This year, even more than in years past, it is The Game.
It's the game which will draw to a close the careers of a number of outstanding Harvard football seniors, including record-setting offensive performers Brian White and Robert Santiago and defensive stalwart Brent Wilkinson.
It's the game that Harvard hopes will avenge last year's 30-27 comeback victory by Yale at the Stadium.
It's the game that will in part decide the Ivy title. A Crimson win would assure the gridders of at least a share of the Ivy crown, and a Cantab win coupled with a tie or loss by Penn (which hosts weak Dartmouth) would give Harvard its first outright Ancient Eight crown since 1975.
But most of all, it's just The Game.
You name it, and The Game--like the 101 Games which have come before the 1985 edition--has it.
The legend and the aura of The Game are such that most people don't seem to care much about the football part.
For many, seeing friends and drinking--not necessarily in that order--constitutes The Game. But for the two football squads involved and those diehard fans sober enough to focus on the field, The Game is serious business.
And that business is football.
Harvard (7-2 overall, 5-1 Ivies) enters the Yale Bowl this afternoon (1 p.m. kickoff) as distinct favorites to hand Yale (3-4-1, 2-3-1) its third loss in a row and fourth in five games (the non-loss was a 17-17 tie with Dartmouth).
The Crimson has won three contests in a row and is coming off an impressive 17-6 smoking of Penn--then undefeated in Ivy play--which tied the two squads for the Ivy lead.
"Harvard is the most skilled team we've faced this year," Yale Coach Carm Cozza said. "We'll do everything we can to keep the ball away from their excellent offense."
And it is the Harvard offense that may be the key to The Game. Led by clutch quarterback White (69-160, 1117 yards, 7 ints., 5 tds.) and explosive fullback Santiago (765 yards on 156 carries, 4 tds.), the Crimson offense will have to move the ball successfully.
Last year, the Bulldogs held Harvard to just 38 yards rushing in their three-point win. "We've got to run for more than 150-200 yards against Yale," predicted Santiago after the Penn game. Yale allowed Princeton to gain over 200 yards on the ground last week.
On the other hand, even a mediocre performance by the Crimson offense may be enough considering the edge Harvard's defense looks to have over the Bulldog offense.
Highlighted by a secondary which has picked off more than a dozen passes, the Crimson D has shut down opponent after opponent this season.
Meanwhile, Yale has been unspectacular on offense. Mike Curtin (76-154, 1050 yards) and Kelly Ryan (40-85, 460 yards) have shared the quarterbacking in an ineffective tag-team.
And with the Bulldogs' leading rusher--Ted MaCauley--gaining less than 500 yards on the year (and only 37 last week), there's nowhere for Curtin/Ryan to hide.
If Yale wins, Cozza will have won an even 100 Ivy games in his long and distinguished 21 years at Yale.
But with Harvard coming into The Game a mile high and the Bulldogs wandering around with their tails between their legs, Cozza may have to wait until 1986 to reach triple digits.