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Protect Your Unit Week 5 Picks: The Ancient Eight

This week's theme is Ivy League football.


(DISCLAIMER: This contest is for entertainment purposes only. No actual money is being wagered.)

This week's slate of games features a rarity in modern-day major college football: an Ivy League team, as Army takes on Yale. In even more of a rarity, the lower-division team is hosting the game, at the historic Yale Bowl. So today, we celebrate Ivy League football.

The Ivy League isn't as old as you think. The athletic conference was only formed in 1956. The term was used informally before then, to describe a certain class of high-end New England colleges, and the relationships they had with each other. The rivalries long predate the conference: rowing goes back as far as 1852.

Ivy League schools were once a part of major college football. As the sport became more competitive, commercialized, and national, the Ivies didn't come along, preferring to keep football in its traditional place. When the NCAA reclassified Division I-A in 1981, the Ivy League was reassigned to Division I-AA. (Interestingly, they even considered expansion.)

Not that being in I-AA changed anything. The lower scholarship limit is irrelevant, since the Ivies don't give athletic scholarships at all. It had no impact on their scheduling, since they had always scheduled similar-minded northeastern institutions rather than other I-A schools. And the league has never participated in any kind of football postseason (well, not since World War II). When it comes to football, the Ivies prefer to compete only with themselves.

Those who remember the early days of ESPN will remember that they used to broadcast Ivy League football games, live. They started early in the morning, spent some time talking about the various schools and their traditions, and were a lot of fun to watch. This Penn Quakers fan website has a great collection of video clips (of games involving Penn, of course), including some full games from this era.

One of the most famous games in college football history was an Ivy League game. The Harvard-Yale rivalry is called simply "The Game", and is played at the end of the season. In 1968, both Harvard and Yale were undefeated coming in, meaning the game would also decide the Ivy League champion. National recognition was also a possibility; Ivy League teams appeared in the AP/UPI Top 20 poll as late as 1972.

I could tell you what happened, but take six minutes instead and watch this delightful old school highlight clip.

You never see things like that anymore. Fans so close to the field! Straight-ahead kickers! Plain end zones! Going for two in a 20-0 game! That crazy inside double reverse play!

For those who missed the video: Yale led 29-13, and had the ball in Harvard territory, with under a minute to play. Harvard miraculously came up with two touchdowns and two two-point conversions to tie the game. There was no overtime in those days, so that's how it ended. The famous headline read, "Harvard Beats Yale 29-29."

The "Cal Hill" mentioned in the play-by-play is Calvin Hill, future Dallas Cowboys running back, and the father of basketball star Grant Hill. Yale QB Brian Dowling inspired the character B.D. in the comic strip Doonesbury. Also playing in the game, as an offensive lineman for Yale, was actor Tommy Lee Jones. A couple other players had NFL careers.

Sadly, there's no line for Army-Yale, so we can't put a friendly dollar on it. Let's see who you did bet on:

I'm pleased to see the oddball wager amounts are catching on. There's a $3.52 bet, a $1.98, a $19.80 which I think references Herschel Walker running over Billy Bates, a $4.12, a $2.10, and a $2.78. Explain yourselves.

As always, use this space to talk about your picks, and this weekend's football action. By the way, you don't have to be in the pick'em game to comment - this is sort of our unofficial weekend open thread.