Around the Ivies: Tigers, Crimson prepare for league-leading battle
On Saturday, the football team will take on Harvard in a homecoming game that will match two of the Ivy League’s three undefeated squads. How does the rest of the conference stack up at the halfway point?
Harvard (5-0 overall, 2-0 Ivy League): The preseason favorite to win the Ivy League has certainly lived up to its billing so far. The Crimson hasn’t lost a game since Week 1 of the 2011 season, and its closest call this year was a two-touchdown win at Brown. This weekend, Harvard will test Princeton’s formidable defense with an offense that has scored 41 points per game.
Princeton (3-2, 2-0): Even if you thought this year’s Tigers would be improved from previous editions, you probably didn’t expect them to score more than twice as many points as their opponents through five weeks. So far, every Ivy League team is allowing more than 20 points per game in conference play — except the Tigers, who have surrendered a total of two field goals in two games.
Penn (2-3, 2-0): The Quakers, champions in 2009 and ’10, are 2-0 in league play, but they’re doing it with smoke and mirrors. Penn held off a Dartmouth rally to win by a touchdown and then nearly lost to lowly Columbia last week, stopping a potential game-winning drive at the two-yard line. Senior quarterback Billy Ragone hasn’t been quite the offensive leader that many expected.
Cornell (3-2, 1-1): Star quarterback Jeff Mathews is fifth in the Football Championship Subdivision with 354 passing yards per game — but when he missed Saturday’s game with a neck injury, Chris Amrhein didn’t miss a beat, throwing for 523 yards in a 41-38 win over Monmouth. Luke Tasker ranks second nationally with 153 receiving yards per game; though it lost to Harvard 45-13 two weeks ago, the Big Red could still contend for second place.
Dartmouth (3-2, 1-1): Once again, the Big Green features a ground-heavy offense. After the graduation of Nick Schwieger — the Ivy League’s top running back in 2011 — Dominick Pierre has stepped in and leads the conference with 110 yards per game, while Dartmouth has thrown the ball less than any other team. It also ranks third in the league in defense, behind Princeton and Harvard, entering this weekend’s game at Columbia.
Brown (3-2, 0-2): Here’s some transitive-property fun: Brown hammered Georgetown 37-10 on the road; the Hoyas beat Princeton at Powers Field; so naturally, the Tigers thrashed the Bears 19-0 last weekend. This week’s game against Cornell may tell whether that game was a blip caused by Princeton’s intimidating defense or if the loss of leading rusher Spiro Theodhosi to foot surgery will have a bigger impact than expected.
Yale (1-4, 0-2): The Bulldogs beat Georgetown in their opener, 24-21, but not much has gone right since. Under new head coach Tony Reno, Yale ranks last in the league in points allowed, field goal percentage, penalties committed and turnovers. Rookie Tyler Varga has been one of the few bright spots, rushing for more than 100 yards per game and leading the league with 26.9 yards per kick return.
Columbia (1-4, 0-2): The Lions almost pulled off what would have been a major upset over Penn last weekend, but instead they took their fourth straight loss when the Quakers scored in the final minute. Columbia ranks last in the conference in scoring at 12.6 points per game; quarterback Sean Brackett has regressed mightily from his first-team All-Ivy season of 2010, completing less than half of his passes and throwing for five interceptions against two touchdowns.
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