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New football head coaches in place at Michigan State, Rutgers as they meet to open season

Michigan State wide receiver Cody White, left, makes a catch in front of Rutgers defensive back Tre Avery on Nov. 23 in Piscataway, N.J. (AP file photo)

Mel Tucker is starting a new challenge at Michigan State. Greg Schiano is resuming an old one at Rutgers.

With so much change this past offseason, neither coach necessarily knows what to expect in Saturday’s opener.

“As I keep telling the team, whether you’re ready or not, we’re going to kick the ball off at noon and we need to be ready,” Schiano said. “As we get into game week now, I mean, this is it. This is why you coach.”

The Spartans host the Scarlet Knights in a matchup between programs that could use a jolt. MSU accomplished a lot during Mark Dantonio’s tenure, but the team slipped over the past few seasons and Dantonio retired in February. The Spartans hired Tucker away from Colorado.

“This is the time of the season when you start to get those text messages from your colleagues and friends and family, wishing you all the best for the first game and wishing you all the best for the season,” Tucker said. “I reflect on my mentors and people that have had a positive impact on my life on a daily basis.”

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, right, runs out on to the Michigan Stadium field alongside the school mascot, Sparty, before a game against Michigan in Ann Arbor on Oct. 20, 2012. Dantonio announced his retirement on Feb. 4, ending a 13-year run in which he guided the Spartans to heights they hadn't reached in decades. (AP file photo)

At the end of Schiano’s first stint as coach from 2001-11, Rutgers went to six bowl games in seven years. Now he’s back, and some fans are hoping he picks up right where he left off before he became an NFL coach.

That won’t be easy. He’s taking over a program that has won three games over the past two years.

“I remember growing up in New Jersey and my grandfather used to take me to the games and everything. Just having Coach Schiano back means a lot,” linebacker Tyshon Fogg said. “It’s a lot of motivation for the guys playing for him.”

Michigan State has won 21 consecutive home openers. Only Florida (31), Oklahoma State (25), Wisconsin (24) and Illinois (22) have longer streaks.

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