AROUND THE IVIES: This is Golden Age of Football

Before sitting down to write this column, the final edition of Around the Ivies stamped with my goofy mug (online readers, you’ll have to trust me), I watched Jeopardy! and put on sweats. But before that, I brainstormed, “What’s something special I can do to mark this last go-round?” I considered sending a coded message with the first letter of every paragraph, or peppering the prose with phrases in Spanish, or letting my 14-year-old sister write it to see if anyone would notice.

She says she’ll bet her DVD copy of the third season of Gilmore Girls on a Princeton upset. Estoy bromeando.

Since my code is already screwed up, I’ll leave you instead with a story: In 2000, I traveled down to Philadelphia with my dad to see Harvard play Penn, its chief rival for league supremacy at the time. The Crimson was 4-1 in the Ivies entering the game, its league title hopes still alive. I remember two things from that afternoon. One, an electrifying Crimson receiver wearing number 19, catching passes and making plays all over the field. I later learned his name was Carl Morris and he turned out to be arguably the greatest wideout in school history. The second thing I can recall is a conversation about whether or not I could kick an extra point. I was 14 and uncoordinated, but I thought I could do it. My dad thought I could manage the distance but not the height. It was pertinent because the Harvard kicker was awful that day, as the Crimson lost the game, 36-35. It also lost The Game and finished the season with a 5-5 record. Since then, Harvard has not won less than seven games in any year, and with six victories in the books so far in ‘07, with one win in its final two games the Crimson can accomplish something no Ivy squad has done since the Wilson Administration—win at least seven games for seven straight seasons.

Morals of the story: 1. There was a very good player named Carl Morris. 2. There was some debate about my pre-growth-spurt kicking abilities. 3. There is a golden age of Harvard football and we are living in it.

So that is my uncoded message in leaving this column space. The Crimson has not enjoyed such a period of sustained success on the gridiron in a long, long time. Enjoy it while it lasts. Disfrutarlo.

HARVARD (6-2, 5-0 Ivy) VS. PENN (3-5, 2-3)

As good as the Harvard defense has been this year, it hasn’t even approached what Penn did to Princeton at home last weekend—shut ‘em out. Blanked ‘em.Zero points. The Crimson’s defensive resume has it fourth in the nation in pass efficiency defense and fourth in run defense (allowing 80.3 rush yards per game). The D has piled up 24 sacks and 18 interceptions, and has allowed just 23 second-half points in the last seven weeks.

So it’s shaping up to be a real grind-it-out, low-scoring affair. It’ll be cold, and with about 148 hours separating it from a perfect Ivy campaign and its first crown since 2004, Harvard won’t be taking any chances. But I have a hunch on the over.

Prediction: Harvard 31, Penn 24

PRINCETON (3-5, 2-3) VS. NO. 12 YALE (8-0, 5-0)

Since a season-opening defeat in 2006, Yale has won 16 of its 17 games. The one loss came against Princeton in New Haven a year ago, when Player of the Year Jeff Terrell rallied the Tigers from a 14-point deficit. Don’t expect this Princeton squad to play spoiler.

You’d think that if you sent the Bulldogs’ workhorse tailback Mike McLeod out in the rain and mud with a broken toe, he might be slowed down. And you’d be right: last week in sloppy conditions against Brown, the junior record-breaker was limited to one touchdown. And 185 yards on 32 carries.

Those numbers bring his season totals to 1,462 yards and 22 touchdowns. He is on pace to break or challenge Ed Marinaro’s single-season Ivy records of 24 TDs, 148 points, and 1,881 yards. So far this season, he has single-handedly outscored Yale’s opponents, 132-94.

If Harvard head coach Tim Murphy and defensive coordinator Kevin Doherty haven’t been scheming for this kid for weeks, I’d be disappointed.

Prediction: Yale 27, Princeton 17

BROWN (3-5, 2-3) VS. DARTMOUTH (3-5, 3-2)

Third-place Dartmouth (has a funny ring to it, huh?) has three wins, all against mediocre Ivy teams at home. Only one of those ingredients is in place for the Big Green mañana. Check it: the Ancient Eight has a combined 22-11 home record this year. In league contests, the advantage is even more pronounced—the host has won 15 of 20. Three of those five losses belong to Columbia and another one came in overtime. So while Dartmouth’s surprising season, including a 59-point outburst versus Cornell last weekend, has been nice, its luck won’t translate to Providence.

Prediction: Brown 28, Dartmouth 20

CORNELL (4-4, 1-4) VS. COLUMBIA (1-7, 0-5)

Now this is a great story: Big Red quarterback Nathan Ford is knocked out early in last week’s game at Dartmouth. Sophomore wide receiver Stephen Liuzza, still wearing his catching gloves, comes on to take the snaps. In just three quarters, he posts 423 yards of total offense—292 through the air on 26-of-40 passing and another 131 on the ground on 29 carries.

Prediction: Cornell 27, Columbia 18

Week 10 picks: Brown, Dartmouth, Penn, and...Yale

Record to Date: 37-8

—Staff writer Jonathan Lehman can be reached at jlehman@fas.harvard.edu.

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