On paper, the Princeton-Yale rivalry should mean more. After all, with 126 games played since 1873, this matchup is the second-oldest in all of college football, even predating Harvard-Yale. But despite this, we all know the truth.

Look around: It’s really all in the t-shirts — “Princeton doesn’t matter.” The standard issue HYP shirt will reserve a nasty remark for Harvard, while simply dismissing Yale’s other “rival.”

Meanwhile, Yale students are straining their imaginations and the boundaries of good taste to create insulting shirts to bring to Harvard next weekend. I expect to see images ranging from Bulldogs eating Cantabs to Ted Kaczynski to things I’m definitely not supposed to write about. Anyway, “doesn’t matter” won’t cut it for the trip up to Cambridge.

There’s no way around it. Harvard-Yale is The Game. It’s the only time I ever see highlights of Yale football on ESPN. It’s also the only time you’ll ever see the majority of the Yale student body at any given sporting event. Once you get inside the Yale Bowl Saturday, spare a moment to look around and take in all the empty spaces in the stands. Those vacancies wouldn’t be there now if we were playing Harvard.

Hey, it’s not like I don’t care about Princeton. I want our football team to win every game, and I’d be there regardless of whom we’re playing. Every student should see it as a duty to attend the final home game played by the incredibly talented class of 2005. Really, we should give a good send-off to record-setters like Alvin Cowan ’05 and Robert Carr ’05.

Unfortunately, too many students don’t feel the same way. This isn’t The Game. I guess the few sports fans on campus should be happy that people actually make it out when we play Harvard.

If anything, I wish we could call this Princeton match-up The Game II. The Bulldogs’ most exciting victory in each of the last two seasons came against Princeton. In 2002, the last minute 7-3 win at the Yale Bowl was a thrill for the sparse crowd that survived the freezing rain. And who could forget the ridiculous catch by Chandler Henley ’06 as time expired to send last year’s game into overtime? The 27-24 double overtime win could very well turn out to be the biggest highlight for Yale football during my time here.

There’s no denying that the Yale-Princeton game has had some great moments recently. Overall, the all-time numbers are pretty similar to The Game. Yale leads Princeton 68-48-10 and Harvard 64-48-8. Not much of a difference there. Obviously, alumni are more likely to rally against Harvard than Princeton, and the social scene tends to be much better at The Game. But, maybe that isn’t so convenient this year in light of Harvard’s draconian policies planned for next Saturday.

Think about it: If this were The Game, we could have our best tailgate without fear of keg bans, the Boston police, Harvard girls or anything else likely to inhibit fun. But, that’s not how it works.

You see, Ivy League football might be Division I-AA, but The Game is arguably the most important rivalry in college football history. Who cares if Yale-Princeton is older? We have to hold on to what we have here.

But, what about the significance of winning HYP? Yes, I definitely buy into the idea that beating Harvard and Princeton is a great way for any Yale team to redeem a disappointing season. And, after a 17-7 loss to Pennsylvania Oct. 23 ended Yale’s Ivy title hopes, the 2004 campaign was instantly a disappointment for the Bulldogs.

But, I think all Bulldog players and fans know that HYP is really HYp, especially this year. Just think about it from a class of 2005 perspective. No Bulldog graduating class has ever suffered a four-year sweep at the hands of the Crimson. Coming off three consecutive losses to Harvard, this year’s senior class is in danger. Next week, Yale will be on the road, playing the role of underdog in an attempt to avoid an ignominy never experienced by one of the proudest college football programs in the country. It’s a sobering — get it? — thought.

Personally, I’ve already seen one of my teams make history by dropping four straight to a team from Boston. I’d rather not experience that again.

So, do you think that winning this game against Princeton will mean anything if the Bulldogs lose next week? Me neither. The result against Princeton doesn’t matter; only a win next week does. Yup, when it comes to football, it’s definitely HY … p.