Ohio State is in the middle of an interesting four-game stretch. This year was the first time Ohio State had ever played Army or UNLV. The next two opponents, Rutgers and Maryland, had yet to play Ohio State before both arrived in the Big Ten in 2014.
Rather than recall one of the three recent games Ohio State played against Rutgers—Ohio State won all three by a combined 163-24 margin—we will instead do a report card of how Rutgers has performed since the transition to the Big Ten in 2014. We'll situate Rutgers' three-year report card vis-a-vis other schools that have made conference transitions into or between Power Five conferences since 2011 (e.g. Missouri from 2012-2014, Louisville from 2014-2016, TCU from 2012-2014).
The report card will show that most programs, even familiar ones like Utah and West Virginia, had discernible difficulties in the first three years in their new home. Few programs hit the ground running. Louisville and Missouri stand out on this list, but even Louisville's record against Power Five teams is unimpressive whereas Missouri's first year in the SEC was a dreadful 5-7 campaign. TCU's 2014 conference championship campaign belies the meager two Big XII seasons the Horned Frogs had before that year.
Rutgers had an okay start in the Big Ten, which would otherwise situate the Scarlet Knights as par for the course in this report card relative to its peers. However, the program has fallen fast and its conference record through three years could conceivably be an all-time worst for programs in new Power Five conferences.
|Overall W/L %||.378||.421||.700||.216||.486||.717||.700||.473||.605||.666|
|Conference W/L %||.160||.320||.708||.320||.333||.541||.666||.407||.518||.739|
|W/L vs. Non-Conference Power Five||3-2||1-4||2-4||0-2||2-0||3-0||4-2||2-4||3-2||4-4|
|W/L Vs. Non-Power Five||8-0||7-1||12-0||4-4||7-1||12-0||8-0||6-0||6-0||5-1|
The Scarlet Knights had a decent start to life in the Big Ten. The good teams in the league routed it by several touchdowns but the upset over Michigan salvaged a 3-5 league debut. Combined with a perfect 4-0 non-conference schedule, it was good enough to secure a Quick Lane Bowl berth. Rutgers beat North Carolina in Detroit to get a bowl win its first year in the Big Ten.
Rutgers' fortunes turned south immediately thereafter. Rutgers finished 4-8 and 1-7 in the Big Ten in 2015 and fired Kyle Flood. It hit rock-bottom in 2016 in Chris Ash's first year. The 2-10 season and winless Big Ten campaign is the reason the Scarlet Knights surpassed Colorado for worst league record in the first three years in a new conference.
That is no small feat either. Colorado was dreadful in its first three years in the Pac-12, a stretch that included a 4-4 record against non-Power Five teams (and an FCS loss in 2012). Colorado's overall record from 2011-2013 (.216) is the clear worst of any program reviewed here and Rutgers' conference record in 2014-2016 surpassed Colorado's comparably woeful .320 percentage in its first three years in the Pac-12.
Rutgers has only compounded problems to start 2017. The loss to Washington to start the season dropped Rutgers' win-loss record against Power Five teams to .500. Its loss to Eastern Michigan gives the Scarlet Knights their first loss against a non-Power Five team since it joined the Big Ten. That, along with the bowl win, was otherwise one of a few bright marks for Rutgers relative to other programs making transitions to Power Five conferences since 2011.
It'll be tough for Rutgers to not dig a deeper hole in the conference win-loss record at this clip. Rutgers last won a conference game at Indiana on Oct. 17, 2015. The odds don't look good going forward with the Rutgers team we have seen this season. Trips to Michigan and Penn State still puncutate the remaining schedule.
Rutgers will likely make its conference record even worse on Saturday night. The Buckeyes will enter Piscataway and expect deliver a performance similar to 2015.