Steve Politi has been writing for the Star Ledger for nearly 12 years, and during those dozen trips around the sun, Steve has had to endure a lot of Rutgers football. He has been there through the good times of the Greg Schiano Era, into the bad times that has been the Big Ten Era of Rutgers football.
Politi is a man who has seen enough of Rutgers to write a story on the team's latest shutout loss -- this one a 39-0 defeat against Penn State -- and have "this might be the worst offense in modern team history" in the headline.
As if that weren't enough, this was the lede to Politi's story.
"I am so confident that Rutgers isn't going to score for the fourth time in eight Big Ten games that I'm typing this at halftime. It is 9-0 Penn State. The Scarlet Knights have 66 total yards. You have no proof of this, but I have witnesses. Rutgers will not score."
Steve was right. Rutgers did not score.
For the fourth time this season, Rutgers was shut out by a Big Ten opponent. Reading Steve's headline and lede, I was inspired to do some digging to see just how bad Rutgers' offense is compared to other teams in the "modern" era.
By modern, I mean the turn of this century, because 2000 is as far back as College Football Reference's play index goes!
What I found were some fun -- unless you're a Rutgers fans anyway -- facts that help illuminate this Rutgers offense's place in history, and I decided to share some of them with all of you.
First of all, in the four games it has been shut out by Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and now Penn State, Rutgers has been outscored 223-0. That's an average score of 56-0. Even if we remove the 78-0 loss to Michigan (remember when Michigan beat Rutgers 78-0?), Rutgers lost the other three games by an average of 48-0.
But that's just cosmetic. I wanted to look a little deeper, and what I found wasn't good.
As I said, Rutgers has been shut out four times this season. Since 2000, that has happened to only two other teams: Baylor in 2002 and Utah State in 2006. So it has been a decade since we've seen it happen to any team.
If we limit our search back in time to just the Big Ten, we see that Rutgers has scored seven points or less in six of its 11 games so far in 2016. That's the most times any Big Ten team has accomplished such a feat since Penn State did it five times in 2004. Yes, that means it's the most times any Big Ten team has been held to a touchdown or less since 2000.
As if all this weren't painting an ugly enough picture for the Knights offense, there's one more fun fact.
Since 2000 in the Big Ten, only Illinois and Minnesota have been shut out more times than Rutgers, with six shutout losses apiece. Rutgers is right behind them with five shutouts, including the four from this season.
Illinois and Minnesota have played 136 Big Ten games since 2000. Rutgers has played 24.
Of course, this isn't really anything new for Rutgers. If we just look at how many times any team has been shut out over the past 17 seasons, the Knights come in a tie for fourth with 11 shutout losses since 2000. Only Kent State (14), UL-Monroe (14) and Baylor (13) have been on the receiving end of more.
As for Politi's question of whether Rutgers is the worst offense in modern history, it's not. Connecticut is actually scoring 15 points per game this season, which is less than Rutgers' 15.9, and while Rutgers is last in the nation in total offense at 276.3 yards per game, last year alone there were three teams that finished with less than that.
So I guess Rutgers can take some solace in that. That's one point in its favor, finally.
Biggest Regret of the Week
Earlier this season when Florida canceled its game with LSU because of Hurricane Matthew, it was hesitant to reschedule the game a few days later, or to buy out of a nonconference game later in the season. LSU did not want to buy out of a game and lose a home date, either. LSU would dig in on this fact, and since the SEC really wanted both schools to play the game, eventually, Florida was forced to relent and it agreed to move the game to Baton Rouge in exchange for the next two meetings between the teams being played in Gainesville.
Fast forward to Saturday when Florida was beating LSU in the postponed game, and you have to think LSU and athletic director Joe Alleva are suddenly regretting the decision.
In the end, Alleva and LSU lost at home to the Gators to fall to 6-4 on the season under an interim coach. That means that LSU's next coach -- which may still be Ed Orgeron -- will get to begin his tenure with the Tigers by making two road trips to Gainesville.
All because LSU didn't want to give up a home game against South Alabama -- which I understand, because revenue is revenue. Still, I think I would rather give up one home game against South Alabama rather than playing five SEC road games next season in a year I can actually compete for the SEC title.
Stormed Field of the Week
Goodbye, goal posts!
Seriously, think about the fact that the last time Kansas beat Texas in a football game, World War I wasn't known as World War I yet because there hadn't been a World War II.
Angry Coach of the Week
It was all enough to cause RichRod to have some kind of mental breakdown on the sideline.
Oh how I wish I could know what he was saying, and who he was saying it to.
Photo of the Week
Colorado picked up its biggest win in a long time against Washington State on Saturday, and it is now one win away from playing for a Pac-12 title and may even earn a College Football Playoff berth. All of which can be seen in Chip's reaction.
Colorado's win was its seventh Pac-12 win of the season. Colorado had won five conference games in its first five seasons in the Pac-12.
Random Ranking of the Week
Thanksgiving will be here in a few more days, so it only makes sense that we rank Thanksgiving side dishes this week.
1. Mashed potatoes and gravy
4. Creamed corn
5. Cranberry sauce (from a can)
All rankings are final!
Strange Coincidence of the Week
On Saturday night, West Virginia running back Justin Crawford ran for 331 yards against Oklahoma in the Mountaineers' 56-28 loss. It was the most rushing yards in a single game by any FBS player in a loss since West Virginia's Tavon Austin rushed for 334 yards in 2012.
In a loss.
Maybe West Virginia should stop running the ball so well against Oklahoma. It never seems to work.
Non-Rutgers Related Stat of the Week
Texas Tech lost to Iowa State 66-10 this weekend in yet another instance where Texas Tech forgot to bring its defense to the stadium. That means the Red Raiders have allowed 156 points in their past three games, a full 13 points per quarter.
Sliding Gopher of the Week
Upset Call of the Week
So I was wrong about Washington State beating Colorado last week, and I'm now 1-1 in my upset picks. This week I look to get back over .500 by telling you that Michigan State is going to beat Penn State, and destroy the Nittany Lions' chances of winning the Big Ten and reaching the College Football Playoff.
The reason this is going to happen is because the College Football Gods just have a way of clearing up any congestion in the final weeks of the season, and a Penn State loss would make the CFP's job a lot easier when it comes to picking four playoff teams.
I'm sorry, Penn State, don't blame me, blame the College Football Gods.
Tweet of the Week
Two weeks in a row for Mr. McMurphy!
Pretty cool that Louisville's offensive line is participating in the Mannequin Challenge tonight— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) November 18, 2016
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
2. Ohio State
Until the next Monday After.