By Craig Sachson
The second-oldest rivalry in college football resumes this Saturday, with one team trying to clinch an Ivy League championship, and the other trying to put itself in position to do the same.
Sure, there’s more … but this is probably enough to pique your interest.
The #16 Princeton Tigers (8-0, 5-0 Ivy), one of four undefeated teams in the FCS, will make the trip to New Haven, Conn., to face the Yale Bulldogs (6-2, 4-1) Saturday at noon (ESPN+) at the historic Yale Bowl. A Princeton win would assure the Tigers at least a share of the program’s 14th Ivy League championship, while a Yale win would mean that two games in the final weekend of the season will have title implications (see more in the notes section).
This will be the 144th meeting between two of the sport’s most historic programs, and every one of them since #139 has had championship implications. The winner of every Princeton-Yale game since 2016 has gone on to win at least a share of the Ivy League title, while the loser has missed out on the championship.
If the history of the rivalry doesn’t excite you, the present certainly should. Yale enters the weekend leading the Ivy League in scoring offense (32.5), total offense (425.0) and rushing offense (226.1). Princeton enters the weekend atop the Ivies in all three defensive categories: scoring (11.4), total (290.0), and rushing (69.5).
Flip the sides, and you still get highly ranked showdowns. Princeton is #2 in the Ivy League in both scoring (29.9) and passing (265.4) offense, while Yale is #3 is scoring (20.1) and #2 in passing defense (217.9).
Even the future is exciting. The Ivy League has handed out eight Rookie of the Week awards this season, and seven of them will be represented in the run game this week. Princeton tailback Ryan Butler has earned the honor five times, while Yale running back Joshua Pitsenberger won it twice, including after last week’s 69-17 win over Brown.
This isn’t a rivalry that needs extra juice. Princeton vs. Yale matters, even when it doesn’t. It matters to the players, to the schools, and to the alumni. It can change perceptions on a season, win or lose, and it always gets the best out of players deep into their season.
But Princeton vs. Yale matters this season.
And that’s the best Princeton vs. Yale of all.
Week 9 Game Notes
History Lesson • The Princeton-Yale series began Nov. 18, 1873, a 3-0 Princeton win in New Haven. This will be the 144th meeting, making it the second-oldest rivalry in college football, behind only Lehigh-Lafayette (158).
Even Steven • How close has this series been in recent years? The teams have split the last two, four, six, eight, 10 and 12 meetings.
Title Implications • There are two games being played this weekend that could matter in the league race, Princeton-Yale and Harvard-Penn. Here are the implications for all possible results.
Princeton, Penn win: Princeton clinches a share of the title, Penn plays Princeton next week for a share of the title, Yale and Harvard are out.
Princeton, Harvard win: Princeton wins the Ivy League title outright.
Yale, Penn win: Yale would clinch a share of the title in Week 10 with a win over Harvard, while the Penn-Princeton winner would also share the title.
Yale, Harvard win: As few as one (Princeton) and as many as all four teams could win the title.
Stuck On Repeat • A Princeton win would clinch the program’s 14th Ivy League championship, as well as its fifth in the last nine seasons, but it would also mark a feat that hasn’t happened for the Tigers since the 1960s. Princeton hasn’t won back-to-back Ivy League titles since the 1963-64 seasons, and that is the only time in school history the Tigers have repeated as Ivy football champions.
A Good Sign • Princeton shared the 1963 Ivy League title with Dartmouth. Princeton shared the 2021 Ivy League title with Dartmouth. Princeton went undefeated in 1964. Princeton enters Week 9 of this season with a perfect 8-0 record.
Cloud Nine • Princeton is seeking just its third 9-0 start over the last 70 years this weekend. The other two times it happened was in 1964 and 2018. Both seasons included a win at the Yale Bowl, including the 59-43 win there four years ago.
Rank and File • Princeton’s win over Dartmouth last weekend moved the Tigers to #16 in the AFCA Coaches’ Poll and #24 in the Stats Perform FCS Polls.
Perfect Attendance • Princeton is one of eight undefeated teams in Division I. The Tigers join Sacramento State, Holy Cross and Jackson State as FCS unbeatens, while Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan and TCU are undefeated in the FBS.
Bowled Over • Princeton senior wide receiver Andrei Iosivas was invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl this week via an in-person invitation by Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy. He will be only the third Princeton player to ever compete in the Senior Bowl (Hollie Donan, 1951 and Caraun Reid, 2014), and he would also be the first Ivy League representative since 2016.
Andrei The Giant • Andrei Iosivas currently leads the Ivy League in receptions (55), receiving yards (826) and touchdown catches (six). The Senior Bowl Offensive Player of the Week following a 10-catch, 155-yard, two-touchdown performance against Cornell, Iosivas’ 103.2 receiving yards per game ranks fourth in the FCS. Iosivas needs 208 yards in his final two games to become the fifth (or sixth) player in school history with at least 2,000 career receiving yards.
Keep It Classy • It’s possible Andrei Iosivas could be the sixth on the 2,000-yard list because fellow senior wide receiver Dylan Classi is even closer to this rare territory. Classi, who ranks second in the Ivies in receiving yards (668), needs only 106 more yards to reach 2,000. Classi also has 119 career catches, so he needs seven more to move into the Top 10 of all-time receptions at Princeton.
The Butler Did It • Freshman running back Ryan Butler has won the Ivy League Rookie of the Week award five times this season, one short of the Ivy record. That mark was set by three players, including Princeton running back Chuck Dibilio (2011). Butler is tied for the Ivy League lead with 10 rushing touchdowns and 11 overall touchdowns this season.
Watch Out • Junior quarterback Blake Stenstrom was named to the College Football Performance Award (CFPA) FCS National Performer of the Year Watchlist this week. Stenstrom leads the Ivy League in passing yards (2,123), completion percentage (69.7%), passing efficiency (150.7) and fewest interceptions thrown (two) this season.
Getting Defensive • Princeton has the Ivy League’s top-ranked scoring (11.4) and total (290.0) defense this season, and both are among the best in the nation. The scoring defense is #2 in the FCS (behind only Jackson State), and the total defense is #7. Saturday will be the toughest test for this defense, though. Yale ranks first in the Ivy League in scoring, total and rushing offense, and is coming off a 69-point outburst against Brown last weekend.
Seeing Red • Princeton has the second-best red zone defense in the FCS this season. The Tigers have allowed points on only 64.7% of their opponents’ trips, including only seven touchdowns. The next fewest touchdowns allowed in the Ivy League inside the red zone is 12.
Spread It Around • While Liam Johnson ranks fifth in the Ivy League with 64 tackles, Princeton has nine players with at least 20 stops this season, and 12 players with at least two tackles for loss.
Coming Up Next • Princeton will honor its senior class next Saturday when it hosts Penn at 1 pm (NBC Sports Philly) on Powers Field. Whatever other implications that game will have will be determined this weekend.