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Biggest Little Game in America: Bigger than Ever Edition

Congrats to Williams on destroying Wesleyan on Saturday, earning at least a share of the NESCAC championship and earning the right to Walk (see photo below, and video here).  But that is just the appetizer for what is sure to be a tougher test at Amherst.  Last year, a 6-1 Williams team hoped to spoil the perfect season of 7-0 Amherst; they came agonizingly short.  This year, the roles are reversed.

Where to begin recounting how much is on the line for both teams?  For 6-1 Amherst, a chance to earn some redemption after a discouraging loss to Trinity last week, breaking its 14 game winning streak; a tie for the NESCAC championship; a chance to beat Williams twice in a row for the first time since 1986; and the first home win vs. Williams for any member of the Amherst team.  For 7-0 Williams, a chance to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss to Amherst; a chance to win a solo NESCAC title for the first time since 2006 (the Ephs’ most recent undefeated season); and of course, new coach Aaron Kelton’s first Amherst game.

Williams leads the all-time series vs. Amherst, 70-49-5.  Previous posts on the history of the Amherst-Williams football rivalry, including links to various stories of interest, can be found here and here.  Amherst is first in the NESCAC in scoring offense with an astounding 38.6 points per game; Williams is not far behind, at 37.4.  Williams has the edge in defense, giving up only 13 points per game, as compared to Amherst’s 18.3.  Williams leads NESCAC by a wide margin in total offense, while Amherst has been more opportunistic, leading the conference, also by a wide margin, in turnover margin.  Williams previews the game (including viewing information) here, Amherst, here, the Chronicle of Higher Education (!) here, iBerkshires, here, the New York Times, here and here, and Fanhouse, here.   [By the way, I will be attending my first Amherst-Williams football game since the 1997 48-46 classic, which will likely never be topped for drama.  If you’re at the game, say hello — I’ll be the crazy shirtless guy painted head-to-toe in purple, and engaging in fistacuffs with the “Lord Jeff” … perhaps].

Below the break, my extended game preview, featuring key players to watch.

Key players for Williams:

Key players for Amherst:

In addition, almost every year in an Amherst-Williams game, a frosh comes seemingly from out of nowhere and has a break-out performance to help his team to victory and establish himself as a future star.  The best candidates to do so for Williams are DB Andre Lafontant and highly-touted RB Alex Scyocurka, who has lived up to his pre-season hype after choosing Williams over Amherst, BYU, Boston College and Brown.  For Amherst, RB Ryan Silva (whose older brother plays in the NFL) or LB Eric Telles (Scyocurka’s high school classmate) could each have a break-out game.  Scyocurka has a particularly bright future: with his combination of speed, elusiveness, and power, he is the most talented frosh RB I’ve seen play for Williams, and would be a strong NESCAC ROY candidate but for the Trinity Bunker’s insane season.

Prediction: if Williams does not lose the turnover battle and has no glaring special teams errors, I expect them to win the game, as I believe they have more weapons on offense and and a deeper, more experienced defensive unit.  Williams will, however, have to be very prepared for Amherst’s difficult-to-defend high octane blur offense (which scored SEVENTY vs. Tufts earlier this year), and, as always, take care of the ball on offense.  The Ephs have also been hurt by penalties all season long, and need to avoid mental mistakes in important situations, especially playing in hostile territory.  I’ll go with Williams 31, Amherst 24, in what should be a classic.