As Rutgers readies for its first official day in the Big Ten on July 1, 2014, ScarletReport.com celebrates the historic move with a story-a-day.
Today's piece centers on the top five games against Big Ten opponents since Rutgers made the move from playing a regional schedule to a more high-profile schedule in the 1970s.
5. Sept. 4, 2004: Rutgers 19, Michigan State 14: It had the makings of being a kick-start win for the program, but it was quickly squashed with a loss to FCS New Hampshire the following week. However, the energy and excitement inside the stadium, and the first significant win of coach Greg Schiano's tenure brought hope for the future. The season was derailed when a trio of Rutgers football players were hurt following a car accident after a homecoming win against Temple on Oct. 16, but looking back it is a benchmark game for the program in front of an on-campus record crowd of 42,612.
4. Sept. 23, 1995: Penn State 59, Rutgers 34: Penn State drew the ire of the Rutgers fan base and coaching staff when backup quarterback Mike McQueary threw a 42-yard touchdown pass with a minute to play to push Penn State's lead to 25 points. Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno and Rutgers coach Doug Graber argued at midfield after the game, and it looked like Paterno and company ran the score up to impress pollsters. However, three months ago a report surfaced McQueary had a gambling problem and bet on Penn State to win games, and speculation rose about the play. Penn State was a 20-point favorite.
3. Sept. 28, 1991: Rutgers 14, Michigan State 7: Three years earlier, Rutgers traveled to East Lansing, Mich., and stunned the Spartans, so there was no overlooking the Scarlet Knights. In this one, quarterback Tom Tarver threw a pair of touchdown passes, the final one coming with 46 seconds left to give the Scarlet Knights the win. A week earlier, Rutgers beat Northwestern 22-18, and it looked on track to reach a bowl game. However, losses to Penn State, Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh on consecutive weeks ended bowl hopes.
2. Sept. 24, 1988: Rutgers 21. Penn State 16: Two weeks after beating Michigan State to open the season, the Scarlet Knights stunned the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley. At the time, Penn State was signing two-for-one deals to play Rutgers, and although the Scarlet Knights were coming close to beating Penn State, they couldn't go over the hump. That changed when Mike Botti scored two third-quarter touchdowns and Rutgers held Penn State inside the 5-yard line in the last minute. It marked the first time since 1918 Rutgers beat Penn State.
1. Sept. 3, 2005: Illinois 33, Rutgers 30 (OT): Rutgers had more than 500 yards of offense, the Leonard Leap hit the national highlight shows and Ray Rice made his Rutgers debut, and it turned into a painful moment as the Scarlet Knights blew a 20-point lead and lost in overtime. So, why does it make the list? It was the turning point of Rutgers athletics. Schiano was looking to build a lesson from the loss, and he broke out the Keep Choppin' mantra. It stuck, the Scarlet Knights rebounded to win six of their next seven games, went to a bowl game for the first time in nearly 30 years, and since then Rutgers missed a bowl game once.