We live in such shocking times that there are moments when news headlines no longer seem real. Parody itself is dying as we delve into seemingly made-up scenarios that are actually true.

But as it turns out, some things are still shocking. And as a practicing journalist, I am duty-bound to inform the public when such an event occurs.

And here, I am not just informing you. I’m giving you ample warning. A full 2-3 weeks’ notice to get your affairs in order.

There is a chance you will wake up on a Sunday morning this November only to find that Rutgers has ascended into the Top 25.

And in order to prevent the medical issues that could arise from such a surprise — shock, heart attack, catatonic state, dropped coffee mug that shatters on the floor and both burns and cuts your foot — preparation is vital.

Here is what you need to look for to mitigate the potential effects of Scarlet Knights Fever.

Sleep with 1 eye open

You may not realize it, but Rutgers is lurking in plain sight in the place you’d least expect to see it: receiving votes in the AP Top 25.

Only 2 votes, mind you. But once a team starts receiving votes, it only stands to reason that it may soon begin gaining votes. Much as a virus multiplies, Scarlet Knights Fever could reach all the way into the Top 25.

Rutgers is 6-2. That equates to the program’s best start since 2012, when it played in the post-West Virginia remains of the Big East in that conference’s final season. By beating Michigan State and Indiana the past 2 weeks, the Scarlet Knights attained the modest accomplishment of beating back-to-back Big Ten opponents for the 2nd time ever.

Rutgers doesn’t play this week. If teams ranked in the 20s tumble this weekend, the Scarlet Knights may gain ground next week without lifting a finger.

In all likelihood, that is where this terrifying possibility ends.

Up next is No. 3 Ohio State, and the Scarlet Knights are always overmatched against the mighty Buckeyes. The closest game in series history is a 49-27 Ohio State win in 2020.

Again: That is the closest game these teams have played. The Buckeyes have beaten Rutgers by at least 49 points in 33% of their all-time meetings.

But indulge us for a moment with some imagination.

While the Scarlet Knights get an extra week to prepare for Ohio State, the Buckeyes have a potentially challenging road game at Wisconsin on tap. And if there were ever a time for a team to take its foot off the gas, it would be on a trip to Rutgers after back-to-back wins over Penn State and Wisconsin.

“We always beat these guys by 50, and I heard Jesse Mirco is having a sweet Halloween bash …” (Note: There is no evidence Jesse Mirco or any other Buckeye is having any sort of Halloween bash. We’d just like to go to a Halloween party hosted by an Australian punter someday. Pick any player you wish to fill in the blanks.)

And maybe that natural letdown is just enough of a sliver for the Scarlet Knights to squeeze through.

OK. I can already tell that is not compelling you in the least.

How about this? Rutgers ranks 5th in the B1G and 12th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 15.8 points per game.

The Scarlet Knights are particularly adept against the pass, ranking 5th nationally with a per-game average of 5.2 yards per attempt allowed. Michigan’s JJ McCarthy is the only quarterback to average better than 6 yards per attempt against Rutgers this year.

And as we’ve seen, Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord isn’t quite all the way there yet. The Rutgers defense could provide a surprising test against a team that has never scored fewer than 49 points against it.

Ok, maybe not, but …

Let’s say Rutgers plays Ohio State respectably enough before giving way to the inevitable, like Maryland did 3 weeks ago. But unlike the Terrapins, the Scarlet Knights follow up that performance with a win, beating Iowa on the road.

Rutgers is the only team in the B1G that can match the Hawkeyes on special teams, so there’s a chance the Knights come out of that 9-6 battle alive. (Too many points?)

Up next?

A Penn State team that will either be sky-high after beating Michigan (think of Notre Dame losing to Boston College a week after beating Florida State in the “Game of the Century”) or disconsolate after getting exposed again by the Wolverines (think of Penn State losing to Illinois a week after losing to No. 3 Iowa).

In theory, that’s an 8-3 Rutgers team that is definitely in the Top 25. And that is liable to produce a national panic.

Rutgers hasn’t appeared in the national rankings since November 2012. The Knights haven’t finished a year in the rankings since 2007, which in turn was the first time that had happened since 1976.

None of this is to say any of these things will happen. Rutgers may well be 6-2 on the path to 6-6. It’s likely, even. But this is definitely Greg Schiano’s best team in his 2nd stint in New Jersey.

Consider this to be more like a meteorologist issuing a tornado watch. There’s no guarantee of a touchdown. Especially with an offense ranked 71st nationally in scoring.

But the atmospheric conditions are swirling in such a way that they could produce an unprecedented football event: Rutgers making its way into the Top 25 as a Big Ten member. And it’s better to be safe and prepare yourself before falling victim to Scarlet Knights Fever.