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It might be blasphemy to say it, but this year, Harvard’s biggest football matchup probably won’t be The Game against Yale. That’s because while Yale is projected to be a mid-tier Ivy team, the Crimson (9-1, 6-1 Ivy in 2008) are the favorites to win their third-straight title (they split the crown with Brown last year). Instead of the faceoff with the Bulldogs, the big games on Harvard’s schedule will be against Penn and Brown, the two teams projected at the top of the conference. And luckily for the Crimson, both of those games are at Harvard Stadium. The Bears travel to Boston in just the second week of the season, while Penn visits Nov. 14. It is no secret to the Crimson that they’re the favorites. “We seem to have a bull’s-eye on our back and our front,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said in the Ivy League weekly football teleconference. “We seem to be everybody’s big game and everybody is all ‘jacked up’ to play us.” Of course, don’t hand them the trophy yet. The Crimson lost two-time first team All-Ivy quarterback Chris Pizzotti, who led the Ivy League in passing efficiency and was the Asa S. Bushnell Cup Winner as MVP of the conference. In his place will be Collier Winters, a junior who’s more of a scrambler than a drop-back QB. Despite this, Murphy doesn’t foresee a change in offensive philosophy — unlike the alterations Penn coach Al Bagnoli has made with the mobility of quarterback Keiffer Garton. “Collier is a very good athlete, but we haven’t changed much,” Murphy said. “We are a pass-first, run-second team and I think that’s how we’ll set it up.” Still, one of the team’s most talented returnees on offense is junior running back Gino Gordon. Last year he earned second-team All-Ivy honors after rushing for 578 yards and five touchdowns. Gordon will do well if he runs to the left side of the offense. That’s because senior offensive tackle James Williams holds down that side of the line. A two-time All-American, Williams is considered one of the best pro prospects in the conference. “James is one of the few dominant offensive linemen in the league,” Murphy said. “He goes after people … with a defensive player’s mentality.” Defensively, the Crimson will be led by fifth-year senior Carl Ehrlich. The Bethesda, Md., native might not have gaudy statistics — he has just seven career sacks — but he’s the team’s emotional leader, and hence was voted the 136th captain in program history. Ehrlich will be joined by just four other returning starters on the defensive side. A new addition to the starting ‘D’ is sophomore cornerback Matthew Hanson. As a freshman he played in all 10 games, grabbing four interceptions — which was tied for second in the Ancient Eight — and took home Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors. He’s been named one of two preseason first team All-Ivy cornerbacks along with Penn’s Chris Wynn.

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