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Almost literally every single week, Rutgers somehow gets sadder

The entire season is a nesting doll of sadness. Let’s open it up.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Maryland
Rutgers coach Chris Ash, who’s trying.
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers beat the Sun Belt’s Texas State in Week 1 of 2018. The Bobcats, one of the nine or so worst teams in the country per S&P+, didn’t put up much of a fight.

Since then, Rutgers has not won. The Scarlet Knights are 1-6 after a Week 7 drubbing at Maryland, and their season has gotten progressively sadder as it’s gone on.

These have been the most uniquely sad parts of each Rutgers defeat.

Week 2: Again failing to score a TD on Ohio State

Rutgers has played Ohio State five years in a row. Before this year’s game, my colleague Richard Johnson ranked all three touchdowns Rutgers had scored on Ohio State in the first four years of the matchup — years in which Rutgers went 0-4 against the Buckeyes, falling by a combined margin of 219-24.

We said we’d update that post if Rutgers scored a TD in the 2018 game. For the third year in a row, that did not happen. The post went un-updated. Maybe next year.

The final score was 52-3.

Week 3: Losing to Kansas, 55-14, and becoming officially the worst Power 5 team

It was the sport’s GAME OF THE CENTURY. Here is a visual recap:

It bears repeating: Rutgers gave up 55 points to Kansas.

Week 4: Letting a MAC team that had been 0-7 against the Big Ten in its history not only win, but win by 29 points in Piscataway

Buffalo had never beaten a B1G opponent. The Bulls’ 42-13 win was the fourth-biggest margin of victory ever by a MAC squad against the conference of Leaders and Legends — just narrowly missing out on the 31-point margin Toledo put on Minnesota in 2001.

This also got Rutgers PIRATE FLAGGED:

Week 5: Losing by a TD despite shutting out Indiana for the final two quarters

The final score was 24-17. This was probably Rutgers’ best performance all year. But Indiana getting zero points after halftime and still winning without great difficulty is plenty sad enough for inclusion here.

This is the only one that strains the word “literally” in the headline. It’s all right back downhill after this.

Week 6: The world’s saddest crowd blackout against Illinois

The program tried hard to hype it up ...

... but in practice, it looked like this:

The announced attendance was 36,702. That’s dubious unless it was “Dress Like a Metal Bleacher Day.” Rutgers lost 38-17 to Illinois, the next-worst team in the Big Ten.

Week 7: A tie between having arguably the worst passing day ever and using an invisible kick returner in a 34-7 loss at Maryland

1. Rutgers quarterbacks (almost entirely starter Artur Sitkowski) were 2-of-17 passing for 8 yards and five interceptions. By any metric you choose, that’s one of the worst passing days any college football team has ever had. Rutgers was extremely close to not just having more completions to the other team than to Rutgers receivers, but to having more interceptions than passing yards. It was an absolute quarterbacking Picasso, in that Picasso paintings were often hard to understand.

2. Rutgers apparently had Harry Potter in his invisibility cloak back deep to receive this Maryland kickoff, which Maryland recovered after no Scarlet Knights got near it.

That’s the most plausible explanation I can think of.

If it seems like Rutgers is even worse this year than usual, that’s because it’s true. This really is one of the worst Rutgers outfits ever, which is saying a lot.

The Scarlet Knights have hovered well worse than No. 100 in S&P+. They’re in line to finish a lot worse than even they usually do:

Recent Rutgers squads are no strangers to low S&P+ rankings. Rutgers hasn’t even finished in the top half of the country since 2011 (they were 53rd), or in the top 100 since 2013, when they finished 93rd.

The Scarlet Knights’ S&P+ rating right now is -16.9, meaning they’d be roughly 17-point underdogs against an average FBS team on a neutral field. That’s really bad, but it isn’t their worst mark ever.

In fact, Rutgers has produced 10 teams with worse ratings, bottoming out with the 1956 squad that earned a -20.8 rating. That team went 3-7, losing games to teams like Princeton, Colgate, Columbia, and Delaware. So that Kansas blowout is bad, but probably not quite that bad.

Things could be better.