Holy Cross/Harvard Four Down Preview: No. 10 Holy Cross Crusaders (4-0) @ Harvard Crimson (2-0)

Photo – ESPN

Kickoff: It’s the matchup of the year so far as far as New England college football goes. These two teams have built quite a little rivalry over the years and despite the forecast calling for a soggy day at historic Harvard Stadium, the unbeaten Crusaders and unbeaten Crimson should put on a show.

First down: Offensively, both of these teams can put up points. Matt Sluka, Jalen Coker, Ayir Asante, Jordan Fuller and Peter Oliver – with a few others – can make life really difficult on any defense. For Harvard, Charlie Dean has been slinging the rock to start the season while Aidan Bourget is doing his best to replace Aaron Shampklin. Defensively, both teams also have some massive guys up front and Holy Cross has arguably the best linebacker in all of FCS in Jacob Dobbs.

Second down: This is the best head coaching matchup in all of New England this season. Harvard head coach Tim Murphy is a legend and the all-time winningest coach in Ivy League history. He’s shown no signs of slowing down and his teams constantly answer the bell for him. Meanwhile, Holy Cross head coach Bob Chesney has built one hell of a resumé and has turned HC into a true national championship contender while winning three straight Patriot League titles. Both of these programs are where they are because of the head coaches.

Third down: Red zone offense will be massive for Harvard today. The Crimson currently rank first in RZ offense for FCS schools (1.000). Dean, Bourget and receiver Kym Wimberly are all a threat to get in when the Crimson move inside the 20. With Holy Cross’ offense seemingly always a snap of the fingers away from a big play whenever that unit is on the field, it’ll be imperative for Harvard to finish off drives if they’re going to keep up with the HC offense.

Fourth down: On the flip side, HC can’t waste drives either. Harvard’s defense is fourth in rushing defense (41.5 YPG) and first in sacks per game (5.50), so they don’t make it easy either. Sluka and the gang need to put up points every chance they get, especially with Harvard probably getting pressure to the quarterback often and making life difficult for Fuller and Oliver in the ground game.

Extra point: It’s a damn shame that Harvard doesn’t get an opportunity to play in the postseason, something the Ivy League needs to figure out instead of sitting on their hands. With that being said, aside from a few more Ivy matchups against their league rivals, this is a national championship-type game for the Crimson. A chance to knock off an unbeaten, top 10, in-state rival at home is an opportunity that doesn’t present itself very often. Harvard will be ready to go and Holy Cross will have to match their energy early.

Final drive: Despite the weather, this should be an incredible atmosphere. Both of these teams have extremely loyal fan bases that always show out. Whether you’re wearing Crimson or purple and white on Saturday, there’s very few places that will provide a memorable experience like Harvard Stadium will provide when the ball is kicked off at 1 P.M.