On both campuses it's ''The Game.'' Over the years it has seen its share of excitement: the series' first successful forward pass in 1906, the '30s duels between Yale's Albie Booth and Harvard's Barry Wood, and the astonishing 1968 contest between two unbeatens, in which Harvard scored 16 points in the last 42 seconds to gain a tie.
This Saturday, Harvard and Yale play their 100th football game, players clad in mountainous pads and unyielding headgear unimaginable to their gridiron forefathers. In this sport both colleges made most of their contributions late last century and early in this one, when everybody wore mustaches and little other padding, and the ball was nearly round, like the one in rugby.
Harvard and Yale were two of the first teams to play football, derived from Britain's rugby. They played each other for the first time in 1875 in a rudimentary version of the game. For years thereafter the two kept coming up with innovations and refinements, from flying wedges and tackling dummies to leather uniforms almost too slippery to tackle. In the early years their players were sprinkled throughout the all-American lists.
On paper, as they say, this year's contest looks like no contest: powerful Harvard, a possible league champion, against last-place Yale. But don't count on it. The history of this series, akin to other rivalries, shows that The Last going into The Game shall sometimes be The First coming out of it.