Harvard Four Down Preview: No. 23 Princeton Tigers (5-0) @ Harvard Crimson (4-1)

Image courtesy of ESPN

Kickoff: It doesn’t get much bigger than this for October football. After last year’s epic and controversial five overtime thriller that ultimately handed Princeton a piece of the Ivy League crown, the Tigers travel to Cambridge to face a pissed off Harvard team.

First down: The Crimson converted a two point conversion in the third overtime of last year’s game that should have given them a victory, but the Tigers were granted a timeout that they never should have been granted. The Crimson went on to lose the game and missed out on sharing the league title with Dartmouth. Nine times out of 10, “revenge games” are just manufactured by the media, but this truly is the definition of a revenge game.

Second down: Not only is this a revenge game, but it kicks off the first of five remaining league games for Harvard. If the Crimson want to win a league title this season, they simply cannot lose this game. Harvard, Princeton, Penn and Yale (who face each other this Saturday) all enter the weekend with 2-0 Ivy records. It’s hard to overstate just how important this game is for both teams, aside from what happened a year ago.

Third down: This needs to be a heavy Aidan Bourget game. Every game usually is for the Crimson and with good reason when you have one of the best backs in the league. However, Princeton can score with the best of them, so keeping the offense off the field will be huge. The Tigers have put up 39, 29, 24, 23 and 35 points in their games so far.

Fourth down: While it needs to be a heavy Bourget game so Harvard can control the clock, if it does turn into a shootout, Charlie Dean needs to protect the football first and foremost. This one should be close throughout, so any extra possessions Harvard hands to Princeton may end up coming back to haunt them. Valuing the football is obviously a key in every game, but with a playoff atmosphere in front of what should be an electric crowd, those ball security senses need to be heightened even more.

Extra point: Penalties need to be cleaned up for Harvard. Last week, coach Murphy spoke about his team going through a ton of up-downs at practice because of the lack of discipline so far this season. You simply can’t give Princeton extra yards or extra downs and expect to win the game. The most disciplined team is going to win this football game on Friday night.

Final drive: Harvard, Princeton, under the lights, Harvard Stadium, a share of first place in the Ivy League on the line. You literally can’t script a better scenario if you’re a fan of either team, or just a fan of football in general. With no FCS playoff berths to fight for, the Ivy League title is all these kids and coaching staffs have. This is ultimately a playoff game for both of these historic programs. If you’re not catching a high school game tonight then I suggest heading over to the old concrete building to experience the electric factory.