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2016 will feature the third-ever matchup between Illinois and Rutgers

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Our 2016 Big Ten preview rolls on with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2016 college football season draws closer, we'll be taking a closer look at every Big Ten program to help you get ready for Week 1. Next up are the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, who finished 2015 at No. 105 overall in the final S&P+ rankings. Can new head coach Chris Ash bring consistent success to New Jersey?

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Program Resume

Rutgers football has had some nice moments over the years, but they’ve historically been a pretty middle-of-the-pack program. The Scarlet Knights have an all-time record of 645-629-42, and that winning percentage of .506 checks in at No. 85 in the country. Although it should be noted that Rutgers’ ongoing decade-long slide into mediocrity is, in part, a primary reason behind that lackluster margin.

Rutgers’ last bowl appearance was in 2014; the program played in the Quick Lane Bowl and defeated North Carolina by a final of 40-21. The Scarlet Knights have gone to an additional nine postseason games, netting a record of 6-4 in the process.

Head-to-Head Matchups w/ Illinois

Rutgers may be a member of the Big Ten, but their series history with the Fighting Illini certainly wouldn’t indicate that on its own. 2016 will feature just the third-ever game between the two programs.

In September of 2005, the first game of a home-and-home series was played in Champaign; Ron Zook and the Fighting Illini came out on top, 33-30. Sadly, that success didn’t carry over to the next Fall. Greg Schiano’s Scarlet Knights were evidently playing with a big chip on their shoulder, and they captured a dominating 33-0 win.

So, yeah, these teams don't have much of a history on the gridiron. But perhaps their meeting in Piscataway on October 15 will stew up some bad blood between the two sidelines. Well, that is if the recent 3OT basketball game between the schools hasn't done so already.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 4-8 | Adj. Record: 3-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 101 | Final S&P+ Rk: 105
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
5-Sep Norfolk State N/A 63-13 W 80% 100% +33.4
12-Sep Washington State 54 34-37 L 35% 20% -1.5 -5.0
19-Sep at Penn State 47 3-28 L 3% 0% -9.2 -15.0
26-Sep Kansas 127 27-14 W 65% 99% +0.3 0.0
10-Oct Michigan State 9 24-31 L 41% 23% +13.4 +7.5
17-Oct at Indiana 61 55-52 W 36% 26% +23.1 +3.0
24-Oct Ohio State 3 7-49 L 8% 0% -19.7 -21.0
31-Oct at Wisconsin 32 10-48 L 3% 0% -11.8 -17.5
7-Nov at Michigan 8 16-49 L 5% 0% +4.0 -8.0
14-Nov Nebraska 36 14-31 L 9% 0% -4.4 -7.5
21-Nov at Army 108 31-21 W 67% 93% +8.3 +5.5
28-Nov Maryland 76 41-46 L 29% 31% +2.2 -4.0

2016 Outlook

New Rutgers head coach Chris Ash is stepping right into a challenging situation. Junior quarterback Chris Laviano will return under center, and a strong offensive line will be blocking for playmaking backs Robert Martin and Josh Hicks. Beyond those pieces, though? Not much. So it's hard to imagine the Scarlet Knights' offense -- which ranked No. 87 last year -- making any strides.

Plus, the depth chart is looking very bleak on the other side of the ball. Led by former five-star prospect Darius Hamilton (who hasn't played since 2014 due to a knee injury), the defensive line could become a relative strength, but that's assuming everyone stays healthy. Furthermore, Ash will inherit a secondary that finished dead last in the nation against the pass; just about everyone at the position group is returning, but -- as Bill Connelly addressed in his preview -- how much can they be expected to improve in a single offseason?

So what does that all equate to? According to the early S&P+ numbers, Rutgers is only favored to win two games on their schedule (the Illinois contest is 50/50). After adding expected luck and other factors into the equation, they're left at a projected 4.1 wins.

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
3-Sep at Washington 10 -23.6 9%
10-Sep Howard NR 43.7 99%
17-Sep New Mexico 102 8.8 69%
24-Sep Iowa 38 -7.7 33%
1-Oct at Ohio State 14 -22.9 9%
8-Oct Michigan 6 -18.9 14%
15-Oct Illinois 76 0.0 50%
22-Oct at Minnesota 42 -13.6 22%
5-Nov Indiana 56 -3.5 42%
12-Nov at Michigan State 22 -20.1 12%
19-Nov Penn State 28 -10.9 27%
26-Nov at Maryland 62 -9.5 29%
Projected wins: 4.1

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So there's your early look at Rutgers. We'll be back at on Friday with another Q&A featuring our friends from On The Banks. We'll be further examining the program's expectations, as well as the impact of the Chris Ash hire. For more on Rutgers, make sure to check out SB Nation’s fantastic 2016 preview of the Scarlet Knights.