Rutgers fans focus on Penn State, but Kyle Flood focused on Big Ten

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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.

LOOK: Jim Harbaugh hooks Pope Francis up with Michigan helmet, pair of Jordans

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There’s a series of words I’d never imagined I’d string together in a headline.

As you may have heard, Jim Harbaugh has taken his Michigan football team to Italy for an offseason European vacation.  As part of the trip, the team is in the Vatican City today and took in the Pope’s Wednesday address to the masses in St. Peter’s Square — the players and athletic director Warde Manuel sat amongst the crowd while the head coach and his wife were seated on the same stage as Pope Francis.

Following the address, and after a wait of nearly a half-hour, Harbaugh was able to meet with and speak to His Holiness.  The coach didn’t come empty-handed, either, as Pope Francis was gifted with a Michigan football helmet and a pair of Air Jordans.  Michigan-themed, of course.

“This is as good as it gets,” Harbaugh said according to mlive.com after his meeting with the pope. “This has been the experience of my lifetime.”

Tulane turns to Jonathan Banks as starter at QB

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Last season, there was just one FBS team — Army and its triple-option (967) — that passed for fewer yards than Tulane’s 1,360.  Tulane’s team passing efficiency rating of 93.12 was 128th of the 128 teams at this level of football.  Their completion percentage of 42.2 was, again, 128th in the FBS.  Their 5.3 yards per attempt was… 127th.

This season, the Green Wave’s passing hopes in a run-heavy offense will likely land on the shoulders of a junior college transfer.

Throughout the spring, Jonathan Banks had taken the majority of reps with the first-team offense.  Tuesday, Willie Fritz confirmed that Banks will be his starter under center heading into summer camp and, presumably, for the program’s season opener against Grambling at home Sept. 2.

At least for now, Banks has staked his claim to the job after a competition that included Glen Cuiellette and Jonathan Brantley, the starter and backup, respectively, last season.

“He did a good job this spring picking things up,” the head coach said according to nola.com. “We evaluated practices 1 through 15 and I thought, for a guy coming into a new situation, he did a very good job. He provides us with both a passing and a running threat, which in our offense you need to have.

“We’re excited about his development.”

Drew O’Bryan leaves Western Kentucky, drops down to FCS level

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Another day, another FBS player has transitioned away from his first college football home.

On his personal Twitter account recently, Drew O’Bryan acknowledged his decision to transfer from Western Kentucky. Additionally, he announced his next destination for good measure — Eastern Kentucky.

The linebacker said he made the decision “[a]fter talking with my family and many prayers.”

As EKU plays at the Football Championship Subdivision level, O’Bryan will be eligible to play immediately for the Colonels in 2017.

O’Bryan was a two-star member of WKU’s 2016 recruiting class, rated as the No. 18 player at any position in the state of Kentucky. He took a redshirt as a true freshman.

Pair of Alabama defenders undergo surgery after Tide’s spring game

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Alabama’s spring game wrapped up on Saturday and with it, the last of the Crimson Tide’s spring practices. While that means the coaching staff is free to fly across the country to visit recruits during the evaluation period, it also results in several players going under the knife to correct injuries in order to be back by fall camp.

Two of those players are starting cornerback Anthony Averett and (likely starting) linebacker Christian Miller, both of whom underwent sports hernia surgery this week according to AL.com.

The report states that Averett played with the hernia most of last season while the Tide marched their way to the national title game. Miller was one of the stars of the show on Saturday during Alabama’s spring game, recording two sacks while dealing with the injury.

Both are expected to be fully healthy for camp in August as Nick Saban and company vie for yet another conference title and berth in the College Football Playoff.