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WEEK 11 CRYSTAL BALL: TIME FOR "THE" GAME
It's Lehigh-Lafayette #158 in eastern Pennsylvania
My friends, THE GURU is locked and loaded for the latest iteration of THE game, an event slated to take place in Easton, Pa., at 12:30 pm ET tomorrow.
Of course, I’m talking about Lehigh-Lafayette, with this year’s ballgame the 158th edition of college football’s most-played rivalry. Heck, this annual battle dates to the 1880s, about the time Oscar Mayer was founding a meat company that delights yours truly and other tailgaters to this day.
Let’s take a quick look at some key dates in the rivalry’s history:
1887: Lehigh records its first win in the series, a 10-4 spanking of the Leopards in Bethlehem.
1914: The Engineers top Lafayette, 17-7, two weeks after beating Penn State on the way to an 8-1 record. In other big news, Amoroso’s Baking Company, purveyor of popular rolls for cheesesteaks, moves to Philly from Camden, NJ.
1950: Lehigh completes its lone undefeated season with a 38-0 annihilation of Lafayette in Easton.
1980: LU wins its fourth straight rivalry game - and ninth in 10 years - with a 32-0 pasting of the Pards on the road, completing an undefeated 9-0-2 regular season. Two months later, a young TOMMY BIRD sobs as the Eagles lose their first Super Bowl to Oakland.
2021: The good guys break a two-game losing streak with a workmanlike 17-10 victory over Lafayette, ending the season with three straight wins.
As for the all-time series, yes, Lafayette leads 80-72-5 but many of those victories were piled up when the Lehigh boys were off at war, defending our way of life. In fact, since 1950, the Brown & White have owned their rivals to the tune of 45-25-2.
Fast forward to 2022 and the teams are tied with Colgate for third place in the Patriot League with neither program enjoying the kind of year they set out to achieve. That said, the cliche rings true: it’s a one-game season and bragging rights in this rivalry mean an awful lot.
Lehigh enters at 2-8 with both wins coming in the Patriot League – an early-season victory over perennial also-ran Georgetown and a home shocker vs. Colgate last weekend. It was a wonderful surprise, akin to waking on Christmas morn and finding Joe Theismann in your living room with a hoagie under each arm.
Meanwhile, Lafayette limps in at 3-7, the thirteenth consecutive year they’ve entered The Game with five victories or fewer. Yup, it’s been a long time since the football business was good in Easton as the Leopards have only had one winning season since 2009 — the Covid-shortened spring season of 2021 when the team finished 2-1.
Lehigh’s 2022 strengths are defense and special teams while the Leopards sport perhaps the finest defensive line in the Patriot League. We’ll see who blinks first though my bet is on your author when I get Tabasco in my eye at the tailgate.
The ace in Lehigh’s quiver this weekend is THE TRE MAN, who is a sterling 8-2 in his 10 trips to the big one. Let’s get the young man a victory and get the Mountain Hawks their third win. Call it LEHIGH, 23-20
My season stands at 87-63 (.580) after a 6-8 performance in Week Ten so I need a big effort this weekend with Jacksonville (3-7), Miami (7-3), Seattle (6-4) and Tampa (5-5) enjoying the bye.
If you’re looking for the complete schedule, including TV listings, broadcaster pairings, standings and team statistics, you know I’ve got you covered. Now, let’s make some picks.
At 1 pm, I like the host Saints vs the Rams, the Bears in Atlanta, the Commanders in Houston and Baltimore vs visiting Carolina. The Giants beat Dee-troit but struggle, Buffalo topples Cleveland in the Motor City, the Pats beat the Jets in Foxboro, and the Eagles win big in Indy.
In the 4 pm window, Denver tops the visiting Raiders, Minnesota gets a home win against Dallas, and the Bengals earn a victory in Pittsburgh. The Chiefs win the night game in LA against the Chargers and, on Monday night, San Fran bests Arizona.
That’s it for this week, folks! Enjoy the action and God bless!