Rutgers played in the first college football game in 1869, so the Scarlet Knights are historically important to the sport. Same with Kansas. It started playing football in 1890, and its notable alumni include Pro Football Hall of Famers Gale Sayers and John Riggins.
Rutgers finished 11-2 in 2006 and ranked 12th. Kansas finished 12-1 and ranked seventh in 2007 after winning the Orange Bowl.
So what follows might seem disrespectful to both programs. It is perhaps unfortunate that this little ditty might seem as though it encourages college football fans to leap into the air and click their heels together with sadistic glee over the fact that, at the very least, their team isn't Rutgers or Kansas. Call this sentence an apology in advance.
But, really, come on! It's absolutely irresistible that the two top candidates for "Power 5 Dumpster Fire Team of the Year" are playing each other on Saturday. It's just too freakin' rich.
Kansas is 0-2 after surviving its bye week unscathed. This Big 12 member has lost to South Dakota State and Memphis, getting nipped by the Tigers 55-23. The Jayhawks have won 12 games over the past five seasons, and it's fair to say that new coach David Beaty inherited a potentially Sisyphean rebuilding job from Charlie Weis, who is in the midst of being paid approximately $24.5 million not to coach either Kansas or Notre Dame.
Meanwhile, Rutgers has issues on and off the field.
On the field, the Scarlet Knights, Big Ten newbies who actually went 8-5 and won a bowl game last year, are 1-2, a win over Norfolk State falsely hinting at something positive about the 2015 season. Two weeks ago, Rutgers lost 37-34 to Washington State, yielding a 10-play, 90-yard touchdown drive for the winning points with 13 seconds left. The visiting Cougars were fresh off a loss to Portland State, a middling FCS team. Last weekend, the Scarlet Knights were drubbed 28-3 by Penn State, a team that lost to Temple by 17 points.
Off the field? Coach Kyle Flood is in the midst of a three-game suspension for making impermissible contact with a professor regarding a player's grades. Oh, and seven players have been arrested in the past month -- in addition to three former players -- on charges ranging from assault to home invasion and armed robbery.
That last part actually isn't very funny. It's pretty horrifying and depressing.
So let's move on to a more pleasant image: Interim coach Norries Wilson, taking over for the often dour Flood, and making what should have been a funereal news conference after the Penn State defeat fairly amusing, as he insisted on calling on reporters instead of letting them bark questions at him, as it is typically done. Of course, he knew no one's name.
Said Wilson, "What's your name? Sam, what do you want to ask me?" "The gentleman in the blue shirt holding the phone ..." "The gentleman leaning in with the glasses behind the guy with the checkered shirt ..." It wasn't a Louis CK stand-up, but it evoked grins, which there aren't a lot of around the program these days.
Rutgers, by the way, is 116th in the nation in turnover margin and 117th in penalties per game.
Kansas, despite not yet playing a fellow Power 5 foe, is a statistical disaster. No passing fancy here, as the Jayhawks rank 112th in the nation in pass efficiency and 125th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Speaking of defense, the Jayhawks are yielding 48 points and 557 yards per game, which ranks 125th and 123rd in the nation, respectively.
Wonder how things will go defensively when Kansas opens play in the Big 12, which features six of the 25 top scoring offenses in the nation?
All this said, Rutgers and Kansas shouldn't feel too bad. Mocking woeful matchups is part of the social discourse of sport. It's an often therapeutic way for fans to bond over other teams' pain, and Rutgers-Kansas fits in with a rich history of resistible forces meeting movable objects.
For example, the 1983 football season stands transcendent in terms of games between woeful teams that one could chortle about. First, there was the Toilet Bowl between Oregon and Oregon State, a mud wrestling match between hapless rivals that mercifully ended with a 0-0 tie after 11 turnovers and four missed field goals. Then, eight days later on Nov. 27 -- if we can bring the NFL into this -- there was "The Repus Bowl" (super spelled backward) between the 1-11 Houston Oilers and the 1-11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Of a more recent vintage was "The Crapple Cup," the 2008 meeting of 0-10 Washington and 1-10 Washington State -- its lone win over Portland State (remember them, Cougs!) -- in the annual Apple Cup. After WSU triumphed 16-13 in double-overtime, Cougars cornerback Romeo Pellum was asked what he thought of the game being ridiculed nationally as "The Crapple Cup."
"That's really disrespectful, but there's really nothing you can do about it," Pellum said. "We are one of the worst teams in the nation."
Those were all late-season games, so we had a pretty good measure of the disrespected teams, a fact Pellum dutifully acknowledged.
We really don't know how things will end up in 2015 for Rutgers or Kansas. Here's a guess that there will be some consolation, which absolutely won't be acknowledged Saturday, for the winner in knowing before September is over that it will not end up labeled as the "worst Power 5 conference team of 2015" in December.
So the stakes are high.