With apologies to Florida and Georgia, hosts of the world’s biggest cocktail party every autumn, the best college football game in America this weekend will occur Friday night in Boston.
Undefeated Harvard and undefeated Dartmouth will kick off at 7:30 at Harvard Stadium. Each is 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the Ivy League.
This game features history. Harvard and Dartmouth have played 118 times, starting in 1882. Harvard leads, 68-45-5, and has won the last 11 meetings. It stars talent like Harvard quarterback Scott Hosch, who has passed for 1,661 yards and 10 touchdowns while throwing only one interception this season; Harvard running back Paul Stanton, Jr., who has 38 career touchdowns, second on the Crimson all-time list; Dartmouth quarterback Dalyn Williams, who is averaging 283 passing yards per game and has tossed 14 touchdown passes, and the stingiest Harvard defense since the early 1930s. It co-stars coaches Tim Murphy of Harvard and Buddy Teevens of Dartmouth, high-school teammates in Massachusetts and coaching colleagues at Maine.
This could be Murphy’s best team in his 22 years as Harvard’s coach. The Crimson is ranked No. 15 in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision and boasts the best scoring defense in the FCS (7.8) and the fifth-best scoring offense (43.8). Harvard has routed Rhode Island, Brown, Georgetown, Cornell, Lafayette and Princeton. The Crimson defense has two shutouts and has allowed as many as 10 points only one, the season opener at URI.
Harvard has won 20 consecutive games, bettered only by Ohio State’s 21, and has a 14-game winning streak against Ivy League opponents, a school record and the longest active conference winning streak in Division I. Harvard has won 13 consecutive road games, a program record, and 10 consecutive home games. Since the start of the 2013 season, Harvard is 25-1, and winner of consecutive Ivy League championships.
Another example of the dynasty Murphy has built on the banks of the River Charles: 14 consecutive seasons of at least seven victories, unprecedented in the Ivy League.
Dartmouth, ranked No. 22, is enjoying its best start since 1996, when that team finished 10-0. The Big Green has dominated every opponent except Columbia, which put up a fight last week before losing, 13-9. Dartmouth fields the second-best scoring defense in the FCS (9.3) and the best rushing defense (63 yards per game).
This game has all the makings of a classic.
The Pick: Harvard
PENN AT BROWN
Since getting blown out at Harvard and falling to 0-2, the Bears have won four in a row. The scores have been close, and decisions have come in the late minutes, but the results have been Ws. This week is another challenge. Penn is 3-3, Quakers QB Alek Torgerson passed for 350 yards and four touchdowns last week in a 34-20 victory over Yale, and Brown is banged up.
The Pick: Penn
BRYANT AT HOLY CROSS
The 4-3 Bulldogs will have to stop HC QB Peter Pujals, who has passed for 1,998 yards and 19 touchdowns. He threw for 508 yards, a school record, and four touchdowns in a loss to Fordham. The Crusaders are 3-4, but their defense has two shutouts for the first time in 25 years.
The Pick: Holy Cross
URI AT UNH
The 1-5 Rams return to action against a 3-4 New Hampshire team that is rebuilding after a championship 2014 season. The Rams have not won on the road since the third game of the 2013 season, a 19-13 overtime decision at Albany. The Wildcats have won their two home games this season and will be tough to beat at Cowell Stadium.
The Pick: UNH
SALVE REGINA AT MIT
The 5-1 Seahawks are only one point from a perfect season, and one of the reasons is Sam Pascale. The running back rushed for 265 yards, a school record, and two touchdowns last week in their 35-6 romp at Nichols. He carried the ball 33 times. Pascale is the New England Football Conference and ECAC offensive player of the week. After a championship run last year, MIT is 1-6.
The Pick: Salve Regina
Last Week, 5-0. Season, 22-8.