Football: 2012 schedule analysis
The football team plays a 10-game schedule every year, with three non-conference games and seven Ivy League opponents. Here’s our breakdown of Princeton’s 2012 slate:
At Lehigh: Saturday, Sept. 15, 12:30 p.m.
This year’s campaign does not start off easy for the Tigers, as they have to travel to Bethlehem, Pa., to take on the Mountain Hawks, who are 2-0 and ranked 13th in the FCS Coaches Poll. To have a chance, the Princeton secondary will have to find some way to slow down the potent combination of quarterback Michael Colvin and wide receiver Ryan Spadola.
Georgetown: Friday, Sept. 21, 7:00 p.m., Princeton Stadium, ESPNU
The Tigers may come home for a rare Friday matchup at Princeton Stadium, but it doesn’t get any easier for Princeton with the Hoyas, who are already 2-0. The Tigers’ offensive line will need to hold up against the Hoyas' defensive pressure that features linebacker Robert McCabe and defensive backs Nick Alfieri and Dustin Wharton.
At Columbia: Saturday, Sept. 29, 12:30 p.m.
The Lions may prove to be Princeton’s most winnable matchup, even though the Tigers will need to go on the road into Manhattan. Quarterback Sean Brackett and tight end Hamilton Garner are Columbia’s top talents on offense — look for Princeton’s front seven to put pressure on them.
At Lafayette: Saturday, Oct. 6, 6:00 p.m.
The Leopards present the Tigers with their best opportunity for a win outside the league in Princeton’s last non-conference game. Lafayette is one of only two teams the Tigers have beaten in the last two years (the other being Columbia). Look for Princeton to try and repeat the magic of its 36-33 overtime win in 2010 over the Leopards when it travels to Easton, Pa.
Brown: Saturday, Oct. 13, 12:00 p.m., Princeton Stadium, NBC Sports Network
The Bears are a dangerous foe for the Tigers. Brown was last year’s surprise in the Ivy League, finishing tied for second. Look for defensive back A.J. Cruz to make an impact not just on defense but also as a kick returner. Princeton special teams coach Jim Salgado will need his squad not to give up any big returns in order for the Tigers to have a chance.
Harvard: Saturday, Oct. 20, 1:00 p.m., Princeton Stadium, ESPN3
The Crimson comes to the Orange Bubble for homecoming, but Princeton will need to make some serious magic to have a change to win this game. Harvard was chosen to defend its title in both the Ivy League Football Preseason Media Poll and the Ivy League Sportswriters Football Preseason Poll. Despite turmoil from the current academic scandal (a yet unnamed key offensive contributor may not be returning), the Crimson is still dangerous, with tight end/fullback Kyle Juszczyk and quarterback Colton Chapple driving the offense if they both return.
At Cornell: Saturday, Oct. 27, 12:30 p.m.
The Tigers travel to Ithaca, N.Y., on the first day of fall break to battle the Big Red, but this Cornell team is no pushover. The Big Red finished third in both preseason polls, but only barely behind Penn. Cornell’s air attack is dangerous — quarterback Jeff Matthews a preseason All-America, and the Big Red has three standout wide receivers in Kurt Ondash, Shane Savage and Luke Tasker.
Penn: Saturday, Nov. 3, 1:00 p.m., Princeton Stadium, ESPN3
As always, Al Bagnoli’s squad is ready to compete for an Ivy League title, and Princeton will face a tough test when the Quakers come to visit. Penn quarterback Billy Ragone returns, but the Quakers' biggest strength is their defense, anchored by defensive lineman Brandon Copeland. The Tigers will need to withstand Penn’s front seven to have a shot at winning the game.
At Yale: Saturday, Nov. 10, 12:00 p.m., YES Network
This Bulldogs team may be flying under the radar, but it will not roll over at home in New Haven. The Tigers’ front seven will need to slow down running back Mordecai Cargill, while the Princeton secondary will have to contend with wide receiver Chris Smith. Smith is a threat not just on offense; he can also make an impact on special teams as a kick returner.
Dartmouth: Saturday, Nov. 17, 1:00 p.m., Princeton Stadium
The Tigers have the opportunity to finish the season on a high note when the Big Green comes to town. Although preseason polls predicted that Dartmouth will finish sixth, it should not be taken lightly. Running back Dominick Pierre is ready for a breakout season behind an experienced offensive line. But if Princeton can step up its play, it may just be able to spring the upset.
Ranking the home games:
1. Dartmouth: The season finale also presents one of Princeton’s best opportunities to win. The record may not be stellar by that point, but you should come cheer on the Tigers anyway. Bundle up, and yell your head off on a November afternoon at Princeton Stadium.
2. Georgetown: A lot of unique things going on here — an interesting non-conference opponent, ESPNU, a night game, and — gasp! — a Friday game. Princeton football is breaking tradition? Better check it out. Besides, classes haven’t gotten going yet.
3. Brown: This may be interesting, or may be a blowout. On paper, Brown is a better team, but if the Tigers can pick up a win against Columbia or Lafayette (or maybe even both?), this may start to get interesting.
4. Harvard: Yes, it is homecoming, and it is Harvard, but this game is right before midterms and probably won’t be the best contest. Hardcore fans and freshmen should check it out, but if you’re looking for one of the better games this season, look elsewhere. Go study instead.
5. Penn: If the Quakers do everything right, they should be able to defeat the Tigers. Penn’s 37-9 win over Princeton at Franklin Field last year became real ugly real fast. Hopefully this game will provide a better contest, but you will probably be off campus on fall break anyway.
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