Around the Ivies: The Game

This column was surprisingly hard to write, and I think I have figured out why.

Really, it should have been easy. There is simply so much to talk about.

Harvard (9-0, 6-0 Ivy) going for an undefeated season. Yale (8-1, 6-1) going for a share of the Ivy title. College GameDay and what Lee Corso might put on his head if he picks the Crimson. Sam Clark doing Sam Clark things.

For the first time in a long time, the storylines justify capitalizing The Game—and it starts with the coaches.

I expect you know the backstory with former Harvard assistant and current Yale head coach Tony Reno. His move across enemy lines rekindled this rivalry three years ago.


Reno remodeled the Eli program in the Crimson’s image, and it has worked. Animosity between the programs seemed to die down as Harvard players brought to Cambridge by Reno graduated in waves. Princeton winning two years in a row diverted attention, too. But with the Bulldogs now competitive, expect the old wounds to flare up again.

As Harvard coach Tim Murphy becomes the league’s elder statesman after Penn coach Al Bagnoli’s impending retirement, Reno is emerging as a viable candidate to replace Bagnoli as an antagonist in Murphy’s story.

That said, Saturday will go a long way in determining whether Reno will play the part of pest or predator.

And the storylines get no less interesting when The Game actually kicks off. Whichever fans are sober enough to see will get to watch the best unit-vs.-unit matchup the Ivy League has to offer when Yale has the ball.

Quarterback Morgan Roberts and running back Tyler Varga lead the league in passing and rushing, respectively. Harvard, meanwhile, leads the conference in passing and rushing defense.

The Crimson defense was a question mark if not a weakness entering the year, but it will likely finish the season as historically great. Harvard leads the FCS in points against. Regardless what happens Saturday, members of this defensive unit will be able to hang their helmets on a special year.

I just know they will not be happy to do it if they cannot meet their tallest task this weekend.

See, this should have been easy to write. It wasn’t.

At first I thought I was struggling because this will be my last football Around the Ivies. It hit me leaving Murphy’s office after my 30th weekly sitdown with him that I would not be going back, so maybe I was putting pressure on myself to make this column some sort of culminating triumph—wiser and funnier than any before?

But no, that was not it. Eventually I realized what was holding me back. I’ll explain in my final picks section…


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