On Campus: Realigning their stars

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The latest version of conference realignment is about to unfold in the FBS, with the hopes that turning the page will provide a windfall of fortunes for those programs that are moving into a new era.

Vast changes to the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA and Sun Belt should provide some stability to these leagues for the time being. However, there are a few changes in the major conferences that could become relevant storylines in 2014.

LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals are in the midst of their best two-year stint in school history, as they have amassed an astounding 23-3 record over the course of the last two campaigns, including a 12-1 mark a year ago. Despite the record, the team finished second in the American Athletic Conference, conceding the conference crown to UCF.

The success however, came at a price, as Charlie Strong moved on to take the head coaching job at the University of Texas. Star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater left some eligibility on the table to move on to the NFL, as did safety Calvin Pryor. All-American rush end Marcus Smith, the AAC Defensive Player of the Year, joined Bridgewater and Pryor as a first-round selection this past May.

Now the Cardinals will move into the ACC, a conference that houses the defending national champion, as well as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

The school brought back a familiar face in Bobby Petrino, who already had a successful stint at Louisville and knows what it takes to get the team to the next level.

Petrino talked about the similarities to his first stint with the program at the recent ACC Kickoff.

"I've been fortunate both times I came to Louisville to follow two really good head coaches that have done a great job in building the program.

"I felt when I got there with Jonal that the program was in great shape, and all I had to do was take it to the next level. Coming in and following Charlie, he's done a great job of recruiting and teaching the kids how to work hard and win games. We do lose some really good players. There's three first round draft picks that we lose off that team, but we definitely have some really good players coming back and have a good nucleus of talent.

"To be able to go in and compete right away, and obviously moving into the ACC is taking it to a new level."

MARYLAND: The addition of Louisville to the ACC coincides with the exit of Maryland to the Big Ten. The Terrapins won a lot of games under Ralph Friedgen a few years ago and Randy Edsall has been charged with bringing the Terps back to conference relevance. It hasn't been easy, with three injury-plagued campaigns, but Edsall's squads have made improvement each year, including a 7-6 season a year ago.

Staying healthy will be key in the Big Ten. For Maryland, that means that senior quarterback CJ Brown and junior wide receiver Stefon Diggs need to stay on the field. Both are difference makers when healthy and desperately needed to keep the team competitive in a division that includes Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State.

Moving into a new era is nothing new for Edsall.

"We've talked to some of the other coaches, but the good thing for me is the fact that I've been involved with this quite a few times in my career, having gone to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the expansion team, going into the league there as an assistant coach, and then also made the jump from 1-AA to the Big East.

"So again, the biggest focus I think that we've had to have for us making this move is really just finding out who the other teams are and studying what they do, but also what we have to do is make sure that we continue to do what we do and continue to make sure that we get better.

"So that's been our whole focus is continuing to work on making ourselves better and enhancing what we do, but getting an understanding and getting a feel for all the teams in this outstanding league. And I think we've done a good job with that throughout the spring and summer."

RUTGERS: It came along very quickly and almost without warning, but Rutgers was able to jump from the American Athletic Conference to the Big Ten, a move that seems like a coup for the Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers reached new heights under Greg Schiano and Kyle Flood. The team has been to three straight bowl games and eight in the last nine years overall. The Knights' last season in the AAC was a mixed bag, finishing 6-7 overall, including a 29-16 setback to Notre Dame in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Flood will pin his hopes on senior quarterback Gary Nova to lead the charge into 2014. Nova has 28 career starts under his belt and ranks third all-time in school history in TD passes, with 51. He could flourish individually under new offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen.

Overall though, the team may struggle in its new conference this year, as the schedule is brutal to say the least, including a gauntlet of showdowns with Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan State.

Flood addressed the schedule at the Big Ten media days.

"We're looking forward to competing for championships. And if that's what the schedule is to give us an opportunity to compete for a championship, then we certainly look forward to it.

"I think to have some of the more storied programs in the history of college football in your conference and to play them on a year-in, year-out basis because they're in your division, I think we welcome that. We're looking forward to that test."

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