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Just hear those sleigh bells jing-a-ling
Ring ting ting-a-ling too
C’mon it’s lovely weather
What did you say it’s not that time of year yet? Are you sure? But this weekend I’ll be bitterly cold outside, and Harvard Stadium will be filled with red and green jerseys and supporters. Surely it must be Christmas?
Oh, I guess you have a point—the game is set for Oct. 30, not Dec. 25. I mean, we have the Crimson and the Big Green, how can you possibly get more festive than that? Aside from the overtly tangible details, this weekend will certainly start to feel a lot like Christmas, at least for this reporter.
Santa must have come a few months early this year, because I’m going to get the best present I could have asked for in Friday night’s clash between Harvard (6-0, 3-0 Ivy) and Dartmouth (6-0, 3-0). You see, this is not only supposed to be a dogfight in that reminds you why you’re a football fan to begin with, in the heart-pounding, anticipatory, will-this-last-second-field-goal-be-good sort of way, but it might be the only dogfight I get to cover all year.
Now, in my third year of reporting on this team, I know the drill. I know that the first few weeks are always the warm-up, the dull end of the season. But the dominance is starting to feel a little ridiculous.
If you look at opponents’ scoring over the first halves of each game—the only time in every contest thus far you can be certain that the first-string defense is still on the field—they’ve amassed a total of 20 points in 180 minutes of play, or roughly equivalent to 3.3 points per half. And these aren’t exactly defensive struggles either, when the Harvard offense is pouring out omore than 40 points a game.
After five weeks of ho-hum blowouts, I was excited for last week’s tilt with Princeton. They told me it would be the hardest game yet. They told me it might even go down to the final snap (they being Crimson coach Tim Murphy to another reporter and Harvard players to me). Despite the Tigers losing to a Brown team that looked impotent a few weeks ago against the Crimson, I chalked it up to the Bears having a fluke game in Cambridge. I was still pumped.
They were right until they were wrong. The game was in contention for about 29 minutes, until Harvard scored on five consecutive drives. Suddenly, it wasn’t a seven-point game, but a 35-point rout. Yawn.
I’m determined to cover at least one last nail-biter before I graduate, however, and this weekend is my best chance at that. A Friday night game, under the lights, between two undefeated teams that pits the two most prolific offenses in the league against the two toughest defenses? It might as well be bundled in cheesy wrapping paper with a bow on top.
The bar is set low, fellas. Don’t let my Very Merry Christmas down.
DARTMOUTH AT HARVARD
So Santa Claus isn’t coming to town. But Big Green quarterback Dalyn Williams is, and who better to challenge the Crimson’s 20-game winning streak than the preseason pick for Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year? And who better to challenge the best offensive line in the league than a Dartmouth defense that has 18 sacks to its name and leads the Ancient Eight with nine picks?
This will be the first real test for the 2015 Harvard team. Yes, I know I’ve said that before, but I mean it this time-pinky swear.
Prediction: Harvard 35, Dartmouth 31
PENN AT BROWN
If you’d told me at the beginning of the season that this game would be a battle for third place midway through the season, I’d have sent you to the crazy house. But somehow, after this week, one of these two teams will share the same league record as either Harvard or Dartmouth.
After being pulled in the second quarter of the Crimson’s massacre of the Bears on a 2-for-7 passing performance that included a pick, Brown starting quarterback Marcus Fuller has quietly ascended the play-calling Ivy ladder, surpassing Dalyn Williams to take the top passing spot in the league with 309.3 yards per game.
And despite the departure of longtime coach Al Bagnoli, the Quakers—in a dramatic turnaround from last year’s underperformance—are surpassing expectations in all facets, especially in an explosive defensive front that leads the Ancient Eight with 19 sacks.
Nevertheless, Brown’s momentum from the surge of four straight wins will be too much for Penn come Saturday in this matchup of, quite surprisingly, the two dark horses in this year’s title race.
Prediction: Brown 42, Penn 38
COLUMBIA AT YALE
How does one recover from two straight conference losses? Schedule in Columbia, of course, for that much-needed boost of morale.
A preseason pick to finish near the top of the standings, the Bulldogs have
floundered so far, getting clobbered by Dartmouth in Week Four and dropping last week’s contest to Penn after a few unfortunate interceptions from quarterback Morgan Roberts.
Roberts and co. can’t afford to be careless again, however—this Lion appears to have grown some claws since last year (and the year before). Games against Columbia are no longer gimmes. Heck, Al Bagnoli’s new team has already won a game—a feat unfamiliar to this squad since 2012—and even put up an impressive fight against Dartmouth last week, losing by only four in Hanover.
I’m not ballsy enough to pick Columbia, however, due to a still lackluster offense and the fact that the players might suffer heart attacks from shock from winning two games in the same month. Yale will pull it together enough to scrape out a victory in New Haven.
Prediction: Yale 17, Columbia 6
CORNELL AT PRINCETON
David Archer hasn’t quite come out of his sophomore slump in his third year as head coach at Cornell—the Big Red’s offense is about as potent as Columbia’s and the defense is worse. The result of this has been a winless season so far, and it’s unlikely that Archer’s squad will find its first victory in New Jersey, where a hungry Princeton team will be looking for redemption after last week’s throttling in Cambridge.
I can only think of one positive for Archer and this Cornell team heading into Saturday’s slaughter—at least they get to leave Ithaca for the weekend?
Prediction: Princeton 38, Cornell 10
Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at email@example.com.
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