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Rutgers facing potential 21-game conference losing streak after loss to Illinois

The second quarter against Illinois may have been the closest Rutgers will get to sniffing a conference win for the next 10 months. After closing a 10-point deficit to end the half, the Scarlet Knights (2-7, 0-6) best pair of quarters of the season were buried by arguably their worst. 

Rutgers was outscored by Illinois (5-4, 3-3) 28-0 in the second half on four touchdowns of 50+ yards, two of which came from turnovers. Despite winning the time of possession battle 34:09-20:32, the turnover differential of 3-0 wasted a potential road upset bid for a Rutgers team looking for its first conference win in 18 games. 

It’s a streak that is likely to get three games worse as the Knights approach the final quarter of their schedule. Rutgers finishes with three Big Ten opponents, two of which are ranked in the top five. 

After a bye week, No. 3 Ohio State (8-0, 5-0) comes to Piscataway, an opponent that has held Rutgers to three combined points over the last three meetings between the two programs. 

After that comes the most winnable game out of the remaining three as the Knights will host Michigan State (4-4, 2-3) on senior day. 

Then the Knights finish the season on the road against the best Penn State team they’ve seen since joining the Big Ten. The No. 5 Nittany Lions (8-0, 5-0) will be playing with a purpose against a purpose-less Rutgers team with a potential Big Ten East title on the line and a bid to the College Football playoff. 

Ohio State and Penn State already stand as the toughest opponents that Rutgers has faced all year, and the last time the Knights faced an opponent that was ranked at all was against No. 13 Minnesota in a 42-7 homecoming loss. 


Their one gleaming hope will come in their home finale against the Spartans, a team they nearly beat in the last game of the season last year. 

But if they can’t pull off a win at home on senior day, and subsequently drop the two games against the two current juggernauts of the Big Ten, then that will be the program’s second consecutive year of going winless in the conference and 21 straight Big Ten losses dating back to 2017. 

It would be only the second 20+ conference game losing streak in the history of the Big Ten, and first since Northwestern’s historic 34-game losing streak from 1979-1982. 


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