No joke. Rutgers is ranked.

The Scarlet Knights, long a college football laughingstock, moved into The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in 30 years on Sunday.

No. 23 Rutgers (4-0), led by tailback Ray Rice, the fourth-leading rusher in the nation, is off to its best start since 1980 after beating Howard 56-7 on Saturday.

“I’m not going to downplay it. It is significant considering where we started,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. “It shows we’re making progress in the right direction.”

The Scarlet Knights were one of three new teams at the bottom of the new media poll, which was mostly unchanged at the top.

Ohio State is still No. 1 with 59 of a possible 65 first-place votes. No. 2 Auburn, No. 3 Southern California and No. 4 West Virginia each received two first-place votes.

Auburn had 1,513 points and USC had 1,491. The Tigers lead over the Trojans grew nines points from last week.

No. 5 is Florida, followed by Michigan, Texas, Louisville, LSU and Georgia. The only change in the Top 10 was No. 9 LSU flip-flopping with No. 10 Georgia.

Throughout the 1990s, the Scarlet Knights were among the worst teams in Division I-A, routinely getting blown out by their Big East rivals.

Last year, in Schiano’s fifth season at the state university of New Jersey, Rutgers had its first winning year since 1992. The Knights went 7-5 and played in the Insight Bowl, their first bowl game since 1978.

The Knights have benefited from an early weak schedule – three I-A opponents with a combined 4-8 record and a I-AA team – but of course it wasn’t long ago Rutgers couldn’t beat anybody.

The Scarlet Knights were 3-20 in Schiano’s first two years. They also had a 25-game conference losing streak from 1999-2003.

Schiano, a New Jersey native, was 10 years old the last time Rutgers was ranked in 1976. Those Scarlet Knights went 11-0 and reached as high as No. 17 in the country.

“I don’t think of it in a historical perspective,” he said. “You need to win to get into those polls, and the Rutgers program has had some up and down times as we know. I’m glad it’s happening now and hope to keep it going.”

The other new teams in the poll were No. 24 Georgia Tech (3-1), which has lost only to Notre Dame in its opener, and No. 25 Missouri (4-0).

Missouri is ranked for the first time since the second week of the 2004 season.

Falling out of the rankings for the first time this season were Penn State and Arizona State. The Nittany Lions lost 28-6 to Ohio State in a game that was close into the fourth quarter. The Sun Devils lost 49-21 to California.

Boston College also dropped out after a last-second loss to North Carolina State.

In the USA Today coaches’ poll, Ohio State is No. 1 with USC at No. 2 and Auburn at No. 3. West Virginia is fourth and Florida fifth.

Virginia Tech is No. 11 followed by Notre Dame, Iowa, Oregon and Tennessee. The next five were Oklahoma, TCU, Clemson, Florida State and California.

No. 20 is California with Nebraska No. 21 and Boise State at No. 22.

Associated Press Writer Dave Porter in Trenton, N.J., contributed to this report. all-rank


AP-ES-09-24-06 1520EDT

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