With two games left on the season, Penn football controls its own destiny for at least a share of the Ivy League title. After a 3-7 record last year, a conference championship would be the ultimate turnaround for the Red and Blue, but first, they'll have to make it through Harvard, a 5-2 squad that poses a dangerous threat.
Four Daily Pennsylvanian sports reporters make their picks ahead of the Quakers' battle against the Crimson.
Penn 31, Harvard 17 — Brandon Pride, former Senior Sports Editor
This game should play out in the exact opposite fashion of how the loss at Brown did. This time, instead of facing a good passing team, Penn will be facing a team that specializes in the run. While Harvard totes the ball at 4.5 yards per carry, expect the Quakers to slow them down as they march towards what they hope will be a de facto Ivy League title the following week against Princeton.
Should the Crimson attempt to throw the ball against the Red and Blue, expect little wiggle room. The Quaker pass defense has been much improved since halftime of the Brown game, including holding Cornell quarterback Jameson Wang to under a 50% completion rate in a win last week. This should serve the team well at Princeton, but first, the team has a job to do at Franklin Field, its home finale. If things go the way they should, expect Penn to finish its season with a perfect home record.
Penn 24, Harvard 21 — Walker Carnathan, Sports Associate
The Quakers have an unprecedented opportunity over the next two weeks: the chance to control their own destiny and secure their first Ivy League title since 2016. They will need two more wins to do so, but as they stare down the barrel of perhaps the two best opposing teams in the conference, that task is easier said than done.
First up is Harvard, owners of a 5-3 record, with a clip of 3-2 in the Ancient Eight. Like many of the teams Penn has faced this season, the Crimson’s strength lies in their run game, with senior tailback Aidan Borguet leading the conference in rushing by nearly 400 yards. Borguet has 1,003 yards on the ground, while second place has 613. Borguet is a big, bruising back and wears down defenses with his powerful running style. But the Quaker defensive line is equally effective, setting the stage for a game that will likely be decided in the trenches. Expect for Borguet to be held under 100 yards for just the third time this season and for Penn to emerge with a nail-biting victory, keeping its title hopes alive.
Harvard 24, Penn 17 — Matthew Frank, Senior Sports Editor
Penn sits just one win away from a shot at an Ivy championship next Saturday. But before then, the Quakers have to go through Harvard, a team that matches up well with Penn and I think will spell doom to the Red and Blue’s title chances.
The Crimson hold the Ivy League’s second-best rushing attack, led by star running back Borguet, who leads the conference with over 1,000 yards so far this season. Against the Ancient Eight’s first and third-best ground games – Yale and Dartmouth – Penn held both squads beneath their average yards per carry, but each still topped 165 yards.
The Quakers can keep Borguet in check, but as we saw in tight one-touchdown games against Yale and Dartmouth, they can only do so much.
To be fair, the Bulldogs scored 13 points and the Big Green put up 10 points before two overtimes. The main issue in those two games was the offense, and on Saturday, the game will likely come down to just that.
Penn looked alright against Cornell last week, putting up 28 points, but three of those touchdowns came on three-plays-or-fewer drives that started inside Big Red territory. The Quakers have done just enough offensively all season to win games, but they’ve appeared shaky on numerous occasions.
Ideally for Penn’s title chances, I’ll be wrong, but I think Harvard leaves Franklin Field with a win.
Penn 27, Harvard 24 — Eashwar Kantemneni, Deputy Sports Editor
The Quakers are coming off a much-needed bounce-back win on the road against Cornell and are heading back home to Franklin Field — where they haven't lost a game yet this season — with a chance to control their own destiny for a share of the Ancient Eight crown. Their opponent is a tough one in Harvard but not a challenge that the Quakers haven't overcome before this season.
Offensively, Harvard has arguably the most explosive player in the Ivy league in Borguet, who already has over 1,000 rushing yards and has 11 touchdowns this year. While Bourget will likely find other ways to dominate, Penn has a top three rushing defense in the conference, only allowing 2.7 yards per carry and 86.9 yards per game. The Red and Blue has limited other potent ground games in Yale and Dartmouth to totals far less than their season averages.
More concerning for the Quakers, I believe, is the Crimson's strong passing game, which ranks fourth in the Ivy League, but I expect Penn to be better equipped to handle it after its game against the pass-first Brown Bears. The Quakers can afford to allow completions and yards but must clamp down in the red zone and prevent touchdowns to win this game.
On the other side, Harvard's defense has been lackluster this season, especially against the pass, so Penn will likely try to air it out more this week after a season low in attempts last week. This game should be an intriguing, back-and-forth contest, but in the end, I believe that it will be a different Aidan — Penn sophomore quarterback Aidan Sayin — that will have his hands on the ball last and will lead them on a final drive resulting in a game-winning kick to keep the Red and Blue's title hopes alive.