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Rutgers focused on Big East title, not Big 10 move

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Rutgers focused on Big East title, not Big 10 move

PITTSBURGH (AP) Senior linebacker Khaseem Greene will be long gone before Rutgers ever takes a snap as a member of the Big Ten.

Forgive Greene if he's not exactly caught up in the hype surrounding the school's decision to bolt the Big East for more stable ground in 2014.

``At the end of the day, we ain't winning no Big Ten championship this year,'' Greene said.

The Big East, however, is another matter entirely.

The 21st-ranked Scarlet Knights (9-1, 5-0 Big East) can clinch at least a share of the conference title with a victory Saturday in Pittsburgh. Heady territory for a program that's been playing football for 143 years.

It's a benchmark Rutgers was on the verge of reaching a year ago, only to lose to Connecticut in the regular season finale. The memory still stings, though the Scarlet Knights believe it can also be an important reminder on not overlooking anyone, particularly the Panthers (4-6, 1-4).

``We can learn a lot from that (Connecticut loss) and understand that every team is dangerous and every team has good players and if you're not ready to go and don't take a team seriously they can come up and surprise you,'' senior defensive tackle Scott Vallone said.

Something the Panthers (4-6, 1-4) have done a couple of times this season. They stunned Virginia Tech in September when the Hokies were still considered dangerous and nearly knocked off top-ranked Notre Dame last month, falling in triple overtime.

Like Rutgers, Pitt is making a beeline for another conference. The Panthers will join the ACC next fall. Like Rutgers, Pitt is hoping to maximize its final days in the conference it has called home for the last two decades, even if the Panthers' goals at this point are a bit more modest than vying for a Bowl Championship Series berth.

Pitt needs to win each of its final two regular season games to become bowl eligible for a fifth straight season. It's not exactly the conference title the Panthers talked about in August, but it's something.

``We're definitely in touch with reality and what we have to do,'' wide receiver Devin Street said. ``We know we have to beat Rutgers. We know we have to beat South Florida, too. It's something we want to do for the seniors.''

A class that has seen more than its fair share of tumult. The Panthers have burned through four head coaches - six if you count a pair of interims - and more than a handful of missed opportunities over the last four years.

They believe they're heading in the right direction under first-year coach Paul Chryst, who has won the locker room over with his straightforward approach. It's only a matter of time, they figure, before winning games follows suit.

``The older guys we talk about it all the time, we hope (Chryst) stays around for a long time,'' senior center Ryan Turnley said. ``We think he can take this program to great heights. We think he's a great coach. We've had a lot of coaches and he's going to take Pitt where everyone wants to see.''

Delaying Rutgers' party for at least a week would be a step in the right direction.

Good luck with that.

The Scarlet Knights have been the Big East's biggest surprise, riding a dominant defense that has overcome the flurry of mistakes by sophomore quarterback Gary Nova, who has turned it over 11 times in the last four games. Save for a peculiar - not to mention stunning - upset loss to Kent State, Rutgers has been the steadiest team in a conference where teams look either great or awful from week to week.

The goal now is to not get caught looking ahead. A showdown with Louisville looms next weekend. First things first, however. And the Scarlet Knights can add a very big first if they can win their final meeting with Pitt for the foreseeable future.

``Obviously, we want to finish it up and be the lone Big East champions but we know that if we win this week we accomplish something that has never happened in school history,'' Nova said. ``It's an accomplishment in itself but as a team, as competitors, we want to play in a BCS bowl game and represent this school.''

Pitt didn't begin the season talking about playing spoiler. It's a role, however, they've relished in years past, none more memorable than an upset of rival West Virginia in 2007 that derailed the Mountaineers' hopes for a national title.

The stakes aren't quite as high this time, but the Panthers would love nothing more than to start building some forward momentum heading into the ACC while sending the 18 seniors out with a victory in their final home game.

``We're playing for the coaches, and we're playing for us as a team,'' defensive lineman Aaron Donald said. ``So, it would be great to win these last two games to be bowl eligible and give these seniors a bowl to go out with. That's why we're working so hard this week. We still have a lot to accomplish this season.''

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Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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4 prospects Baltimore Ravens fans should be keeping an eye on in 2019 NFL Draft

4 prospects Baltimore Ravens fans should be keeping an eye on in 2019 NFL Draft

The Baltimore Ravens will add to their historic franchise this weekend during the 2019 NFL Draft. All eyes will be set on who they take with their first pick, whether that's at No. 22 or beyond. 

With a handful of needs, which prospects should you be aware of? Here are four players projected to possibly land with the Ravens Thursday night.

WR D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi

Metcalf grabbed the attention of the football world during the NFL Combine, running a 4.33 40-yard dash and posting a 40.5 vertical jump. The jury is still out, however, on how he'll pan out in the NFL. Metcalf missed part of the 2018 season with a neck injury and a foot injury derailed his 2016 season after just two games. Metcalf admitted that his history of injuries was brought up often when meeting with NFL teams, and his apparent 1.9% body fat simply isn't healthy, according to a combine trainer. Nonetheless, draft experts have the receiver as a top option for the Ravens. 

DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson

The Ravens are going to need some help on defense after losing Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith in free agency. Ferrell had 38 tackles for loss and 21 sacks over the last two seasons with the National Champions. Standing at 6'4", 264 pounds, the defensive end's combine profile describes him as having "prototypical size, length and strength to offer early help against both the run and pass."

C/G Erik McCoy, Texas A&M

The Ravens could be looking for their center of the future. McCoy earned a starting role with the Aggies during the 2016 season, starting all 16 games after redshirting his freshman season. In his sophomore season, McCoy helped Texas A&M average 406.8 yards per game. From 2016-19, the center helped his team rush for over 2,000 yards. A talent like that could be extremely helpful with Lamar Jackson under center. 

WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma

Another wide receiver in the mix, Brown averaged more than 18 yards per reception over two years at Oklahoma, racking up 1,300 yards with 10 touchdowns on 75 receptions in 2018 alone. Nicknamed "Hollywood," the 21-year-old's speed and ability to threaten deep "gives him a chance to become the most impactful wideout in this draft."

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

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Report: Dwayne Haskins is the Redskins' 'target' for solving QB issue

Report: Dwayne Haskins is the Redskins' 'target' for solving QB issue

It'd be borderline shocking if the Redskins didn't add a quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft, and with the first round coming Thursday, one report suggests the team is interested in doing so with a top pick.

ESPN's Dianna Russini tweeted Wednesday that "sources have indicated Dwayne Haskins is [Washington's] target despite multiple holes at several positions on this roster." She then added that the 'Skins aren't talking to the Cardinals about Josh Rosen.

Now, the question for the Redskins becomes: If Haskins is their target, will they have to move up in the order to get him?

Insider JP Finlay wrote Wednesday the franchise could be willing to make a big leap up to pick No. 3 if Kyler Murray isn't taken first overall. So, you'd think they'd be willing to do the same for Haskins, whether that means swapping with the Jets to get the Ohio State passer third or with another organization if Haskins slips lower.

There's also a chance he lasts until the 15th pick, but that's far from certain. The front office may not feel comfortable enough to wait for him to fall.

A combination of Colt McCoy and Case Keenum could get the Redskins through the 2019 season, but neither sets the squad up for long-term success under center. Haskins could, although he started just one year for the Buckeyes and Jay Gruden has said this offseason how valuable experience is for signal callers entering the pros. 

There should be plenty of appealing prospects available for Washington when it's their turn on the clock. However, landing a QB on a rookie deal would be the most impactful acquisition if that guy pans out. So, if Haskins really is the "target" as reported, look for them to be aggressive in chasing him.

For an in-depth look at Haskins' development and life, check out NBC Sports Washington's "I am The Prospect: Dwayne Haskins."

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