Rivalries Do Matter

During this crazy week of conference realignment and rumors, football coaches in the Big East and other leagues have urged their players to remain focused and not allow themselves to become distracted.

Or in the words of the coaches, "We have a game to play and we can only control the things we can control."

That would be winning and/or losing.

Believe it or not, the players at all these schools can't avoid the rumors, statements and reports any more than the rest of us. In the end, they are impacted by the decisions made by presidents, chancellors and athletic directors, who may or may not take into consideration class schedules, travel time, and the competitive changes that result from realignment.

Players spend a lot of time watching sports reports on TV and reading stories on the Internet. And they have questions. Connecticut senior center Moe Petrus is one of those players.

"It's interesting to see that Syracuse and Pitt are defecting to the ACC and it will be interesting to see what happens with the Big East," Petrus said. "You've been hearing about this expansion for years. They are talking about super conferences and 16 teams in each conference.

"It is what it is. I'm just worried about the next game. I don't think about that stuff too much."

Petrus does admit conference games have a certain amount of added excitement and that his intensity level rises for rivalry games. Syracuse and Pitt were among the teams he looked forward to playing every season.

"Yeah, absolutely," Petrus said. "It adds some storyline to the game, some fuel and excitement to the game.

"For me personally, my biggest rival is Rutgers. We don't even fly to Rutgers. We drive there; it's so close. It doesn't feel like you are going on a big trip. It's a bus ride. And I haven't beaten them since I've been starting. So that's another thing.

"Being on a bus gives you three hours to think about the game. On a plane, you've got TVs and other things to distract you."

Petrus redshirted in 2007, when the Huskies defeated Rutgers 38-19. Since then the Huskies have fallen to the Scarlet Knights 12-10, 28-24 and 27-24. Petrus is well aware that Rutgers comes to Rentschler Field on Nov. 26 and it's a game he really wants to win.

"Oh, absolutely," he said. "And I think it's senior day too."

That it is. But, remember, Petrus isn't looking ahead. He said all of his attention this week is focused on Buffalo. UConn plays the Bulls Saturday at 6 p.m. in Buffalo.

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