along a lot faster as well.”

There was also a package-deal of Deion Sanders taking over at Colorado while bringing along his son Shedeur, though that will be under a different coordinator than at Jackson State.

Back at N.C. State, Armstrong offers intriguing upside.

He ranked second nationally in passing (404.5) to go with 31 touchdowns in 2021, a season that included the three biggest single-game performances in school history —- notably 554 yards against North Carolina. But things changed when Tony Elliott took over as head coach and Anae headed to Syracuse.

By season’s end, Virginia’s career leader in passing and total offense had thrown for seven TDs with 12 interceptions in 10 games. He mulled moves to Oklahoma State and Wisconsin before choosing N.C. State once Anae was hired to replace current Coastal Carolina head coach Tim Beck.

“I think anywhere I’ve been, if your quarterback earns trust and confidence in the weight room and in the training aspect, the strength-and-conditioning world, that means a lot to the team,” Anae said. “You’re not just playing quarterback, you’re leading the team. … I do believe Brennan has earned their respect with how hard he works.”

That includes Armstrong having his own open-door policy to discussing an offense still new to his new teammates.

“With what we were doing last year at Virginia, it just didn’t fit me,” Armstrong said. “It was just hard for me to start clicking. And I think this year I’m able to ease up, figure out what I’ve got to do.

“I’m so familiar with it that it’s super easy for me. I’m able to play free and just try to go out there and put the offense in the best position to score.”


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Caleb Williams’ first season at Southern California was a massive individual success, as evidenced by his Heisman Trophy and his status as the consensus top prospect in the next NFL draft.

But Williams has some decidedly unhappy memories of last season, simply because the Trojans fell short of their team goals during their exciting debut under Lincoln Riley.

As a quarterback who stands out both for his talents and for his embrace of a leadership role over his entire team, Williams is determined to lead No. 6 USC into national championship contention when he gets a second chance this fall.

“We’ve got a lot to go get this year,” Williams said. “Everyone has the same goal and mindset this year. A whatever-it-takes kind of mindset to get all of what we want. It’s going to be a good year. Can’t wait.”

The Trojans have taken on another wave of talent as they begin their second season under Riley, whose remarkable rebuilding project still needs plenty of work despite that impressive 11-3 record last year. Riley’s first team stumbled only against Utah, which beat the Trojans twice to win the Pac-12 title, and in the Cotton Bowl, when Tulane rallied from a 15-point deficit in the final five minutes for a stunner.

“We knew that it was going to be a little bit of a journey, right?” Riley said. “This day and age, it’s been talked about a lot, you can build rosters faster than you could before, but you still can’t do everything in one year. It can’t happen. You can make dramatic changes, but not everything. We were proud of what we did in Year One, but certainly very focused on what we felt like Year Two could be.”

The Trojans didn’t have to play Oregon or Washington last season, but both powerhouses (and future Big Ten opponents) are on this year’s schedule. The challenges are bigger, but so are the rewards for a program confident it’s ready to join the College Football Playoff for the first time.


As the world knows, this season is the Trojans’ last in the Pac-12. Their decision in June 2022 to leave for the Big Ten in 2024 precipitated the apparent destruction of the West Coast’s premier conference, putting a melancholy mood on every Pac-12 event in the meantime. USC won seven consecutive Pac-10 titles under Pete Carroll in the 2000s, but has won the league only once in the ensuing 13 years. USC is the consensus preseason pick to wear what’s likely to be the final Pac-12 crown.


Williams is the 12th player to have a chance to win back-to-back Heismans since Archie Griffin accomplished the feat in 1975. Only one of the previous 11 winners even finished as high as second in the voting the following year. Williams is a betting favorite to repeat, but past Heisman winners are typically held to a lofty standard by voters in their repeat attempts, so it’ll probably take a spectacular 12-game run for an injury-free Williams to make history.


USC’s obvious weakness in Riley’s debut was a defense that yielded a whopping 423.9 yards per game and got shredded in big games despite its impressive knack for takeaways. Riley ignored calls for the dismissal of his longtime defensive coordinator, Alex Grinch, and restocked the roster instead.

The Trojans added a wealth of talent in the transfer window, including defensive tackles Bear Alexander (Georgia), Kyon Barrs (Arizona) and Jack Sullivan (Purdue), defensive end Anthony Lucas (Texas A&M) and linebacker Mason Cobb (Oklahoma State). The secondary also was bolstered by Tre’Quon Fegans (Alabama) and Christian Roland-Wallace (Arizona). The pressure is now squarely on Grinch to turn this talent into stops.


Riley’s offense was uniformly outstanding last season while finishing third in the FBS with 506.6 yards per game, and this group appears to be even more talented. Williams is throwing to four of last season’s top six receivers along with vaunted Arizona transfer Dorian Singer and tight end prospect Duce Robinson. South Carolina transfer running back MarShawn Lloyd joined the backfield alongside Austin Jones. The offensive line could have a new look, but should still be anchored by Justin Dedich and Jonah Monheim.


The second half of the Trojans’ schedule is exponentially tougher than the first. The gauntlet starts with their trip to No. 13 Notre Dame in mid-October, followed by a visit from 14th-ranked Utah. The Trojans then face No. 10 Washington, No. 15 Oregon and UCLA in consecutive weekends in November. The biggest flaw in their slate is the second bye, which falls on Thanksgiving weekend after they’ve already played their entire regular season. That’s only a good thing if USC makes the Pac-12 title game the following week — but the season will be a disappointment anyway if the Trojans don’t earn that spot.


2022 Record: 10-4 overall, 6-3 in SEC
Head Coach: Brian Kelly, 2nd year: 10-4; 20th year overall: 179-76

That’s exactly what you’re supposed to do if you’re LSU.

Okay, so it didn’t win the national title. That’s life in the SEC – it’s always going to be someone’s big year or two – but after the 11-12 two-year hangover following, possibly, the greatest season in the history of college football, LSU is at least back in the mix under Brian Kelly.

He might be a fish out of water, and too many parts of his game are cringeworthy, but the man is one whale of a head coach who has the program perfectly set up for the 2023 and beyond.

Remember, the game is about to change. It takes a whole lot of things to go right to finish in the top four and get into the College Football Playoff, but next year the thing expands to 12 – realistically, with a Group of Five champ getting a bid, you need to be in the top 11 – and there’s absolutely no reason why LSU can’t and shouldn’t be in the tournament each and every year.

But first, don’t take for granted just how amazing last season was and what this season could be.

The epic 15-0 run in 2019 sort of made everything else okay, but LSU – this supposed power program among power programs – had just two double-digit win seasons from 2014 until last year. Kentucky and Ole Miss did that, too. And then, in what was expected to be a bit of a reloading campaign, LSU beat Alabama, got to the SEC Championship, and the offense gave Georgia a bit of a ride in a 50-30 loss.

There was the brain cramp at the end of the opener against Florida State – THEY ALREADY BLOCKED A KICK … GO FOR 2!!! – and the team inexplicably didn’t show up in double-digit losses to Tennessee and Texas A&M, but if you told LSU fans last year at this time that the team would win ten games, play for the SEC title, knock Bama out of the CFP picture, and crank the Big Ten runner-up 63-7 in the Citrus Bowl, yeah, they would’ve been fired up.

And with that, grace period over.

LSU is beyond loaded with NFL talent and experience, and it has a head coach coming off his sixth straight double-digit win season and with seven in the last eight years.

It’s LSU. Double-digit win seasons are nice, but 14 and 15 win campaigns are better.

Those appear to be coming again soon.

LSU Tigers Preview: Offense

The offense wasn’t always consistent, and the losses came when the running game didn’t rock, but considering how many young parts were thrown to the wolves – especially on the line – averaging 453 yards and 35 points per game was terrific. And now just about everyone is back.

The line did a surprisingly great job considering it was so, so young and the depth was just okay, but there wasn’t anything happening in pass protection – LSU was the second-worst in the SEC in sacks allowed. The group will be better with four starters back including true sophomores LT Will Campbell – he’ll be on every top pro prospect list next year – and 6-6, 325 RT Emery Jones. Now it has to keep 5 from getting popped.

Jayden Daniels bulked up to 205 pounds on his 6-4 frame and he’s still wiry. The former Arizona State star stepped in and was brilliant, throwing for over 2,900 yards with 17 touchdowns and just three picks. Slippery, he led the team with 885 rushing yards and 11 scores, but the less he takes off, the better. He’s a fifth-year starter who might just be the SEC’s best quarterback – he has to stay in one piece, and that’s why …

The running backs have to take over. LSU has them, and now they need the ball more. Daniels ran 186 times, no one else got to 100. Josh Williams and Noah Cain are solid backs who each averaged 5.4 yards per carry, and transfer Logan Diggs (Notre Dame) is added to the mix after running for 822 yards and four scores last season for the Irish.

It’s LSU. It’s always going to have great defensive tackles, amazing cornerbacks, and elite wide receivers. Kayshon Boutte is gone, but Malik Nabers is soon to be NFL bound – he led the team with 72 catches for 1,017 yards and three scores – and TE Mason Taylor is coming off a whopper of a true freshman season with 38 catches and three scores.

Former Louisiana Ragin’ Cajun Kyren Lacy added 24 catches for the Tigers will take over a bigger role on the outside, and 6-4 Brian Thomas – who finished second on the team with five touchdowns on 31 grabs – will once again be one of the team’s biggest targets.

LSU Tigers Preview: Defense

The defense didn’t get into the backfield enough, the run defense was spotty, and overall it allowed 31 points or more in five of its last seven games of the SEC season. Now it’s about to be a whole lot better as long as everyone up front is healthy and ready to go.

6-6, 310-pound Maason Smith is the team’s best player and a future NFL franchise anchor of a defensive tackle, but he missed most of last season with a torn ACL. On the plus side, it happened right away, he’s going to have almost a full year to heal, and if he’s right, he’s the difference-maker up front who can raise the entire D. Combined with veteran Mekhi Wingo – a 6-1, 295-pound interior pass rusher – and West Virginia transfer Jordan Jefferson, the Tigers have the tackles, but now …

They need the ends to come through with BJ Ojulari and Ali Gaye done, and that’s where the transfer portal kicks in. Sai’vion Jones will be one of the new top pass rushers on one side, and Ovie Oghoufo (Texas), Bradyn Swinson (Oregon), and Paris Shand (Arizona) will all factor into the rotation.

How do you know Harold Perkins might be the best linebacker in college football? Because so many seem to go out of their way trying to make the case that he’s not the best linebacker in college football – at least if you spend time in the social media space.

The 6-1, 220-pound isn’t huge, but the true sophomore is explosive with 73 tackles with 8.5 sacks, 14 quarterback hurries, and 14 tackles for loss. He was relatively steady as a tackler, and then he wore Arkansas as a hat – eight tackles, four sacks – and became a national name.

Perkins can work inside or out, and Oregon State transfer Omar Speights will get to whatever 4 doesn’t. The veteran made over 300 tackles and 25 tackles for loss as a Beaver. Throw in second-leading tackler Greg Penn, and the Tigers are loaded at linebacker.

There’s work to be done in the secondary, but it’s LSU. It’s going to be okay, but it’s counting on former superstar Texas A&M recruit Denver Harris and the terrific transfer Zy Alexander (SE Louisiana) to become immediate factors along with sophomore Laterrance Welch and Ohio State transfer JK Johnson.

The corners will be fine in time, and the safeties will be wonderful with Syracuse transfer Duce Chestnut in to go along with big tackling Greg Brooks and the versatile Major Burns.

LSU Tigers Key To The Season

Run well, and make sure someone other than the star quarterback is carrying the mail.

Jayden Daniels is way too dangerous not to let him do his thing, but he’s also way too valuable to the LSU national title hopes to have him run as much as he did. However, as long as O runs effectively, all will be fine.

It was 10-1 last season when running for 140 yards or more and 0-3 when it didn’t. Brian Kelly’s 2021 Notre Dame team went 9-0 when running for 120 yards or more, and 2-2 when it didn’t.

The 2020 Irish went 9-0 when getting to 140 yards on the ground, and 1-2 when it didn’t. It keeps going – Kelly’s 2019 team went 11-0 when running for 105 yards or more, 0-2 when it didn’t.

You get the idea. If LSU can run the ball, it’ll win.

LSU Tigers Top Transfer, Biggest Loss

LB Omar Speights in from Oregon State, QB Walker Howard gone to Ole Miss. Jayden Daniels is locked in as the No. 1 QB, and Garrett Nussmeier is in at the 2, but Howard was a 5-star talent who would’ve been a good option to keep in the mix in case something happened to the main man. Now he’s being thrown on the pile of 439 other quarterbacks Lane Kiffin is collecting in Oxford.

Speights might not be the flashiest of LSU’s transfers, but he’ll be a rock-solid stat-sheet filler next to Harold Perkins. Great in each of his four seasons at Oregon State, he came up with 304 tackles with 25 tackles for loss, five sacks, and now he should be all over the place for the Tiger defense.

LSU Tigers Key Player

Damian Ramos, PK Soph. He had a nice true freshman season hitting ten of his 14 field goal tries and 55-of-57 extra points, but … one of those two missed PATs was blocked in the 24-23 loss to Florida State, and that came after getting a second quarter field goal batted down. That wasn’t his fault, but that’s the fine line LSU will be walking at times this season.

The other misses didn’t matter, but LSU will be in its share of tight games. Last season four of its first ten games last year were decided by four points or fewer. He might be the difference between LSU being nine-win good and 11-win amazing.



Tanner McKee threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Brady Russell and connected with Johnny King on the subsequent two-point conversion, lifting the host Philadelphia Eagles to an 18-18 tie with the Cleveland Browns on Thursday.

NFL preseason games do not go to overtime.

The Browns had a chance to win in the last two minutes. Cade York missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt, then got another opportunity due to a Philadelphia penalty but missed from 41 yards. York had been 3-for-3 on field-goal tries earlier in the game.

The regular quarterbacks for both teams, Cleveland’s Deshaun Watson and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts, sat out.

McKee completed 10 of 18 passes for 147 yards, while teammate Marcus Mariota was 9 of 17 for 86 yards and an interception for the Eagles (0-1-1).

The Browns (1-1-1) split quarterback duties between Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who went 13 of 25 for 164 yards, and Kellen Mond, 12 of 24 for 126 yards and a touchdown. Cleveland’s Austin Watkins Jr. had seven receptions for 139 yards, including a 32-yard scoring grab.

Eagles wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland sustained a neck injury and was carted off the field in the third quarter. The team later announced that Cleveland retained movement in all of his extremities.


ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs plan to play Patrick Mahomes and the rest of their starters for the first half of their preseason game in Arizona, where they were last seen walking off the field hoisting their second Lombardi Trophy in four years.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said upon wrapping up training camp at Missouri Western on Thursday that the starters would get the first half and backups would split the second half. That’s in line with what Reid has done since the league trimmed the preseason to three games and is designed to help Mahomes and the rest of his guys get ready for the speed of the regular season.

“They have to get ready for the game,” Reid said ahead of Saturday night’s game against the Cardinals, “and at the same time, I think it’s tough going into the first game — the first regular-season game. It’s going to be fast, much faster than you can present in practice. So this is at least another step up from that, another kick up speed-wise to the game.”

Mahomes and the starters played only one series in their preseason opener in New Orleans, putting together a promising drive that ultimately stalled near midfield on a failed fourth-and-short conversion attempt. The second preseason game is closer to a dress rehearsal for their Sept. 7 opener against Detroit, which is why Mahomes will play into the second quarter.

Nevertheless, Reid acknowledged a balancing act between preparing for the season and the risk of injury in a preseason game.

“That’s all part of the game,” he said.

The Chiefs need look no further than last season’s playoffs for proof that injuries can happen suddenly.

Mahomes was twisted to the turf in the divisional round against Jacksonville, sustaining a high ankle sprain that he had to manage the rest of their Super Bowl run; he even aggravated it in the championship win over Philadelphia, limping through most of the second half.

Even if Mahomes doesn’t necessarily need the preseason reps, the rest of the Chiefs offense probably does.

They allowed both of their starting offensive tackles to leave in free agency, and Jawaan Taylor and Donovan Smith are still getting comfortable as the replacements. They also lost veteran wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman, which means the Chiefs could lean heavily on two players yet to take a regular-season snap in Rashee Rice and Justyn Ross.

“I thought those guys got better and better (in camp),” Mahomes said of his wide receivers Thursday. “They learned how to finish and keep that mentality throughout practice. They have a lot of talent but you have to learn how to be consistent every day, and I thought they got better and better at that as they went.”

Mahomes also was pleased with the way Taylor and Smith have worked with perhaps the league’s best interior offensive line, anchored by Pro Bowl center Creed Humphrey with guards Joe Thuney and Trey Smith on either side of him.

“The offensive line did a great job throughout camp just battling,” Mahomes said.

Mahomes was asked Thursday how he would feel stepping on the field in Arizona, where the Chiefs rallied to beat the Eagles in February. But in typical fashion, Mahomes preferred to talk about what the Chiefs must do to get back to the Super Bowl, rather than look back on winning his second championship ring.

“We have a lot of stuff we have to continue to work on,” Mahomes said. “I said it after the ring ceremony, ‘That’s it.’ We’re going to go back and try to get another one.”

NOTES: Reid said the Chiefs have checked on the playing surface in Arizona, which has a history of problems, and were told that “it’s gripping well.” Chiefs DB Trent McDuffie and K Harrison Butker were hurt playing their regular-season opener on the same field last season. … Chiefs DT Chris Jones continued his holdout through the entire portion of camp in St. Joseph, Missouri, getting fined $50,000 for each day he has missed. “When he gets in,” Reid said, “he’s going to have to get caught up.” … CB Nic Jones (hand), WR Nikko Remigio (shoulder), CB L’Jarius Sneed (knee), WR Kadarius Toney (knee), DT Turk Wharton (knee) and OL Nick Allegretti (shoulder) did not participate in practice Thursday.


Reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes is among the favorites for the award again in 2023, and the Kansas City Chiefs are tops in the AFC in projected wins while also checking in as the frontrunners to win the Super Bowl.

A check of preseason odds for the NFL’s top prizes comes up Kansas City.

BetMGM projects the defending AFC champions to lead the conference in wins with an over-under of 11.5, which is even with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Chiefs beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl in February and at +600 are the leader in that futures market at DraftKings and FanDuel.

A rigorous schedule awaits the Chiefs, starting with the NFC North betting favorite Detroit Lions (+140) visiting in the NFL opener on Sept. 7.

But Kansas City is favored to win all 17 regular-season games with odds forecast for the entire season by multiple sportsbooks.

DraftKings has the Chiefs favored by more than a touchdown three times.

Kansas City was heavily bet in 2022 and posted a 14-3 record. But the Chiefs were 7-10-1 against the spread according to

When it comes to close games, the tightest spread the Chiefs face entering the season is Week 4 at the Jets. Kansas City is a two-point favorite. The Chiefs are 3.5-point favorites when the Eagles visit Arrowhead Stadium in Week 11.

The Eagles and San Francisco 49ers are favored in 16 of their 17 regular-season games using preseason lines from DraftKings. The Eagles are favored over the 49ers in their head-to-head meeting Dec. 3 in Philadelphia.


Rookie quarterback Will Levis left Tennessee Titans practice early with an injury, coach Mike Vrabel said Thursday, and his status for Saturday’s preseason game at the Minnesota Vikings is up in the air.

The Titans did not disclose the extent of the injury other than to say it was a lower-body issue. Vrabel said Levis headed to the locker room with trainers late in Thursday’s practice.

The second-round pick (No. 33 overall) is battling Malik Willis for the No. 2 quarterback role behind starter Ryan Tannehill.

In the preseason opener against the Chicago Bears, Willis got the start and went 16-for-25 passing for 189 yards and an interception. Levis followed with a 9-of-14 performance for 85 yards and a pick.

Levis was a popular quarterback prospect coming out of Kentucky, with many analysts projecting him to be selected in the top 10. Instead, he slid out of the first round, allowing Tennessee to draft a player general manager Ran Carthon said they’d targeted.

In 24 games over the past two seasons at Kentucky, Levis racked up 5,233 passing yards with a 65.7 completion percentage, 43 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.


CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon was found not guilty Thursday of aggravated menacing in a January traffic dispute.

Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Gwen Bender acquitted Mixon of the misdemeanor charge after a four-day bench trial.

A woman had accused the 27-year-old of pointing a gun at her as their cars were stopped next to each other at a traffic light. Mixon’s attorneys argued it couldn’t be proven that he ever had a gun in the car.

The woman involved, whose name wasn’t disclosed in court, said she and Mixon yelled at each other angrily after he cut her off in traffic. Mixon contended the woman started the confrontation by flipping him off.

She said Mixon then pointed the gun at her as their cars were stopped.

“This is a classic case of ‘he said, she said,’” defense attorney Scott Croswell said.

If Mixon had been convicted, he could have faced up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“Joe has been a top level running back with multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons, and he has been an even better teammate enjoying real popularity among his peers,” the Bengals said in a statement later Thursday.

“During the past seven years, Joe has been active with the community, and his constant smile and energy have made him a favorite among thousands of fans. The organization is pleased that this matter is now behind everyone, and we look forward to an exciting season with Joe being an important part of the football team,” the statement said.

A second-round draft pick by the Bengals in 2017, Mixon’s best year was the Super Bowl season of 2021 when he rushed for 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Before this season, Mixon agreed to restructure his contract to take a pay cut so he could stay with the Bengals.

Mixon may be facing another legal issue. In March, Mixon’s sister and her boyfriend were indicted after shots were fired from Mixon’s property at some neighborhood teenagers. Mixon was named in a lawsuit filed by the parents of a 16-year-old who was shot in the foot. The civil action accuses Mixon of being negligent.

While in college at Oklahoma, Mixon was suspended for the 2014 season after punching a woman at a restaurant. He apologized publicly and reached an out-of-court settlement with the victim.


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — In the five years since arriving in Buffalo, where his celebrity status shows no sign of cresting, Josh Allen has become accustomed to having most every step of his public life picked over and documented.

It’s not as if the Bills quarterback has much to hide by happily embracing his newly minted public stature and seemingly being everywhere at once. There are Allen’s many commercial appearances, he’s pictured on cereal boxes, the time he was mobbed at the PGA Championship in Rochester, New York in May, and weeks later celebrated landing on the Madden video game cover by attending a bash at a downtown Buffalo bar with hundreds of “Josh!”-screaming fans.

“Who cares about the prize,” one middle-aged man yelled into the microphone when invited to answer a quiz question from the quarterback. “I’m on stage with Josh Allen, baby!”

And yet, there remain those few instances when Allen will draw the line on what he prefers revealing, as happened following a recent interview with The Associated Press. He made one simple request, asking to not publish the name of the actress he’s been linked to recently.

It makes no difference that her name appears instantly in an internet search for “Josh Allen dating,” and pictures of the two having dinner together went viral on social media. And though Allen won’t deny being friendly with the 2011 Oscar nominee, he reacts in mock defiance by saying: “I can’t go to dinner?”

At stake is Allen maintaining one last grip on his private life, however futile that might be for the 27-year-old, who still cherishes growing up in rural Firebaugh, California, and the times he could live in near anonymity.

“I’m from a small town. It’s just not how I operate. It’s not how I was born and raised,” Allen said. “I just kind of want to be in my own world when I can be because every time I step outside, it’s putting on the face and the mask and, you know what I’m saying. So I’m just trying to save that for myself. There’s some instances where it feels nice when I can do that.”

No one was clamoring for Allen when he was forced to open his college career at Division II Reedley or finally attracted a scholarship offer to play at Wyoming. And Allen was still regarded a raw prospect with accuracy issues upon arriving in Buffalo, before he began rewriting the Bills’ passing and scoring records and leading the team to three consecutive AFC East titles.

“The whole focus on the private life is so weird,” Allen said. “I play football. I’m a football player. That’s not what I do. It’s who I am.”

Smiling, Allen proudly revealed he borrowed that line from the movie “Top Gun,” which shouldn’t come as a surprise for a self-proclaimed nerd who often cites movie lines, enjoys spending his downtime playing the board game Catan and whose preferred jokes fall firmly in the groan-inducing teenage bathroom humor category.

Allen, however, is not joking about his passion for football in reemphasizing how his job defines him.

“I know it’s a weird quote, and some people might say the opposite. But I’m a football player,” he said.

For all that’s changed for Allen, Bills center Mitch Morse said the core of his quarterback’s focus hasn’t wavered.

“Nothing has been more important in Josh’s life — of course, excluding faith or family — than football,” Morse said. “When push comes to shove out here, he’s still the ultimate competitor that is looking to get something out of every day. And that’s refreshing.”

Since his rookie season in 2018, Allen has made a point to wander the hallways of the Bills’ headquarters and peek into most every open doorway and say: “Super Bowl.” And his approach to this season is no different by saying: “Every year we step on the field it’s Super Bowl or bust.”

If anything, the passing of time and each painful playoff loss have elevated the sense of urgency to succeed.

In April, Allen notably acknowledged there is a window of opportunity that will one day close. He wasn’t referring to himself as much as he was to his veteran teammates — players such as Morse and safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, who have been in Buffalo since or before Allen was selected in the first round of the 2018 draft.

Allen says he wants to win for them as much as anyone else.

Hyde smiled upon hearing of Allen’s comments.

“I love Josh. I love him — everything that he brings to the table,” Hyde said. “Josh is going to play another, who knows, 15 years hopefully. So for him to be saying that, understanding the urgency for the older guys, that’s a wise move on his part, just understanding the game, understanding and being older than he really is.”

If there is a mask Allen said he puts on in public, it doesn’t hide much.

Allen still makes a point to sign as many autographs at training camp as time allows, because he is still burned by that time growing up when one of his baseball idols turned down his request. His charitable work in the community has increased. As for the Madden cover, Allen reveled in the moment knowing what it meant to him, his family and Bills fans.

Ultimately, Allen finds himself awestruck by having begun to realize his boyhood dreams.

“I’m exactly the person that I wanted to be as a kid,” Allen said. “Just trying to do it the right way, treating people the right way, and ultimately winning as many games and as many Super Bowls as I can.”


ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell said Thursday that receiver Jameson Williams will likely miss the rest of the preseason with a hamstring injury.

Williams’ injury is another setback for the former Alabama star, who was injured for much of his rookie season and will be suspended for the first six games this year for violating the NFL’s gambling policy.

He grabbed his right hamstring while running a pass route Wednesday, left the field for treatment and did not return. He hurt his left leg earlier in training camp and missed four practices.

Amon-Ra St. Brown was also hurt Wednesday, but Campbell said the standout is expected to be back next week after injuring his right ankle in a 7-on-7 drill.


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Russell Gage will miss the entire season after tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee during a joint practice session with the New York Jets on Wednesday.

Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles confirmed Gage’s injury Thursday after the team practiced on its own at the Giants’ training facility.

The news was expected after Gage went down early in 7-on-7 drills with a non-contact injury that Bowles said Wednesday appeared “pretty serious.” Gage appeared to be in tears as he was carted off and tests revealed what he and the Buccaneers feared.

Gage, who had 51 catches for 426 yards and a career-high five touchdowns last season in his first year with Tampa Bay, was expected to be the Buccaneers’ No. 3 wide receiver behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

Second-year receiver Deven Thompkins and sixth-rounder Trey Palmer are among those who could compete for Gage’s spot, along with veteran David Moore and undrafted rookies Rakim Jarrett, Kade Warner and Ryan Miller.

“I think someone has to step up fairly earlier than probably normal, but we still have our top two guys, and we have Thompkins who’s played a lot,” Bowles told reporters Thursday. “We’d like to see somebody emerge pretty soon.”

The 27-year-old Gage spent his first four NFL seasons with Atlanta before signing a three-year, $30 million deal with Tampa Bay in March 2022. He missed four games last season while dealing with hamstring issues, and then suffered a concussion during Tampa Bay’s wild-card round loss to Dallas in the playoffs.

Tampa Bay was originally scheduled to have two joint sessions with New York leading into the teams’ game Saturday night, but the Jets earlier this week asked instead to make it just one practice. Jets coach Robert Saleh cited player safety as being a primary reason, saying injuries and fights usually ramp up during the second session of joint practices.

So the Buccaneers called an audible and were able to use the Giants’ facility – across from MetLife Stadium – to practice Thursday. The Giants were off from practice because they play the Carolina Panthers at home Friday night.

“The Giants were very generous and we’re thankful they let us use their facility,” Bowles said.

NOTES: S Antoine Winfield Jr. sat out practice with what Bowles said was a calf injury.


The Baltimore Ravens have agreed to a contract with cornerback Ronald Darby, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the agreement had not been announced.

The Ravens needed help at cornerback because of Marlon Humphrey’s foot issue. Several other Baltimore defensive backs have been dealing with health concerns as well.

The 29-year-old Darby is coming off his own major injury — to his ACL. That ended his 2022 season in early October after he’d started five games for Denver. He started 11 games for the Broncos in 2021 and 16 for Washington the season before that.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh confirmed Wednesday that Humphrey needed surgery, but he said it wouldn’t be a long-term injury. On Thursday, defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald talked about the injuries at cornerback.

“We do have good players in our back end, and the expectation is to come in and to produce and execute and play the way that we play,” he said. “I’m sure there’ll be pieces moving from here — between now and when we get kicked off — and see where we’re at.”

The Lions planned to play Williams a lot in preseason games because of his regular season suspension and lack of on-field experience. The explosive receiver’s rookie season was mostly lost as he recovered from an ACL injury sustained while playing in the 2022 national championship.

While Williams is suspended, Campbell said he technically can’t get treatment from the team.

“We’re looking into that,” Campbell said.

In what is expected to be his only preseason game this year, Williams was targeted seven times and made two catches for 18 yards.

Detroit traded up to draft Williams No. 12 overall last year, knowing he would miss much of his rookie season. After sitting out the first 11 games, he had one catch for 41 yards and ran once for 40 yards.

The Lions have had discussions about potentially signing another receiver to add depth to a receiving corps led by St. Brown, Marvin Jones, Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds.

“We’re thinking about it,’’ Campbell said.

In the meantime, young receivers Chase Cota, Dylan Drummond, Avery Davis, Antoine Green and Maurice Alexander will have more opportunities this week during joint practices against the Jacksonville Jaguars and in a preseason game against them Saturday.

“We have a spot, potentially two, wide open,’’ Campbell said. “Cota, you want it? Go get it. Drummond, you want it? Go get it.”

Cota, Drummond and Davis were signed as undrafted free agents and Green was drafted in the seventh round this year. Alexander, who returned a punt 95 yards for a touchdown in last week’s preseason win over the New York Giants, was an All-USFL kick returner last year.

“Our eyes are wide open,” Campbell said. “We’re looking for guys.”


FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Dalvin Cook joined the Jets knowing they already were stacked at running back.

The former Minnesota Vikings star intends to make New York’s backfield even better — no matter what his role might be.

“Just be Dalvin,” Cook said Thursday, a day after signing a one-year deal with the Jets. “Just be me. My number gets called, go be explosive.”

That’s exactly what New York expects from Cook, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who was released by the Vikings on June 8 for salary cap savings.

The 28-year-old running back joins a backfield that includes Breece Hall, who was a frontrunner for AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors until he tore a knee ligament in Week 7 last season. The versatile and shifty Michael Carter, the powerful Zonovan Knight, fifth-round draft pick Israel Abanikanda and undrafted free agent Travis Dye are also on the roster.

“I’m the older guy in the room,” Cook said. “Just share the knowledge. I’ve got a lot of experience in this game. Every little thing I can drop on those guys, that I can help them to be successful in this league, I’m going to give it to them. Just be me and help those guys grow, that’s it.”

Cook will likely be playing for another contract next offseason after agreeing with the Jets on a deal worth up to $8.6 million, including incentives. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will have to figure out how to split those carries and try to help quarterback Aaron Rodgers move the ball consistently and put up points.

“I think it’s just another man that, he’s done so much in his career,” said Hackett, who saw plenty of Cook when he was an assistant in Green Bay. “Going against him for those three years, those six times watching him win a lot of games and beat us — glad, he’s on our team now.”

Cook, who’s third on Minnesota’s career rushing list with 5,993 yards after six seasons with the Vikings, visited with the Jets last month and watched a training camp practice. He left without a deal and was weighing his options, but had seen enough to know where he wanted to go.

Especially given the opportunity to play with Rodgers.

“Being on the other side of that the last six years, I couldn’t be on the other side no more,” a smiling Cook said. “I got the chance to go join him and help him win — that was a big thing to come over here.”

Cook, who had shoulder surgery in February, spent Thursday in the trainers area at the start of practice and then watched from the sideline where he chatted with his teammates. He said he’s “right on schedule” with his shoulder and should begin practicing “within the next few days.”

He’ll head home for the birth of his baby Saturday, when the Jets play Tampa Bay in their third preseason game. Cook will then rejoin his new teammates and get to work after staying in shape during the offseason.

“I’ve been working out, I’ve been grinding,” Cook said. “I’ve been sticking to my script.”

Cook’s legal situation remains a bit uncertain as he’s facing a pending domestic violence lawsuit by an ex-girlfriend. He has no concerns, though, he could face a suspension from the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

“None,” Cook said. “None whatsoever.”

Coach Robert Saleh said Wednesday the team thoroughly looked into the situation and felt comfortable with bringing in Cook.

On the field, Cook wants to win a Super Bowl after some playoff disappointments in Minnesota and believes he can help Rodgers and the Jets deliver another to their frustrated fan base.

“Me being in Year Seven, I kind of know that getting to playoff games and losing, getting to championship games and losing, you’ve kind of got that small window of kind of figuring things out and winning,” Cook said. “And I won’t say I could be a missing piece, but I know I can come help a team win.

“I know what I could do on the football field. I know what I could bring to the team. So that’s what I’m here to do. I’m just here to be Dalvin Cook and be explosive and be a great teammate.”

NOTES: Tony Oden, the Jets’ cornerbacks coach and senior defensive assistant, was back on the field coaching but with his left arm in a sling after he was injured during one of the several skirmishes Wednesday between players at New York’s joint practice with Tampa Bay. Oden, who was carted off the field and taken to a hospital for evaluation, wouldn’t disclose the nature of his injury. “Got a little war wound,” he joked. “I’ll be all right.” … Hall participated in team drills for the first time since being activated from the physically unable to perform list Tuesday. … The Jets signed CB Nehemiah Shelton and released RB Damarea Crockett.