By Bob Whitney (@WhitneyBob)
The Ivy League does things just a tad different. As opposed to the Power 5 conferences, which enter their third week of play, the Ivies get around to starting their 62th football season with a full slate of games this weekend.
All eyes will be on the Princeton Tigers, which claimed its second title in the past four years in 2016, was picked to finish first in the preseason poll.
Harvard, a dominant force in the league over the past decade (six titles) and still smarting from last year’s upset in THE GAME (21-14) to the Yale Bulldogs, joined Princeton as a preseason favorite.
Penn, Yale and Dartmouth figure to contend for the title with Brown, Columbia and Cornell projected to be real long shots.
Harvard opens its 144th season on Saturday (1 p.m.) at Rhode Island (0-2).
The game with the Rams will be the fourth all-time meeting between the two schools. The Crimson won the first game in 1923 at Harvard Stadium, 35-0, and last year, trounced the Rams, 51-21, at Harvard Stadium.
The Crimson has a number of All-Ivy players returning from last year’s squad 7-3 (5-2 Ivy League) which include defensive stalwarts, Luke Hutton, Raishaun McGhee, DJ Bailey, Jake McIntyre, Tanner Lee, Adam Scott and wide receiver Justice Shelton-Mosley.
Shelton-Mosley was a unanimous selection to the All-Ivy League first team last year, with 48 catches for 568 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, Hutton and Lee will lead the defensive unit that was among the nation’s best in scoring defense and rushing defense in 2016.
Offensively, the Crimson should be in good shape, with experience at the skilled positions in quarterback Joe Viviano and running back Semar Smith along with Shelton-Mosley.
URI is led by quarterback Tyler Harris who has thrown four touchdown passes in their two losses. Last week, in a 35-18 loss to Stony Brook, Harris was 15-of-32 for 185 yards. Wide receivers Aaron Parker and Marven Beauvais will pose a challenge for the Harvard secondary.
Defensively, D.J. Stewart has been a force with a team-high 22 tackles.
Bob’s Prediction: It is the first game for Harvard, but the offense and Shelton-Mosely should have a field day with an under-performing Ram defense in Kingston, Rhode Island. Harvard 42 – URI 10
Next week: Harvard will host Brown in its home opener on Saturday, September 23 with a noon kickoff. The game will be televised on NESN.
Around the Ancient Eight: In other local Ivy action of note, Brown will open their 140th season on Saturday against Bryant University at Brown Stadium. Former Ivy League Player of the Year James Perry, who led Brown to the Ivy title in 1999, is the first year coach at Bryant.
The Ivy League football teams have fared well on opening day with a 49-39 (.557) record over the past 11 seasons (2005-15).
The NFL opened the season with 20 former Ivy Leaguers on NFL rosters (14 on active rosters).
When Harvard faces URI it will mark the 1,303rd varsity football game. The Crimson’s all-time record is 864-388-50 (.683).
Various Ivy League media outlets utilized to compile this report.
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