Fifty-two weeks ago, Penn walked out of a rain-swept Harvard Stadium with its first Ivy League football championship in six years. Today, the Quakers and Crimson play with the title at stake once again. This time, though, the stage has shifted from the banks of the Charles River to the banks of the Schuylkill. And thankfully, the forecast is for unseasonable warmth and clear skies.
Although the Harvard-Yale game has long been known as Ivy League football's most famous rivalry, it is the Penn-Harvard series that has had the most consequence in recent years. Today's meeting will be the seventh in this decade with championship implications for at least one of the sides.
The most famous of those encouters took place eight years ago, when ESPN's College GameDay came to Franklin Field for its first ever telecast from a non-Division I-A matchup. Although the weather was as miserable that day as it was at last season's game, over 17,000 fans braved the elements to watch Penn take the title in a battle of conference unbeatens.
Although today's encounter has almost equally high stakes, it does not have nearly the same luster. Harvard's loss at Brown on the opening weekend of conference play took some of the gloss off what everyone believed coming into the season would be the game that would decide the Ancient Eight champion.
The stakes are still high, though. A win for Penn would give the Quakers at least a share of their second consecutive championship, and leave them one win away from their first back-to-back undefeated seasons since 2002 and 2003. Penn cannot clinck the title outright, though, unless Yale loses at home against Princeton. If you watched the 52-10 beatdown Penn gave the Tigers last weekend, you know that is a very remote possibility.
On the other sideline, Harvard has to win to keep its title hopes alive. If the Crimson come out on top today, then the winner of next week's Harvard-Yale game (in Boston) would get at least share of the title. A Penn loss next week would give either the Crimson or Elis the championship outright.
So there is plenty to play for at Franklin Field today. Combine that with Penn basketball's season opener against Davidson tonight, and it makes for potentially the biggest game for the Quakers as a whole since that College Gameday visit eight years ago.
In the audio player at the bottom of the post, you can listen to remarks from Penn coach Al Bagnoli and center Joe D'Orazio at this week's local college football coaches' luncheon. You can also listen to Villanova coach Andy Talley preview the Wildcats' big home game today against New Hampshire.
I'll be hosting a live chat from Franklin Field this afternoon. As the game is not televised, this will be the best place to get updates on all the action.
If you're on a mobile device, you can join in by clicking here.
Local Sagarin rankings
Each team's ranking progression through the season is listed from left to right.
43. Penn State (43-54-62-66-32-22-22-27-24-10)
50. Temple (51-57-70-65-56-50-46-60-59-99)
57. Delaware (62-59-56-35-48-66-92-65-106-112)
65. Villanova (55-64-79-95-77-72-69-71-104-64)
88. Rutgers (87-88-82-107-86-67-53-57-39-60)
125. Penn (130-140-163-199-140-131-131-128-130-135)
140. Lehigh (142-162-168-197-168-162-168-143-146)
216. Lafayette (223-229-1232-236-207-198-204-220-141-156)
231. Princeton (229-233-233-234-201-181-208-187-189-187)
235. Bucknell (238-247-240-244-237-238-235-235-230-213)
240. Delaware State (241-241-241-241-230-227-221-222-220-204)
William & Mary is now the highest-ranked I-AA team in Sagarin at No. 55. Delaware is second and Villanova is third. Syracuse is one spot below William & Mary, and Notre Dame is one spot below Delaware. Big East teams ranked below Villanova include No. 67 South Florida, No. 68 Cincinnati and No. 80 Connecticut.
Among the I-A teams ranked below Penn are Minnesota, Tulane, Rice and seven MAC programs.
Sagarin predictions for selected games
I-A rankings are by the BCS standings, I-AA rankings are by The Sports Network. The current Sagarin home-field advantage factor 3.15 points. Because the rankings will change Sunday, I am excluding the Temple game that will take place Tuesday night.
No. 17 New Hampshire at No. 9 Villanova (12:00 p.m., Comcast Network/WPEN 950-AM): Villanova by 6 (70.01 + 3.15 to 67.10)
Harvard at No. 18 Penn (1:30 p.m., WFIL 560-AM): Penn by 9 (59.29 + 3.15 to 53.48)
Penn State at No. 9 Ohio State (3:30 p.m., ABC/WNTP 990-AM): Ohio State by 14 (86.27 + 3.15 to 75.67)
No. 13 Iowa at Northwestern (12:00 p.m., ESPN): Iowa by 15 (86.51 to 68.75 + 3.15)
San Diego State at No. 3 TCU (3:00 p.m., Versus): TCU by 23 (94.09 + 3.15 to 74.14)
No. 10 Oklahoma State at Texas (8:00 p.m., ABC): Oklahoma State by 9 (87.55 to 74.95 + 3.15)
The top five teams in Sagarin overall are Oregon, TCU, Stanford, Auburn and Boise State.