No. 13 Princeton football’s (5–0, 2–0 Ivy) 15-game winning streak and unbeaten 2019 record will be put to the test Saturday afternoon, as the Harvard Crimson (4–1, 2–0 Ivy) travel to New Jersey for Princeton’s homecoming game.
Harvard will be by far Princeton’s toughest opponent of the season. Princeton’s first two Ivy League opponents, Brown and Columbia, showed promise on offense and defense respectively, but both currently have losing records. Princeton’s non-conference opponents — Butler, Bucknell, and Lafayette — are even worse, holding a combined 2–19 record.
Harvard, on the other hand, has won its past four games after starting the season with a non-conference loss to San Diego and is tied in the Ivy League standings with Princeton with a 2–0 conference record.
The Crimson has played well on both offense and defense, scoring 38.6 points per game and allowing 19.6 points per game.
Defensively, Harvard boasts a fearsome front — they lead the FCS in sacks per game with 5.2. They have a balanced defensive rotation, with three players — Truman Jones, Anthony Nelson, and Brogan McPartland — tied for the team lead with three sacks. They are also brutal against the run, leading the FCS by allowing just 2.09 yards per rush and are second in yards per game allowed with 68.4. That will set up a compelling matchup against the Princeton offensive line, which has allowed only six sacks in five games and powered Princeton to 4.66 yards per rush.
Harvard’s defense has allowed 246.7 yards per game passing, which will present an opportunity for senior quarterback Kevin Davidson, who leads the FCS with a 73.6 completion percentage, and the Princeton receiving corps.
Offensively, Harvard is led by junior quarterback Jake Smith, who has completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and five interceptions in the 2019 season. Their leading rusher is junior Devin Darrington, who has averaged 4.7 yards per carry on 103 attempts this year.
Last year’s game against Harvard was the closest the Tigers played all year, but Princeton ultimately prevailed 29–21. The only other game Princeton didn’t win by double digits was its 14–9 win over Dartmouth in a battle of unbeatens.
Saturday’s homecoming game represents the start of a brutal stretch of four games for Princeton. After Harvard, Princeton will travel to Ithaca to face Cornell, and a week later will play currently unbeaten Dartmouth at Yankee Stadium. The Tigers will then return home to face Yale, a team with a 4–1 record that was projected to finish ahead of Princeton in the preseason Ivy League poll.
So if the Tigers can finish unbeaten for the second consecutive season, they’ll have earned it.
The game against Harvard will kick off at 1 p.m. at Princeton Stadium on Saturday. It can be streamed on ESPN+ or heard on WPRB 103.3 FM.