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Know Your 2016 Opponents: Yale

Today's "Know Your 2016 Opponents" series continues with the team that is predicted by College Sports Journal to finish 3th in the Ivy League: Yale.

Although it would have been a great narrative coup if Hilary Clinton and Bill Clinton met at the classic 14-12 upset of the Bulldogs by Harvard in 1970 at wind-swept Cambridge, they instead, the world learned this week, met in the spring of 1971 at the law school library.

One of the curious things about the Clintons is their lack of association with the "Yale-Harvard Football Game", as it's now known, even though Bill Clinton is a self-admitted sports nut, able to recall times when he congratulated winning teams that visited him in the White House, or times as President or at the Clinton Foundation reminiscing about Montana Grizzlies football.



Yale Bulldogs

Head Coach: Tony Reno, 4th season (21-19)

Biggest strength in 2016: When the Bulldogs really buckled down and played clean football, they had stretches of dominance that showed the rest of the Ivy League that they can compete with the best. Behind by two scores to Colgate, the Eli scored two late touchdowns and a two point conversion to stun the Raiders 29-28. On their trip to Maine, their first meeting in 78 years against the CAA squad, the Eli won a thrilling 21-10 victory. Up by only 3 at half vs. Brown, Yale forced 3 turnovers and put the hammer down against the Bears to end with a dominating 41-14 win. Stretches like this were inspired...

Biggest Challenge In 2016: ...but there were also plenty of uninspired, head-scratching stretches where Yale, admittedly a fairly young team except for its QB, really laid eggs. Not scoring an offensive touchdown against Columbia in a 17-7 defeat is not something Ivy League champions do. Neither is yielding 592 yards of offense to Dartmouth in a 35-3 spanking, no matter how many starters were injured. Can Reno have his team avoid these lapses this season?

History With Lehigh: The tale of Lehigh vs. Yale can be told in three parts.

A Rough Bunch
There's the early history, where the Eli went 8-0 versus the Brown and White and only got close to losing once, a 7-6 win for the Bulldogs in 1915.  That 1915 contest was a particularly brutal one, when, just before Lehigh converted a drop kick to close the game to 7-6, QB Albert Chenoweth was "thrown to the ground and sustained a broken leg", according to The Brown and White.

After a sole meeting in 1942, Lehigh and Yale met somewhat more regularly in the next phase of the Yale/Lehigh football rivalry, from the early days of the proto-Patriot League in 1984 to the full-bore non-scholarship Patriot League in 2005.  In this incarnation, Lehigh dominated the Eli, going 5-1.

From 2006 to today forms the third phase of the rivalry: one where Yale has returned to dominance over the Mountain Hawks.  The Bulldogs currently enjoy a 5-1 record over their last six games.  One that stands out is the 54-43 loss to the Eli in Lehigh's last trip to the Yale Bowl in 2004.  Like that contest in 1915, physicalness and injury were a part of the story.  "On a day when Lehigh saw eight players go down to injury, including LB Colton Caslow, Yale ultimately out-physicaled and out-scored Lehigh -- not only rallying from two 21 point deficits twice, but shutting the Mountain Hawks out in the final quarter to seal the win."

Last Meeting: Most people were expecting a shootout, but instead Yale held Lehigh to their lowest scoring output of the year in a 27-12 defeat.

"Not a good day, today, at all, particularly offensively," head coach Andy Coen said after that game. "Inthink Yale really dominated the line of scrimmage and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They were not allowing us to really get anything going in the run game at all. I've said this before, but we have to have the balance. We have to be able to run the ball and we have to be efficient throwing the football."

"It was disappointing to me how well they ran against us," Coen added.  "The young man who played for them did a great job today.  But we can't have that."

Biggest Departures: QB Morgan Roberts statistically was one of the best QBs the Eli have ever had. A transfer from Clemson, he concluded his career at Yale as their career leader in passing yards (6,182), total offense (6,494) and completion percentage (.610). Yale will have to rely on a new leader in 2016 to replace him.

Players To Watch: All the spring revealed in terms of the new starting QB is that it is still a battle between junior QB Rafe Chapple (the brother of former Harvard QB Colton Chapple) and sophomore QB Tre Moore for the top spot so far. Whomever wins the battle, their development will be closely watched in the early going.

RB DeShawn Salter
One thing that the winner will have going for them is a veteran team around him. RB Deshawn Salter (561 yards rushing, 7 TDs) figured prominently in some of Yale's best games in 2015, and the junior from Syracuse, New York could be a very valuable piece of the Bulldog offense.

But it's Yale's defense, which returns five all-Ivy League selections, that could really take a step in the right direction. DB Matthew Oplinger, one of the better rovers in FCS, had a breakout season last year with 65 tackles and 6 sacks, and should only get better with another year under his belt.

Biggest Game: at Harvard, 11/19/2016. They call it "The Game", but for Yale folks more than ever it is the be-all and end-all of the season because the Eli have lost nine straight to Harvard and are more desperate than ever to end the Crimson's stranglehold. Last year, as ever, Harvard rolled to a 38-19 victory - and, as ever, Yale's hopes at an Ivy League title go through Cambridge.

Rose-Colored Glasses Say: "We have to replace our quarterback, but I am sensing a Ewing Theory situation with Roberts' departure. A lot of our inconsistency came behind Roberts - when he was on, we could beat anybody, but when he wasn't, it could get ugly. Now, after his graduation, we should have an intriguing, home-grown QB under center - and a load of players that have a lot of experience to help lift him up. We have nine games to get Chapple or Moore ready. We have a very good defense returning most of the key ingredients. I think this is the year we break Harvard's run."

Glass Half Empty Says: "We have to replace our quarterback. How is that a good thing? Roberts held several school records and was such a huge part of the offense, how could we not miss that in 2016? Sure, we have some good talent at WR, RB and on defense returning. But I can't do anything crazy like guarantee a win vs. Harvard unless Chapple or Moore is the second coming of QB Brian Dowling."

Yale In Two Sentences: The Bulldogs going into 2016 are like a cake without leavening. If they find the yeast or baking powder that they need - in the form of a new QB and a few other position players - they could find themselves challenging for some Ivy League title cake.

CSJ Projected Ranking: 3rd, Ivy League

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