Rutgers will join the Big Ten this season and fans have had the Big Ten debut circled for some time. Before Rutgers received an invite to play in the Big Ten, Rutgers scheduled a non-conference game with Penn State as part of a home-and-home deal. As it turns out, that game will now be a Big Ten division game and will serve as the 2014 Big Ten opener and the first Big Ten game in Rutgers history.
The anticipation for the Big Ten debut has only increased for fans in New Jersey, knowing the first taste of Big Ten play will come against the closest division rival o the program. Head coach Kyle Flood knows fans are salivating for the game, but he hopes not to let the opponent steal the show or momentum on what will be a monumental day for the Rutgers program.
“I’m not [concerned], because I think that’s a fan interest and it makes sense because college football is at its best when it’s regional, and the fact that we have a partner in this league to the west in Pennsylvania is going to be great for Rutgers football as we go forward,” Flood said in an interview with the football program’s website. “I know the team, when we get back this week, will be focused on getting better as a team and then ultimately as we start training camp focused on Washington State. That’s the only game we have any control over that first week of the college football season. And the team will be focused on that.”
Washington State is the first opponent on the schedule for Rutgers (in Seattle), but the big picture will be on how Rutgers transitions to the Big Ten in the same division as not only Penn State, but Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan as well. Flood says the impact of being in the Big Ten has already been made and it offers the Scarlet Knights some new advantages on the recruiting trail.
“There is no doubt that there has been an immediate effect,” Flood said. “Locally, and even in some recruiting areas that are non-traditional, it has raised the attraction of Rutgers, because now not only are you in one of the power five conferences but you’re in THE elite academic and athletic conference that exists in NCAA football.”
The move to the Big Ten is exciting for Rutgers, and in time Flood will have to focus on that team from Pennsylvania. And he knows what game the fans are most excited for in New Jersey.
“I think it’s only natural for the fans to migrate toward that (Penn State) game,” Flood said.
Rutgers will host Penn State on September 13, 2014 in a night game. Big Ten Network will broadcast the game.