Hockey season is around the corner! Click here to subscribe to our men’s hockey newsletter.
Football will have a chance to even its Ivy record when it faces Harvard (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) under the Friday night lights at Schoellkopf Field.
After narrowly beating Colgate last weekend, the Red (2-1, 0-1 Ivy) will have a chance to start 3-1 for the first time since 2016.
Harvard will be tough competition for the Red. The Crimson was picked to finish first in the Ivy league preseason poll while Cornell was picked to finish last.
Cornell has lost its last two games against Harvard, but has had some success against the Crimson in Ithaca in recent years. Cornell prevailed in both of Harvard’s most recent trips to Schoellkopf, winning 28-24 in 2018 and 17-14 in 2017.
Cornell’s biggest challenge on defense will be contending with Harvard running back Aidan Bourget. Through three games, Bourget has averaged 112 yards per game and has rushed for five touchdowns.
“He’s a home run threat at any moment,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “He is supremely talented…He sets everything up for them.”
Bourget will challenge a Cornell defense that has allowed 150 yards per game on the ground so far this season.
A big goal for Cornell will be getting off the field on third down. Harvard’s offense has gone just 30 percent on third downs this season.
“Anytime you can get anybody on third and long you’re increasing your chances,” Archer said. “That’s why first and second down, being creative … to try to create tackles for loss is really important.”
While Bourget is Harvard’s biggest threat on offense, the Crimson’s offense is not one dimensional. Harvard quarterback Charlie Dean has thrown for 236 yards per game this season with six touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Red’s opportunities on offense will be limited by Harvard’s strong defensive line. The Crimson has racked up 14 sacks so far this season, the most in the Ivy League. Harvard has only allowed 76 rushing yards per game, and is especially strong at shutting down runs up the middle.
“If I had to say what the strength of their defense is, it’s their interior defensive line,” Archer said. “But I mean you’re splitting hairs. They’re really talented everywhere.”
The Crimson’s strong defensive line could lead to a lot of collapsing pockets for sophomore quarterback Jameson Wang. Despite the pressure, Wang should be able to find opportunities to scramble and run or find open receivers. The passing game is the soft spot of Harvard’s defense. The Crimson have allowed nearly 300 yards per game in the air through three games.
“They’re so good against the run that a lot of times people go to the air against them,” Archer said.
That could provide Wang with an opportunity to build on his strongest game yet with his arm. Last week against Colgate, Wang threw for 284 yards with 18 completions on 27 attempts.
Archer indicated that he wanted to try to establish the run and call play actions in hopes of getting Harvard’s safeties to defend the run, which could open up opportunities for Wang in the passing game.
“You have to find ways to create explosives, you have to find ways to lighten the box,” Archer said. “The more you get them to [defend the run], that’s when the [pass defense] will start to loosen.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Friday at Schoellkopf Field. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU.
Prediction: Harvard 31 Cornell 17
I’ve fallen to 0-3 in my picks (I’ll note that I’m 2-1 against the spread), but I’m feeling good about my chances of picking up my first win this week. There were a lot of positive takeaways from Cornell’s wins over VMI and Colgate, but Harvard is the better team in this matchup. Cornell’s recent success against Harvard at home gives me enough hesitation to think Cornell will keep this within two possessions.