Harvard and Brown, the defending Ivy football co-champions, will meet each other at 7 p.m. tonight under the lights of Harvard Stadium.
In the last five seasons, the teams have had a share in four of the Ivy championships. Both teams went 6-1 in the Ivy League last fall. The only league team that defeated Harvard last year was Brown.
It is not surprising, then, that Brown-Harvard is a rivalry game. At least, it is for Brown.
"There would be nothing better than to go up to their place and beat them there," said wide receiver Bobby Sewall '10.
It's likely that the night game will be in front of one of the biggest crowds Harvard Stadium will host all season, according to Harvard Head Coach Tim Murphy. In preparation for the night atmosphere, Brown practiced at 7 p.m. on Monday, instead of taking its usual Monday day-off.
Murphy said he doesn't see the Brown game any differently from other games. The importance of it, for Murphy, comes from it being the league-opener.
Brown "is a team that's always extremely highly motivated to play us," Murphy said. "But it doesn't matter who you open with in our league, you know, it's a big game. And this is just another one."
Murphy said many teams, inside and outside the Ivy League, look at Harvard as their rival. But he said his team is used to playing against teams that consider Harvard to be their rival. And his veteran players will expect a game with the intensity of a rivalry game.
"It is something that you have to constantly remind your team about," Murphy said. "The upperclassmen, they get it. … But some of the young guys are surprised by the intensity of how teams play us, no matter what the situation."
Harvard won't face what Murphy sees as its biggest rival until the last week of the season.
"Our big rival obviously is Yale," he said. "Traditionally, Princeton, as well."
Sewall said if Harvard doesn't think of Brown as its rival now, "they're about to see that maybe they should consider differently."
The Bears and Crimson share more in common than last just last year's Ivy championship trophy.
They are both coming off close losses that, according to Brown Head Coach Phil Estes, could have gone either way.
In last week's loss to Holy Cross, Harvard's offense was completely balanced in its attack — passing 37 times and rushing 37 times. But according to Murphy, his team is still a "pass first, run second" team.
Against a Brown team that was fourth in the nation in rush defense last year, but last in the Ivy League in pass defense, the Crimson might look to the air often tonight. But Estes said his defense can't focus on the pass too much.
"You can't just limit yourself on trying to contain the quarterback, because they can run the football as well," Estes said.
The Bears went to the air 45 times against Stony Brook and kept it on the ground 32 times. But Estes said Brown, like Harvard, has weapons at quarterback and running back, so defenses can't concentrate on just one too much.
Both teams are led by rookie starting quarterbacks trying to fill big cleats. Kyle Newhall-Caballero '11 took over Brown's huddle after 2008 second team All-Ivy quarterback Michael Dougherty '09 graduated. In his first collegiate game making a pass, Newhall-Caballero was 29 of 45 passing for 267 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in last week's 21-20 loss.
Harvard's Collier Winters made his starting debut under center after the departure of last year's Ivy League Player of the Year, Chris Pizotti. In his first outing, Winters was 22 of 37 passing for 195 yards and two touchdowns.
The battle in the trenches in front of Winters will feature four 2008 All-Ivy linemen, including two players coaches call NFL prospects, defensive tackle David Howard '09.5 of Brown and left tackle James Williams of Harvard.
"I guarantee you this: We won't see a better defensive front than Brown has this year," Murphy said. "Dave Howard and James Develin … are probably two of the three best linemen in the entire league."
Both Murphy and Estes compliment each others' teams often when they speak of tonight's matchup.
"They play us hard," Murphy said of Estes' team. "They play us down and dirty right down until the last snap."