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A long win streak spanning multiple seasons. A chance for a third championship for the first time in school history.
I am, of course, talking about the Harvard football team, entering last week’s penultimate contest against Penn with hopes of clinching the Ivy title, right?
Wrong. Once upon a time, I followed non-Ivy League college football, and I was a diehard USC Trojans fan (growing up in the Pete Carroll/Matt Leinart/Reggie Bush era, how could I not be?). The mid-2000s were fraught with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows for me, partially because middle school happened, but mostly because of the rise and fall of USC.
So when ESPN released its 30 for 30 film in September on USC football in the Carroll era, I put off watching it, not wishing to relive my painful childhood memories. Last Friday, I decided it was time to come to terms with my decade-long hatred of Vince Young (tough thing to have living in Texas).
It all came back to me—the jubilation during the 34-game streak without a loss, the shock and denial after a third-straight BCS national championship was stolen by the burnt orange jerseys in USC’s backyard at the 2006 Rose Bowl, and the crashing of a dynasty post-NCAA sanctions.
Perhaps it was because this heartbreak was so fresh in my mind that what happened the next day wasn’t so shocking. You know the story—Penn comes onto Harvard’s home turf, snaps a 22-game win streak, steals the Crimson’s chance at clinching a title share for the third consecutive season. Déjà vu?
Not entirely, so fear not, Harvard fans. It doesn’t have to go the way of the 2006 USC Trojans.
Your season isn’t over and championship hopes are still alive. As if to prove that league parity is as high as each Ancient Eight coach claimed in the preseason, three teams—Harvard, Dartmouth, and Penn—are tied atop the league with just one week remaining in the season.
All three have played each other this season, so barring more upsets, we will have co-co-champions for the 2015 Ivy League title come Saturday. Unlike the Trojans, the Crimson has a final chance for redemption, and what sweeter way to end the season than a drubbing of that school in New Haven?
And even if the unthinkable happens, and Harvard loses The Game for the first time in eight years, take solace, Crimson fans, in the fact that your team (probably) won’t be embroiled in a devastating scandal a few months from now that will cause your head coach to leave, previous titles to be removed, and the disintegration of your dominance as a football superpower. Not that I’m still bitter or anything.
BROWN AT COLUMBIA
If Saturday’s Ivy League slate is the main concert, then Friday night’s game is the opening act that no one really cares about—it’s almost as if the Ivy League schedulers had the foresight of knowing that this game would be meaningless to the title race. If you’re looking for something to watch Friday night, I’ve heard good things about Fox’s MasterChef Junior, and who doesn’t love watching Gordon Ramsay berate nine-year-olds?
But if you’re dead-set on a football Friday, it might be entertaining to see if Brown loses, potentially creating a three-way tie at the bottom of the Ancient Eight standings.
Prediction: Brown 24, Columbia 6
PRINCETON AT DARTMOUTH
According to The Daily Princetonian, a tiger statue on the Princeton campus was defaced last week with expletives. I highly doubt the Dartmouth football players made the 316 mile trek to New Jersey (and if you are going to flee Hanover, would you really go to Jersey?), but they’ll get their own chance to embarrass the Tigers this weekend in what likely will be a rout.
Look for Big Green quarterback Dalyn Williams to have a statement performance as he has a final game-time opportunity to impress the NFL scouts who drew the short straw on scouting games.
Prediction: Dartmouth 42, Princeton 24
CORNELL AT PENN
For the second year in a row, the saving grace for the Big Red is the week nine contest against Columbia, which will probably—once more—be Cornell’s only victory of 2015. The Big Red has about as much of a chance of winning in Philly as my beloved Dallas Cowboys have of making the playoffs—the odds are, in a word, horrendous.
Then again, miracles do happen, and perhaps a win knocking Penn out of the title hunt will be enough to save Cornell coach David Archer’s job after a 2-17 tenure.
Prediction: Penn 38, Cornell 3
HARVARD AT YALE
If it wasn’t for The Game, I would bet a lot of money that the majority of Harvard students would not set foot in a football stadium all year. Indeed, the amount of grumbling I’ve heard that tickets “actually cost money” makes me wonder how much attendance is driven by peer pressure, an excuse to consume alcohol an hour after waking up, versus by an actual desire to watch football.
Students that remain sober enough to turn their attention to the gridiron Saturday may be in for a real treat, however. Although Yale has no Vince Young, this contest will likely be the closest of the three that will decide how many shares of the Ivy League title will be parsed out. Still, I think the Crimson football team is already too angry at having to share the title to let the Bulldogs steal this one.
Prediction: Harvard 34, Yale 17
—Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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