HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — The Las Vegas Raiders received encouraging news on Jimmy Garoppolo’s back injury.

However coach Josh McDaniels said Monday he didn’t know if the quarterback would be healthy enough to play at Chicago on Sunday.

Garoppolo was injured in Sunday’s 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots, and McDaniels said he was examined to see if “there was an internal issue.”

“It seems like we dodged a bullet in that regard, so that’s good news,” McDaniels said. “We’re still doing a couple of things this morning, and we’ll make sure we do all the right things here as we go forward. But the prognosis is a lot better than it might otherwise have been.”

If Garoppolo doesn’t play against the Bears, McDaniels can turn to Brian Hoyer or Aidan O’Connell.

Hoyer, a 15-year veteran, came off the bench Sunday to throw for 102 yards on 6-of-10 passing.

O’Connell is a rookie who was drafted in the fourth round out of Purdue, and started Oct. 1 at the Los Angeles Chargers when Garoppolo missed that game because of a concussion. O’Connell completed 24 of 38 passes for 238 yards, but lost two fumbles, threw an interception and was sacked seven times in the 24-17 loss.

Though the Raiders likely still need to see what they have in O’Connell, McDaniels said the starting quarterback at Chicago will be whoever gives them the best chance to win. Las Vegas is coming off back-to-back victories to get to 3-3 on the season.

“Always,” McDaniels said. “That’s all we’re about now. This isn’t about anything else.”


PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson has been cleared to return to practice, opening the door for a potential return, possibly as early as this week.

Johnson has been on injured reserve since injuring his right hamstring during a 30-7 loss to San Francisco in the season opener.

The Steelers opened the 21-day window for Johnson and backup running back Anthony McFarland Jr. on Monday.

The Steelers (3-2) have muddled through without their top pass catcher, remaining in the mix in the competitive AFC North despite some serious issues on offense.

Johnson, who’s led Pittsburgh in receptions in three of his four seasons since being taken in the third round of the 2019 draft, said last week he expects to make an impact when he returns.

The Steelers were off on Sunday. They travel to play the Los Angeles Rams (3-3) next weekend.

The moves on Monday mean the team has a three-week window to decide when it wants to activate either player. Johnson indicated he believes he can contribute sooner rather than later.

Pittsburgh’s offense has sputtered through its first five games. The Steelers are last in the NFL in first downs and near the bottom of the league in yards (30th) and points (30th).


Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields is unlikely to play this week due to a lack of grip strength with his thumb, head coach Matt Eberflus said Monday.

“For this week it looks like it’s doubtful. But we’ll see at the end of the week and see where it goes. I know he’s a fast healer,” Eberflus said of Fields playing in Week 7 when the Las Vegas Raiders visit Chicago.

Surgery remains a possibility for Fields. The Bears anticipate knowing whether a procedure in necessary by the end of the week.

Fields dislocated his right thumb during Sunday’s 19-13 loss to the visiting Minnesota Vikings. He left the game in the third quarter after being tackled face-down with his body weight landing on the thumb beneath him.

X-rays and an MRI exam showed no long-term damage but Eberflus said Fields experienced significant swelling that weakens his grip on the ball.

Eberflus said Fields wouldn’t be cleared for as long as it takes for “swelling and stiffness to reside and strength to come back so he can grip a ball.”

“It’s really going to come down to grip strength,” he said.

Backup quarterback Tyson Bagent took over for Fields and fumbled on his first NFL drive, with the Vikings returning it for a touchdown. Bagent later scored on a 1-yard sneak, but the undrafted rookie out of Division II Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., was intercepted to end Chicago’s final drive.

Fields completed six of 10 passes for 58 yards and threw one interception before leaving the game. He also rushed eight times for 46 yards.

In six games this season, Fields has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,201 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. He has also rushed for 237 yards and a score.


Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen will reportedly have more tests on his right shoulder Monday.

Early indications, however, are that Allen does not have a major injury, according to NFL Network.

He briefly visited the medical tent late in the first half of Sunday night’s 14-9 win against the New York Giants.

Allen completed 19 of 30 passes for 169 yards with two touchdowns and one interception against the Giants.

Allen, 27, is completing a league-high 71.7 percent of his passes for 1,576 yards, 13 TDs and six picks through six starts for the Bills (4-2). He has also rushed for 131 yards and three scores.


Through six games this season, quarterback Desmond Ridder has three wins and a number of big-time throws.

But Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith knows the reality requires full context. And that total picture view means pointing out the Falcons’ three losses during which Atlanta produced less than 17 points each time, Ridder’s eight turnovers and 19 sacks, and consistent red-zone trouble.

“I don’t ever want to sound like I’m making excuses, what happened, happened. Macro or big-picture, he’s making some big-time throws,” Smith said. “Guys are open. Clearly, we’ve got to eliminate those turnovers.”

Smith placed both hands over his head and grimaced in unison with assistant coaches on the sideline when Ridder spoiled a chance for a potential game-tying sequence on Sunday. Trailing the Washington Commanders 24-16 with 5:11 left in the game, Ridder was picked off in the end zone by Benjamin St-Juste. He threw his third pick of the game to seal the Falcons’ fate on their next drive.

Atlanta had a chance to improve to 4-2 with a win, but dropped instead to 3-3 and failed to build on Ridder’s Week 5 outing, featuring a career-high 329 yards and game-winning drive in the Falcons’ 21-19 win over the Texans. Ridder had 307 yards passing with two touchdowns.

Smith said he wouldn’t use the word “discouraged” to describe the quarterback play and believes Ridder will respond the right way.

“He’s one of the more accountable people I’ve coached. You can’t deny the passing game has gotten a lot better, but you have to get rid of those critical mistakes,” Smith said.

Beyond Ridder’s confidence, Atlanta is also monitoring the health of rookie running back Bijan Robinson, who is 15th in the NFL in carries with 80 and tied for the team lead with 26 receptions. The No. 8 overall pick had 277 total touches at Texas last season.

Smith said the team will take workload into account.

“You have to be careful,” Smith said.


Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence avoided a serious knee injury and is considered day-to-day on a short week, NFL Network reported Monday.

Lawrence will have an MRI on Monday, per the report, and the hope is that he’ll be able to play on Thursday night when the Jaguars (4-2) visit the New Orleans Saints (3-3).

He sustained the injury late in Sunday’s 37-20 home victory against the Indianapolis Colts, saying afterward his left knee was a “little bruised.”

Lawrence was injured when sacked by Samson Ebukam with 3:04 left in the contest. He reached for the knee after being tackled, was gimpy walking off the field and was examined on the sidelines.

He said postgame he felt “discomfort” in the knee when he hit the ground. He played all but three snaps, the kneel-downs at the end.

Lawrence was 20-of-30 passing for 181 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for the AFC South-leading Jaguars.

Lawrence, 24, has completed 67.1 percent of his passes for 1,439 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions through six starts this season.



ATLANTA (AP) Brock Bowers, the dynamic tight end for No. 1 Georgia and one of the nation’s most versatile offensive players, is likely to be sidelined at least a month after sustaining a high ankle sprain that requires surgery.

Georgia announced that Bowers would have surgery on his left ankle on Monday, two days after he hobbled off the field in the first half of a 37-20 victory at Vanderbilt.

Bowers’ injury puts a damper on Georgia’s bid for a third straight national title – unprecedented in The Associated Press poll era – though there is hope the preseason All-American will be able to return in time for meaningful games at the end of the season.

The school did not provide details on the surgery. But Bowers seemed likely to undergo what is known as a TightRope procedure, which stabilizes the ankle with surgical thread rather than rigid screws and generally reduces the rehab time to four to six weeks.

Former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was perhaps the most prominent college athlete to have the procedure, which allowed him to return just three weeks after surgery during the 2019 season.

Bowers would be the third Georgia player to have TightRope surgery this season. Offensive tackle Amarius Mim sustained a high ankle sprain in mid-September and has yet to return. Tight end Lawson Luckie recently rejoined the Bulldogs after being injured in August.

Bowers, who combines speed and size rarely found in a tight end, leads Georgia with 41 receptions for 567 yards and four touchdowns despite drawing frequent double teams. Lining up all over the field, he also has rushed six times for 28 yards and another score.

In what is sure to be his final college season, Bowers was even being mentioned as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate at a position that rarely draws such attention. The injury surely will scuttle those hopes.

Bowers was injured on an 11-yard run where he took the handoff on a sweep around the right side. On the tackle near the sideline, Vanderbilt’s Savion Riley appeared to land on Bowers’ foot as they tumbled out of bounds.

Bowers pounded the turf in frustration, the first indication that the injury could be more than a minor issue.

“It’s an ankle sprain. We don’t know how severe,” coach Kirby Smart said after the game. “They X-rayed it, and the X-rays were negative. Looked like it was lower, but until we get an MRI, we won’t know any more.”

The Bulldogs catch a bit of a break in the schedule, with Bowers being injured heading into an off week.

But he is likely to sit out at least Southeastern Conference games against Florida, Missouri and No. 13 Mississippi. If a longer recovery period is needed, he might also miss the final two regular-season games against No. 17 Tennessee and Georgia Tech.

Beyond that, the SEC championship game is Dec. 2. If the Bulldogs (7-0, 4-0 SEC) earn a spot in the College Football Playoff, the semifinal games are more than two months away, which shouldn’t be an issue for Bowers.

In the meantime, the Bulldogs are likely to give a larger role to second-year tight end Oscar Delp, who has 13 catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Luckie and freshmen Pearce Spurlin III will also move up the depth chart.


MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin quarterback Tanner Mordecai broke his throwing hand in a loss to Iowa on Saturday and is out indefinitely.

Badgers coach Luke Fickell confirmed Monday that Mordecai’s hand was broken and didn’t set a timetable for the sixth-year senior’s possible return.

ESPN first reported the severity of Mordecai’s injury.

As Mordecai was attempting a pass late in the second quarter Saturday, his right hand hit the helmet of Iowa linebacker Jay Higgins on his follow through. TV cameras showed Mordecai mouthing “I can’t throw” shortly after the play before he headed into the locker room and sat out the rest of the game.

Braedyn Locke was Wisconsin’s quarterback for the remainder of the Badgers’ 15-6 loss. Wisconsin trailed 7-0 at the time of Mordecai’s injury.

Mordecai, a sixth-year senior, had completed 63.7% of his passes for 1,127 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions this season. He also had rushed for 161 yards and four touchdowns.

He transferred to Wisconsin after throwing for 3,500 yards each of the last two seasons at SMU. His 72 touchdowns passes at SMU set the program’s career record. He had enrolled at SMU after spending three seasons as a backup quarterback at Oklahoma.

He has completed 66.3% of his career pass attempts for 8,918 yards and 79 touchdowns with 26 interceptions.

Locke, a Mississippi State transfer, had attempted just one career pass before Saturday. After leading a pair of 60-yard drives that resulted in field goals on Wisconsin’s first two possessions of the second half, Locke fumbled twice and threw an interception while struggling against Iowa’s pass rush in the fourth quarter.

One of the fumbles resulted in a turnover. The other one came on a sack and caused a safety after Wisconsin offensive tackle Riley Mahlman recovered the fumble in the end zone.

Locke ended up going 15 of 30 for 122 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.

“Braedyn’s a very capable quarterback. He has good arm talent,” Wisconsin wide receiver Chimere Dike said after the game. “He’s confident. He has moxie. That’s a young kid. It was one of his first games and he came in and showed that he could help move the ball against one of the best defenses in the country. So I have all the faith in him, and we’re going to rally around him and continue to grow.”

This represents the Wisconsin offense’s second major injury of the season. Running back Chez Mellusi hasn’t played since getting carted off the field with a leg injury in a 38-17 victory at Purdue on Sept. 22. Mellusi isn’t expected to return this season.

Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) visits Illinois (3-4, 1-3) on Saturday.


The Group of Five teams have arrived in the AP Top 25.

For the first time this season, more than one team that plays in a non-Power Five conference is ranked in The Associated Press college football poll. Air Force from the Mountain West entered for the first time since 2019 at No. 22 and No. 23 Tulane of the American Athletic Conference re-entered the rankings after starting off the season that way but falling out after a Week 2 loss to Mississippi.

G5 teams tend to work their way into the rankings at this point in the year, but there could be a dearth this season due to a lack of marquee victories over Power Five teams.

Including the preseason poll, there were three weeks when there were no teams representing the group of FBS conferences that includes the American Athletic, Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt and Mid-American.

Fresno State from the Mountain West is the only other G5 team to be ranked. The Bulldogs had a two-week stint.

Conference realignment is a factor, of course. Three of the American’s strongest programs, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston, moved to the Big 12 this year.

There also just haven’t been the notable upsets that propel G5 teams into the rankings.

The only Power Five teams with winning overall records to lose to G5 teams are Oklahoma State (routed at home by South Alabama of the Sun Belt) and Iowa State (lost at Ohio of the MAC) from the Big 12.

That’s going to be a stumbling block for all Group of Five teams this season. Big upsets like Tulane beating Kansas State or Marshall winning at Notre Dame last year trickle down throughout a conference.

So what G5 team is next to crack the Top 25?

James Madison (7-0) received the most points of any team not ranked this week, but the Dukes will be hard to keep out if they keep winning in a tricky Sun Belt East Division.

Liberty (6-0) received five points this week but getting into the Top 25 is going to difficult for the Flames without running the table. They don’t have a Power Five team on the schedule and Conference USA isn’t providing much of a test.

Reality Check believes a ranking is a reward, and encourages poll voters to keep an open mind for any team that navigates its schedule unscathed or close to it.

No. 1 Georgia (7-0)

Next: vs. Florida, Oct. 28.

Reality check: What does this defense look like against a quality passing game? South Carolina is the best it has faced so far and the Bulldogs had one good half and one bad. Florida, Ole Miss, Missouri and Tennessee should provide answers down the stretch.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 2 Michigan (7-0)

Next: at Michigan State, Saturday.

Reality check: The J.J. McCarthy Heisman Trophy campaign is likely to pick up. Winning every game by 30 holds down the counting stats, but the third-year quarterback is second in the nation in efficiency rating at 195.91.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 3 Ohio State (6-0)

Next: vs. No. 7 Penn State, Saturday.

Reality check: Buckeyes are going to need some healthy running backs this week after they were down to No. 4 on the depth chart last Saturday. Ideally, TreVeyon Henderson, who averages 6.7 yards per carry, will be ready to go.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 4 Florida State (6-0)

Next: vs. No. 16 Duke, Saturday.

Reality check: After Keon Coleman put up 140 yards receiving and a 72-yard punt return against Syracuse, Orange coach Dino Babers said of the receiver: “God was showing off when he made him.”

Ranked: Too low.

No. 5 Washington (6-0)

Next: vs. Arizona State, Saturday.

Reality check: Keeping RB Dillon Johnson healthy is going to be essential for the Huskies. The reliable depth behind him isn’t great and he showed against Oregon he is a valuable weapon.

Ranked: Too low.

No. 6 Oklahoma (6-0)

Next: vs. UCF, Saturday.

Reality check: Sooners are tied for fourth in the country and best in the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 8.67 per game, led by LB Danny Stutsman (10 1/2).

Ranked: Too low.

No. 7 Penn State (6-0)

Next: at No. 3 Ohio State, Saturday.

Reality check: QB Drew Allar is the only quarterback in the country to have started all of his teams games and not yet thrown an interception. Can he keep up that ball security against the Buckeyes while not being overly cautious?

Ranked: Just right.

No. 8 Texas (5-1)

Next: at Houston, Saturday.

Reality check: Want a dark-horse Heisman contender to go with all those quarterbacks? Jonathon Brooks leads all Power Five running backs in rushing at 121.0 yards per game and has a chance to become the focal point of a playoff contending offense down the stretch.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 9 Oregon (6-0)

Next: vs. Washington State, Saturday.

Reality check: The Ducks are 36th in the country in fourth-down conversion rate at 61.5 percent and their 13 attempts rank 41st. In case you were wondering.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 10 North Carolina (6-0)

Next: vs. Virginia, Saturday.

Reality check: The addition of WR Tez Walker (three TDs against Miami), back from NCAA eligibility issues, could provide another jolt to an already good offense.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 11 Alabama (6-1)

Next: vs. No. 17 Tennessee, Saturday.

Reality check: For all the concerns about QB Jalen Milroe’s ability to avoid mistakes, Alabama has the second-lowest turnover percentage in the country at 5.95% of its possessions, according to SportSource Analytics.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 12 Oregon State (6-1)

Next: at Arizona, Oct. 28.

Reality check: Beavers play Washington and Oregon in their final two games of the season. The Pac-12 won’t be decided without them having a say.

Ranked: Just right.

No. 13 Mississippi (5-1)

Next: at Auburn, Saturday.

Reality check: Few offenses are better at breaking off big plays than Lane Kiffin’s. The Rebels are second in the SEC in plays of more than 20 yards behind only LSU, despite playing one fewer game than most of the conference’s other teams.

Ranked: About right.

No. 14 Utah (5-1)

Next: at No. 18 USC, Saturday.

Reality check: Utes found a new offensive weapon, playing starting safety Sione Vaki at running back against Cal, but how far can a team go with one of the worst passing attacks in the country?

Ranked: Little high.

No. 15 Notre Dame (6-2)

Next: vs. Pitt, Oct. 28.

Reality check: Despite the score, the Fighting Irish offense was just OK against USC. They’re just not going to be very explosive.

Ranked: Little high.

No. 16 Duke (5-1)

Next: at No. 4 Florida State, Saturday.

Reality check: Blue Devils made a statement by methodically burying North Carolina State without QB Riley Leonard (ankle). Probably not staying competitive at Florida State throwing 12 passes though.

Ranked: About right.

No. 17 Tennessee (5-1)

Next: at No. 11 Alabama, Saturday.

Reality check: This is a running team now, with QB Joe Milton having thrown just six touchdown passes with four interceptions against Power Five opponents. Fortunately, the Vols are in good hands with RB Jaylen Wright, who needs to get the ball more often.

Ranked: About right.

No. 18 Southern California (6-1)

Next: vs. No. 14 Utah, Saturday.

Reality check: All of a sudden the defense might not be the Trojans’ biggest problem. The offensive line is making it hard to get the best out of QB Caleb Williams.

Ranked: Too high.

No. 19 LSU (5-2)

Next: vs. Army, Saturday.

Reality check: If the Tigers could avoid playing teams with functional passing attacks they would be the best team in the country.

Ranked: About right.

No. 20 Missouri (6-1)

Next: vs. South Carolina, Saturday.

Reality check: Tigers are a win away from having a week off to ponder the possibility of the most exciting November the program has had since it won the SEC East in 2013 and ’14.

Ranked: This is fine.

No. 21 Louisville (6-1)

Next: vs. No. 16 Duke, Oct. 28.

Reality check: After a brutally disappointing loss at Pitt, the Cardinals still have a fortuitous road to the ACC championship. It’s just hard to have confidence they won’t slip up again.

Ranked: Probably should still be ahead of Notre Dame.

No. 22 Air Force (6-0)

Next: at Navy, Saturday.

Reality check: The Falcons finally crack the rankings, but do so with the status of QB Zac Larrier (knee) uncertain after he went out late in the Wyoming victory.

Ranked: Tad high.

No. 23 Tulane (5-1)

Next: vs. North Texas, Saturday.

Reality check: Green Wave are back in the Top 25 and ready to roll, with QB Michael Pratt healthy. He has a 185.4 efficiency rating that would rank fifth in the nation if he qualified.

Ranked: Little low.

No. 24 Iowa (6-1)

Next: vs. Minnesota, Saturday.

Reality check: P Tory Taylor is a weapon, and a frequently used one. He averaged 50 yards on 10 punts and put six inside the 20 against Wisconsin.

Ranked: Too high, but the Hawkeyes are probably just going to keep on winning ugly.

No. 25 UCLA (4-2)

Next: at Stanford,

Next: at Stanford, Saturday.

Reality check: Freshman QB Dante Moore has not improved quickly enough to make the Bruins a viable Pac-12 contender.

Ranked: Too high.


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — The first half of the season went about as well as it could for Penn State. It’s about to get much tougher.

If the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions (6-0) want to maximize their chances of playing for a Big Ten championship, they will need to do something they haven’t done in more than a decade — beat Ohio State in Columbus.

They’ll have their shot against the No. 3 Buckeyes (6-0) on Saturday in the Horseshoe, a place where Penn State hasn’t won since 2011.

“It is another top-10 opponent,” defensive end Adisa Isaac said. “Obviously we’ve been battling these guys for years and years, so this is a great test for us.”

There weren’t many of those in the first half of the season, when the Nittany Lions found different ways to blow out every opponent they faced.

Sophomore quarterback Drew Allar carved up West Virginia in the opener and still hasn’t turned the ball over. Running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen helped the offense run over Illinois, Iowa and Northwestern. Special teams lifted the Nittany Lions to their latest win with a pair of punt return touchdowns in the rain that jump-started them against UMass.

Meanwhile, coordinator Manny Diaz’s defense has been nearly perfect as the Nittany Lions sit atop the country’s total defense rankings and at No. 2 in scoring defense through six games.

Except for its 17-14 victory over then-No. 9 Notre Dame, Ohio State has had an equally easy time with its schedule.

“I feel really good about the team,” Allar said. “I think we’ve done a great job of improving our process each week and just focusing on ourselves and correcting the mistakes we’ve made so far. We’ve just got to keep building on that.”

The process started Sunday when Penn State players gathered to self-scout their previous performance and begin preparing for the Buckeyes.

“We always talk about enjoying the moment, enjoying the win, then taking some time to flip the switch,” tight end Theo Johnson said. “We had a lot of focus and attention this week coming in to this game, and we’re definitely going to have to make sure we have all of our ducks in a row for this next week.”

Historically, that’s usually been the case when these two teams meet.

While Penn State hasn’t won in the series since 2016, each of the last six games has been decided by an average of eight points. The Nittany Lions let a handful of those games slip away after they had controlled the pace.

The Buckeyes overcame fourth-quarter deficits in 2017, 2018 and 2022 to hand Penn State hard-to-swallow losses. Ohio State won the Big Ten in 2017 and 2018.

Penn State’s win at Beaver Stadium in 2016 helped propel the Nittany Lions to their only Big Ten championship under coach James Franklin.

Defensive end Chop Robinson has all but blacked out the memory of last season’s game, when Ohio State’s J.T. Tuimoloau intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown to cap the Buckeyes’ comeback.

“I remember the atmosphere before the game,” Robinson said. “That’s about it.”

Penn State has won 11 in a row since then.

Allar, who grew up in Ohio, said he believes Penn State has what it needs to ready a winning game plan for the Buckeyes.

“I feel like we’ve definitely been battle-tested, we’ve played some really good opponents,” Allar said. “I feel like offensively, we’ve gotten better each week, gotten more consistent each week and we just need to keep building on that. We can’t change our routine based on the opponent.”


• Conference action continues this week, with six Big Ten divisional matchups. Maryland and Purdue will enjoy byes this week, with the complete schedule appearing to the right.

• Four Big Ten teams appear in the AP Poll this week. Michigan leads the conference at No. 2, followed by No. 3 Ohio State, No. 7 Penn State and No. 24 Iowa. The Big Ten (three teams) is the only conference with more than two teams ranked in the top-10 of the AP Poll. 

• A trio of Big Ten teams remain undefeated on the season, as Michigan is 7-0, while Ohio State and Penn State are 6-0. The Nittany Lions look to remain undefeated as they travel to Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday for a divisional battle against the Buckeyes at noon ET on FOX.

• Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State currently rank among the top 20 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The Wolverines lead the nation in scoring defense (6.7 points per game), while ranking No. 10 nationally in scoring offense (39.4 points per game). The Nittany Lions rank No. 2 nationally in scoring defense (8.0 points per game), while ranking 5th in scoring offense (44.3 points per game) and the Buckeyes rank No. 3 nationally in scoring defense (9.7 points per game), while ranking 20th in scoring offense (36.0 points per game).

• Four additional Big Ten teams rank in the top 25 in terms of scoring defense: Iowa (10th, 14.9 points per game), Rutgers (12th, 16.0 points per game), Wisconsin (21st, 17.8 points per game) and Maryland (24th, 18.6 points per game).

• Michigan and Michigan State meet this weekend in the Battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, marking the 116th meeting in the all-time series. The Wolverines lead the all-time series, 72-38-5, and have won 27 of the last 44 games played between the two schools dating back to 1979.

• The Wolverines are averaging a scoring margin of +32.7 across their seven wins this season, the best figure in the country and one of three above 30 points per game (Penn State, Oklahoma). The Wolverines are one of four teams to rank top-10 in scoring offense (10th, 39.4 points per game) and scoring defense (first, 6.7 points per game) along with Oklahoma (fourth, eighth), Penn State (fifth, second), and Georgia (ninth, seventh).

• Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. recorded his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season, finishing with 105 yards on six catches and a touchdown in the Buckeyes’ 41-7 win at Purdue on Saturday. He went over 100 yards for the 11th time in his career, which passes Garrett Wilson and Michael Jenkins, and tied Chris Olave for the second-most by an Ohio State receiver. 

• Iowa’s Tory Taylor punted 10 times for a career-high 506 combined yards, averaging 50.6 yards per punt, in a 15-6 win against the Badgers. Half of his 10 punts were over 50 yards, including two 60+ yards (60 and 62) and six were downed inside the 20-yard line. None of his punts were touchbacks. His 10 punts equaled a personal best, while his 62-yard punt in the third quarter matched a season high. The Australia native ranks first in the conference and fourth in the country in average yards per punt (48.3). 

• Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State have all secured bowl eligibility by reaching six wins this season, while Maryland and Rutgers need just one more win to become eligible. The Big Ten will continue to feature the largest bowl lineup in conference history.

• Seven Big Ten Conference programs appear in the top 20 of the latest NCAA attendance rankings, including the nation’s top three schools: No. 1 Michigan (109,788 fans per game), No. 2 Penn State (108,921), No. 3 Ohio State (102,696), No. 12 Nebraska (87,041), No. 18 Wisconsin (75,732), No. 19 Michigan State (70,981) and No. 20 Iowa (69,250). Additionally, Big Ten teams own 11 of the top 15 single-game attendance highs this season, including the top eight spots.

• The 2023 Big Ten Football Championship Game will be played at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, Dec. 2, at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium and will be televised nationally on FOX. The winner will earn the Amos Alonzo Stagg Championship Trophy and a chance to play in one of the six bowls that comprise the College Football Playoff.

• This season’s Playoff Semifinals will take place Monday, January 1, 2024, at the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl. Houston will host the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday, January 8, 2024, at NRG Stadium. The College Football Playoff matches the No. 1 ranked team vs. No. 4, and No. 2 vs. No. 3 in semifinal games that rotate annually among six bowl games – the Goodyear Cotton Bowl, Vrbo Fiesta Bowl, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Capital One Orange Bowl, Allstate Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl Game.

• Twelve Big Ten Conference students are among the 201 semifinalists for the 2023 William V. Campbell Trophy. Now in its 34th year, the Campbell Trophy is presented annually to the nation’s top football scholar-athlete. Representing the Big Ten as this year’s Campbell Trophy semifinalists are Illinois’ Isaiah Williams, Indiana’s Trey Walker, Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa, Michigan’s Zak Zinter, Michigan State’s Maverick Hansen, Nebraska’s Brian Buschini, Northwestern’s Bryce Gallagher, Ohio State’s Cody Simon, Penn State’s Olu Fashanu, Purdue’s Gus Hartwig, Rutgers’ Mayan Ahanotu and Wisconsin’s Maema Njongmeta.

• The 2023 campaign will feature 99 All-Big Ten honorees (first-, second-, third-team or honorable mention) selected by either the coaches or the media last season, with Ohio State leading the way with 16 all-conference returnees. The East Division welcomes back 56 all-conference players, while the West returns 43. Illinois is the only West team with double-digit all-conference returnees with 10, while each team has at least one All-Big Ten performer returning. 

Saturday, October 21, 2023 Football
Penn StateOhio State12:00 P.M.Columbus, Ohio (Conf.)TV: FOX Stats Radio: Penn State Sports Network
RutgersIndiana12:00 P.M.Bloomington, Ind. (Conf.)TV: BTN Stats Radio: Indiana Sports Radio Network Video
WisconsinIllinois3:30 P.M.Champaign, Ill. (Conf.)TV: FS1 Stats Radio: Badger Sports Network
MinnesotaIowa3:30 P.M.Iowa City, Iowa (Conf.)TV: NBC Stats Video
NorthwesternNebraska3:30 P.M.Lincoln, Neb. (Conf.)TV: Big Ten Network Radio: WGN Radio 720
MichiganMichigan State7:30 P.M.East Lansing, MI (Conf.)TV: NBC Stats Radio: Spartan Media Network Video


Offensive Player of the Week
J.J. McCarthy, Michigan
QB – Jr. – La Grange Park, Ill. – Nazareth Academy/IMG Academy

  • Matched a career high with three touchdown passes, engineering six straight scoring drives with five touchdowns in the Wolverines’ 52-7 victory against Indiana
  • Completed 14-of-17 attempts for 222 yards and three touchdowns, moving to 11th all-time in passing yards with 4,467 career passing yards
  • Marked the first time the Wolverines have scored 50-plus points in back to back Big Ten games since 1975 and the first time in program history with 10 straight games with 30-plus points
  • The Academic All-Big Ten honoree earns his first career Offensive Player of the Week award
  • Last Michigan Offensive Player of the Week: Donovan Edwards (Nov. 28, 2022)

Defensive Players of the Week
Seth Coleman, Illinois
OLB – Jr. – Melbourne, Fla. – Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy

  • Recorded six tackles, 3.0 sacks, 3.0 tackles for loss in Illinois’ 27-24 win at Maryland
  • His 3.0 sacks are the most in a game by any Big Ten player this season
  • First Illini to have 3.0+ sacks in a game since Owen Carney Jr. on Oct. 31, 2020, vs. Purdue
  • Earns the first Defensive Player of the Week accolade of his career
  • Last Illinois Defensive Player of the Week: Miles Scott (Sept. 5, 2023)

Co-Special Teams Players of the Week
Tory Taylor, Iowa
P – Sr. – Melbourne, Australia – Haileybury College

  • Had 10 punts for a career-best 506 yards for a 50.6 average in the Hawkeyes’ 15-6 victory against Wisconsin  
  • Five punts traveled 50+ yards (two 60+ yard punts), including a 62-yarder, tying a season-long, and four that were downed inside the 20
  • His 10 punts equaled a personal high
  • Garners the second Special Teams Player of the Week honor of his career and second in as many weeks
  • Last Iowa Special Teams Player of the Week: Tory Taylor (Oct. 9, 2023)

Daequan Hardy, Penn State
CB – Sr. – Pittsburgh, Pa. – Penn Hills

  • On his first career punt return, Hardy had a 56-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter in Penn State’s 63-0 win vs. UMass
  • Added a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter, becoming the first player in school history to record multiple punt returns for a touchdown in a single game
  • Since 2000, Hardy is the 25th FBS player to return two punt returns for touchdowns in a game and one of two Big Ten players joining Iowa’s Kevonte Martin-Manley (vs. Western Michigan, 2013)
  • Garners the first Special Teams Player of the Week honor of his career
  • Last Penn State Special Teams Player of the Week: Jake Pinegar (Nov. 14, 2022)



MAC Football East Division Offensive Player of the Week
Brett Gabbert, Miami, QB           
R-Jr., St. Louis, Mo. (Christian Brothers)
Brett Gabbert threw for 223 yards and two scores and added a career-best two rushing touchdowns as the RedHawks downed Western Michigan 34-21 last Saturday. The win moved Miami to 6-1, its best start since 2003.
MAC Football East Division Defensive Player of the Week
Davon Ferguson, Bowling Green, CB      
Senior, Baltimore, Md. (St. Vincent Pallotti)
Bowling Green’s Davon Ferguson collected a career-high two interceptions in a 24-14 win at Buffalo. His first interception, disrupted Buffalo’s second-half opening drive after the Bulls had maintained possession for nine plays and 4 minutes and 32 seconds. His second interception occurred with just 2:45 left in the game, a crucial play that helped secure a 10-point victory for the Falcons. In addition, Ferguson broke up two passes and made four of his five tackles as solo stops, adding a tackle for loss.
MAC Football East Division Special Teams Player of the Week
Graham Nicholson, Miami, K     
Junior, Cincinnati, Ohio (Summit Country Day)  
Graham Nicholson was perfect on Saturday in Miami’s 34-21 win at Western Michigan. He connected on both field goal attempts (39, 40) and all four extra points. He added four touchbacks on seven attempts and is a perfect 13-13 on field goals in 2023.
MAC Football West Division Offensive Player of the Week
Peny Boone, Toledo, RB               
Junior, Detroit, Mich. (King)       
Peny Boone ran for 148 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries in Toledo’s 13-6 win over Ball State. Boone rushed for 91 yards in the decisive fourth quarter in which he scored the game-winning TD with 1:31 left in the game.  Boone’s 148 yards are the second-most in his Rocket career and his fifth-consecutive 100-yard outing.
MAC Football West Division Defensive Player of the Week
Alex Merritt, Eastern Michigan, DL         
Senior, Cincinnati, Ohio (Moeller)           
Alex Merritt tallied a career-high eight tackles in Eastern Michigan’s 28-14 win over Kent State, Oct. 14. Merritt, who entered the game with just three total tackles on the season, recorded a career-high three tackles-for-loss, which is tied for the most by a MAC player this season (seventh MAC player with three TFLs in 2023). Merritt, who entered the game with just 4.5 TFLs in his career, joins teammate Chase Kline (Sept. 16 vs. Massachusetts) as Eagles to record three TFLs in a single game this season with both occurrences coming in Ypsilanti.
MAC Football West Division Special Teams Player of the Week
Kanon Woodill, NIU, Kicker        
Sophomore, Plainfield, Illinois (Plainfield North HS)
While dealing with a swirling wind in DeKalb, sophomore kicker Kanon Woodill made field goals of 31, 37 and 32 yards and was perfect on PATs as well to account 11 of NIU’s 23 points in the Huskies’ 23-13 win over Ohio Saturday. Woodill’s 2nd PAT gave NIU a 14-13 lead at 12:54 of the third quarter and he ended the Huskies’ next three possessions with field goals to extend the lead. Woodill’s three field goals and 11 points scored were both career highs.