No matter what metric used, if any, both Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are at the forefront of being leaders of young men and women in academia.
The statistics don’t lie in backing up that statement – not that you would be too surprised at that. Including honorees associated with both universities, the two Bay State institutions have combined for 236 Nobel Laureate affiliations and 380 Rhodes Scholars, and a mere mention of the universities elicits universal respect and admiration for what they stand for. (Unless you’re a Yalie, of course.)
In the fall of 2014, a select group of young men at both Harvard and MIT have combined to master, as well as dominate – another field of study.
As they possibly prove that juggling both aerospace engineering and Cover 2 defensive schemes isn’t as hard as it first looks on the surface, both the Crimson and Engineers go into Saturday’s games sporting immaculate 9-0 records, and also go into today playing two of the biggest games in their school’s history. An undefeated Harvard plays in “The Game” at home against blood rival Yale looking to win an outright Ivy League championship and post the school’s 17th undefeated season. MIT, champions of the New England Football Conference for the first time, will play in its first ever Division III playoff game, traveling to Bangor, Maine to take on Husson University in the first round.
While the geeks inheriting the college football earth seems like something out of Freaky Friday script, Harvard has become sort of a Division I powerhouse on the East Coast under head coach Tim Murphy. In 21 years as coach, Murphy has led the Crimson to eight Ivy League championships (including 2014), with three of those championship campaigns being undefeated seasons – the last perfect year coming in 2004, when economics major and current Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was under center. Harvard defeated the Bulldogs in last year’s “Game” to force a split of the Ivy championship in 2013 with Princeton.
Though already champions this year because the Ivy League does not incorporate tiebreakers, Crimson players are not in the mood for sharing the spoils.
“We got a share last year, but it’s just not the same when you’re outright and when you share,” said junior economics major and running back Paul Stanton, Jr., who scored four touchdowns in last year’s 34-7 rout of Yale last season. “Even though we have the title now, we definitely want it outright.”
How does Stanton maintain the balance of the responsibilities of being an Ivy League student and Division I football player?
“After three years, I have a certain routine that I’m kind of in during the football season. Waking up early, taking care of football treatment, making sure I get to class, just trying to stay on top of my work.”
If that sounds tough, try to walk in the cleats of the gridiron warriors just one mile south along the banks of the Charles River, especially on a Friday. On the eve of their first playoff game in school history, most of the players have a heavy day of class and lab sessions, as per usual on a Friday in the fall. (Sadly, that, along with the newfound media crunch about the team’s success, was the main reason A Lot of Sports Talk was not able to get an interview of any member of the team for this article. Nerds!) It’s not necessarily the ideal way to start the day before the biggest game of most of these players’ lives, but that’s only if they’re only in it for football, and clearly, the football players aren’t in it just for the on-field glory.
A deeper look at the Engineers roster reveals that the majority of the players are of typical physical dimensions of a Division III player; somewhere between 5-foot-something and 6-2, with the heaviest three or four players barely reaching 275. (Though senior defensive lineman and economics/business major Evan Tencer tips the scales at 375 pounds.) The roster also reveals that almost a quarter of the players (17 out of 80) were valedictorians in high school, including starting quarterback and aerospace engineering major Peter Williams.
They’ve played like giants, however, as the Engineers have scored at least 28 points in every game but one this season. They’ve also won in a variety of ways, defeating Maine Maritime 55-37 in come-from-behind fashion, then following that game up with a 24-13 defensive struggle in the regular season-ending triumph over the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
All this has made more than a few people do a double take and ask rhetorically whether they knew MIT even sported a football team, let alone a wildly successful one. Even one mile away, some involved in college football were caught unawares by the Engineers’ success. Asked whether he knew MIT was undefeated, Harvard’s Stanton was just as surprised as you might have been if asked on the spot.
“Really? I didn’t know that! But it’s nice to see that other schools like us are undefeated.”
More people may know about the success of the bastions of academia, especially this week; College Gameday, ESPN’s highly-rated traveling road show of a pre game show, is in Cambridge for “The Game.”
Combining brains and brawn is something the A Lot of Sports Talk‘s College Football Top 25 panel has mastered to a science. This week, we have seven pollsters, as Lisa Horne, national college football writer, PigskinGrind.com founder and FWAA member, jumps in with her poll to combine with the other six pollsters: T.J. Basalla (super fan, marketing professional, WJPZ Alumni Association President), Pavan Sandhu Eckhart (Texas A&M graduate, Sales Rep at Ferring Pharmaceuticals in Dallas), Basil Mitchell (former TCU and Green Bay Packers RB), Sandy Weintraub (super fan, Director of Student Conduct and Community Standards at the University of Oregon), Adesina Koiki (Football Writers Association of America member/voter, A Lot Of Sports Talk editor-in-chief) and an anonymous assistant coach who once coached at a Division I-FBS school. If you have any comments and/or complaints, write them below on the Facebook window or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you, as always.
They are the only undefeated Power Five team left in the country. They find ways to win games they shouldn’t. They have Jameis Winston at QB still. They’re still tough. (T.J. Basalla)
Is it possible that the Ducks could be caught looking forward to the Civil War and let this week’s opponent, a 2-8 Colorado team, hang with them for a while in Eugene on Saturday? In one word…not a chance! P.S. I’ve never been good at math. (Adesina Koiki)
The Crimson Tide are a different team at home versus on the road and that’s why I have them in the No. 3 spot. The CFP won’t be played in Tuscaloosa and that is a concern.. (Lisa Horne)
Call me a TCU apologist (I might be), but the knee-jerk reactions by media members over the Horned Frogs’ near-loss to Kansas is overblown. Taking the whole body of work (that’s what committee wants us to focus on, right?), TCU is fifth in the FBS in scoring margin, defeated Minnesota and Kansas State by 20+ points, took out Oklahoma when they were undefeated and won at West Virginia (something Baylor did not do). So all that was somewhat tarnished by a four-point strugglefest at Kansas? Give me a break. (Adesina)
This team should be included in an eight-team playoff but not a four-team playoff due to a non-conference slate of Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and UT Martin. Three lower-tiered Sun Belt teams and an FCS team? Unacceptable. (Lisa)
So long as the Bulldogs win out (Vandy, at Ole Miss), they will become the most interesting debate of the first season of the college football playoff. Is an 11-1 non-champion from the SEC team more worthy of a playoff spot than an 11-1 Big 12 champion and/or a 12-1 Big 10 champion? (T.J.)
One quality win. One terrible loss. A mess of nothing otherwise. The Buckeyes are a very good team but, résumé wise, have a lot of work to do. (T.J.)
Fun fact: Baylor’s opponent on Saturday, Oklahoma State, has scored at least 34 points against the Bears in 15 straight meetings. So does that mean Baylor is in for a much tougher game than expected against the Pokes? Or are the Bears going to win 71-35? (Adesina)
The only team that can control its own destiny in the Pac-12 South. Amazing. (T.J.)
The Bruins may have peaked too late. This is not the same team that struggled against Memphis, Virginia and Colorado. (Lisa)
There’s still a lot to play for in the next two weeks for Michigan State, namely a berth in one of the New Years’ Six games. Two more wins should sew that up for them. (Adesina)
Amazingly enough, the Rebs still have an outside shot to both make it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game AND make the playoff. Long shot yes, but a chance? You bet. (T.J.)
The Bulldogs ended their conference slate in style by turning War Eagle into fried chicken. Along with playing Charleston Southern and rival Georgia Tech, they’ll be rooting for Missouri to lose one of its final two games so they can clinch a spot in the SEC Championship Game. (Adesina)
Both TCU and Baylor got their wish on Thursday as Kansas State pulled out the win in Morgantown. TCU’s win – and Baylor’d potential win – against the Wildcats still has a lot of cachet. (Adesina)
Another “Cardiac Cats” game in Tucson. Rich Rod may get some calls from Florida but I see no reason for him to leave the Pac 12. (T.J.)
Another great “What could have been?” team this season is the Badgers. They blew a huge lead against what we’ve discovered is an average or worse LSU team and they lost to a mediocre or worse Northwestern team. Otherwise, this team is dominating this season. (T.J.)
The Sun Devils displayed a textbook performance of showing up hungover from a win over Notre Dame. Corvallis is THAT place where championship dreams die. (Lisa)
Someday the world will appreciate the genius of coach Paul Johnson’s offense. (Lisa)
Kyle Whittingham’s name should be thrown out there for some of the bigger jobs. He’s done fantastic work in SLC. (T.J.)
Regardless of what their bowl fate is going to be, we have to start talking more about how special of a season it has been so far for The Herd. Remember, this team was pegged by many to go undefeated, and it’s not so easy to perform at your best week in and week out with that kind of onus around your neck. (Adesina)
I didn’t give the Tigers much of a chance in College Station. Instead they bowled over the Aggies and still control their destiny to make it back to Atlanta. (T.J.)
Losing to Georgia wasn’t really that much of a shock. War Eagle’s vaunted offense only putting up seven points was a shock. (Adesina)
Of the rivalry games taking place this Saturday, USC-UCLA might be the most entertaining of the day. The Trojans need to win out and have Arizona State lose one more game to head to Santa Clara for the Pac-12 Championship Game. (Adesina)
Watching Melvin Gordon run roughshod over Nebraska last week, it’s getting harder to figure that the Cornhuskers were the school known as the Blackshirts, a defensive unit that consistently was one of the stingiest defenses in the country. (Adesina)
The Cornhuskers will be in the record books for all the wrong reasons. (Lisa)
Without Trevor Knight against Texas Tech, the Sooners threw three interceptions and had to overcome a sluggish first 35 minutes to defeat Texas Tech. It’s hard envisioning their season ending with the sort of big bang that the 2013 season ended with. (Adesina)
Colorado State has to win the Mountain West Conference to be considered for a possible New Years’ Six game, which means Boise State – the only team to defeat the Rams in conference play – needs to lose one of its two remaining games for CSU to reach the MWC Championship Game. (Adesina)
The Blue Devils’ appearance in this poll will be short-lived – and their chances at reaching the ACC Championship Game non-existent – because of Thursday’s butt-kicking at the hands of Tobacco Road rival North Carolina. (Adesina)
Others receiving votes:
Notre Dame (12 points), LSU (11), Clemson (10), Minnesota (7), Boise State (4), Texas (1)
* – To break ties, we used a three-step criteria; 1) higher number of first-place votes, 2) higher number of ballots (out of six) the teams appeared in, 3) highest single ranking by an individual pollster (e.g. if Team A and Team B are tied cumulatively and appeared in all six polls, but Team A’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 7 and Team B’s highest ranking by an individual pollster was No. 9, Team A wins tiebreaker)
[Cover photo (Justin Wallace) courtesy of MITathletics.com]