This Saturday at 12 p.m., Penn football (3-5, 1-4 Ivy) will visit Harvard (6-2, 3-2) in its penultimate game of the season. Four Daily Pennsylvanian Sports reporters make their picks ahead of the game against the Crimson.
Penn 28, Harvard 26 - Lochlahn March, Senior Sports Editor
You can call me crazy, and you might be right. But even though Harvard is still in the running for first in the conference while Penn is just trying to avoid dead last, I think the Quakers can pull it off in Cambridge.
Yes, the Quakers are coming off an unexpected and disheartening loss to the Big Red, and they have yet to capture a conference win on the road this season. Yes, Harvard’s rushing defense is ranked No. 1 in the FCS, and its rushing offense paces the Ivy League. But this Saturday has the makings of a trap game for Harvard, and all the factors that make Penn the underdog are exactly why the Quakers will surprise the Crimson and come away with a narrow victory.
Not to mention, recent history has favored the Red and Blue. Penn coach Ray Priore has a 4-1 all-time record against the Crimson, and Penn has won its last three straight games in Cambridge. Expect running back Isaiah Malcome to notch his sixth rushing touchdown of the season and defensive back Jason "Paul" McCleod, Jr. to put up another strong performance.
Harvard 38, Penn 7 - Jackson Joffe, Senior Sports Reporter
It looked like the Quakers were starting to turn their season around after a win over Brown, but the Red and Blue came crashing down hard against Cornell this past weekend in a 15-12 loss. Penn struggled to put up points and yardage against a defense that has had difficulty containing opposing offenses all season, as staff writer Charlie Ma notes.
Harvard, meanwhile, sits at an impressive 6-2, with its two conference losses decided by less than five points total. The losses were to Princeton and Dartmouth, who currently sit tied for first in the Ivy League.
The Crimson quickly raced out to a 42-0 lead against Columbia this past weekend in a dominant victory, and it's likely they will be able to find similar success early on against a struggling Quaker squad. However, wide receiver Ryan Cragun will manage to find the end zone for the third time this season.
Harvard 24, Penn 10 - Ezra Troy, Sports Associate
The Quakers are coming off a deflating loss to Cornell in which Penn's offense couldn’t find the end zone all game. The Crimson are coming off a 28-point win against a Columbia team in which their offense put up seven touchdowns.
The Crimson defense, which hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in a single game this season, and is ranked 12th in the FCS in total defense, should have no trouble shutting down Penn’s subpar offense, ranked 97th in the FCS in total offense. On the other side of the ball, Harvard's high-powered offense, led by running back Aaron Shampklin — the Ivy League leader in rushing yards and touchdowns — should continue to put up points.
Penn will need freshman quarterback Aidan Sayin to lead the offense and continue playing at a high level in order to win this rivalry matchup. More likely, Harvard will take care of business in this must-win game against an inferior Penn team.
Harvard 34, Penn 17 - Nicky Belgrad, Deputy Sports Editor
Though 17 points doesn't seem like many, I'd be surprised to see Penn's offense execute more than two or three solid drives against a stingy Crimson defense.
Moreover, Harvard will look to take care of business at home, sitting one game behind both Dartmouth and Princeton for first in the Ivy League with only two games left in the season. To have any shot at the top spot, Harvard knows this game is a must-win against a beatable Penn opponent.
One might argue that this could be a "trap game" for Harvard, who visits Yale to close out the season next week in "The Game." However, to have any chance at an Ivy League crown, Harvard needs both of these games, so I don't expect them to overlook a weak Penn team, even though the Crimson are likely not worried about the Quakers' scoring capabilities.