Like an accident on the side of the road, Rutgers and Kansas will provide a forum on Saturday that is equal parts disturbing and intriguing. Two of the most dysfunctional programs in college football will meet at noon ET in Piscataway, New Jersey, and gluttons for punishment likely won't be able to turn away.
On one hand, Kansas is 0-2 with losses to South Dakota State and Memphis and faces the very real possibility of completing the first winless season by an FBS team since Washington in 2008.
On the other hand, Rutgers is 1-2 and won't have its head coach or star wide receiver for the game due to suspensions. That part doesn't even begin to describe the program's inner turmoil after six current and three former Rutgers players were charged with a series of violent crimes.
At this stage of the season, which team is worse off? Here's a debate with perhaps no wrong answer.
Jesse Temple: You know it's going to be a miserable season when the biggest dispute among a fan base is whether its team can surpass Las Vegas odds by winning two games. That's right. Kansas entered the season with the lowest win total projection in all of college football with a magic number of 1.5. Even worse: it looks as though the Jayhawks won't even win one game now.
KU's best chance to win fell by the wayside in the opener, when Kansas lost 41-38 to South Dakota State of the FCS. In that game, Jayhawks quarterback Montell Cozart fumbled the snap before he could spike the ball on the final play to set up a potential game-tying field goal. According to ESPN's Football Power Index, the best remaining chance Kansas has to win a game is this Saturday against Rutgers (a whopping 18.5 percent). KU actually has less than an 8 percent chance to win any of its final eight Big 12 games.
First-year Kansas coach David Beaty has tried to remain optimistic, but he inherited an absolute mess. Kansas opened the season with only 64 scholarship players -- 21 fewer than the maximum allowable number under NCAA rules. To put that number in perspective, consider that the FCS allows 63 scholarships. In other words, the Jayhawks might as well be an FCS team this season. They're certainly playing like it.
One could argue Rutgers is dealing with a complete institutional failure -- player arrests and suspensions, as well as a head coach suspension are not becoming of the program at all. But on the football field, the Scarlet Knights are still light years ahead of the Jayhawks.
Kansas may be scoring 33 points per game, but it's allowing 48 points per game -- better than only two teams in the NCAA. Kansas also is allowing an average of 557 yards per game, which ranks better than only four teams. This season is a lost cause, and it may take years before we see substantial progress.
Mitch Sherman: I'm going with Rutgers -- every day of the week and twice on Saturday, when the Scarlet Knights actually have to venture into public and display their mess of situation.
Be clear, this is no endorsement of Kansas, which will generate more enthusiasm with its basketball exhibition against Pittsburg State -- it’s 42 days away, Jayhawks -- than any football game. But Kansas has the appearance of direction and reason to believe under a first-year football coach.
At Rutgers, honestly, what is the best-case scenario? Looks to me like a fresh start at the administrative and coaching levels after this season.
Raise your hand if you think embattled athletic director Julie Hermann will be trusted to hire the next football coach. Didn’t think so.
The turmoil at Rutgers is stunning in the wake of coach Kyle Flood’s suspension for academic tampering, multiple arrests and the suspension of star receiver Leonte Carroo, charged with domestic violence-related assault.
Rutgers’ problems make the trouble at Illinois look tame. Remember the Illini, which fired its coach eight days before the season opener? At least at Illinois, the forward movement has begun.
We don’t know how December will unfold at Rutgers. But if it follows a pattern remotely similar to the past month, stay away from Piscataway for fear of falling into the black hole of mismanagement.
Sure, the Scarlet Knights are likely more talented than Kansas. But as Rutgers' no-show last week at Penn State illustrates, this program faces more problems than a season full of successful Saturdays can fix.