On paper, Dartmouth should beat Harvard by 20 points.
There just aren't any apparent weaknesses on the Dartmouth team. Any holes that appeared after graduation last year were amply filled by a group of enormous sophomores coming off an undefeated freshman team.
And unfortunately for Harvard, even if the Crimson hadn't won yet this season, Dartmouth would be up for the game.
Between the best coach in the Ivy League, Bob Blackman, who will be looking for his 100th victory, and the fanatic supporters who will pour out of the woods to see the game, there are enough stimulants to keep the Indians from looking past Harvard to their game with Yale next week.
An upset is not impossible, however. If Harvard captain Gary Farneti succeeds in stirring up the defense and Harvard quarterback Rod Foster puts the ball in the air and calls a smart game, the Crimson will have a shot at beating Dartmouth.
The defense will be up for the game. Last year, the defense came off a miserable game against Cornell and still kept an undefeated Dartmouth team from mounting a sustained touchdown drive. Last week, it stopped the Cornell offense as well as anyone can.
The real question rests with Foster. He must have a great day to win. Hewill have to establish some momentum against Dartmouth by throwing early in the game and completing his passes. Harvard's offensive line, despite its improvement against Cornell, is not going to push the Dartmouth defense around.
Without a consistent running game to rely on, Foster will have to loosen up the Dartmouth defense and then call a nearly perfect game to exploit whatever imbalance his passing and roll outs create.
Dartmouth will have the edge at the line of scrimmage. The Indians' defensive and offensive lines are indicative of Dartmouth's overall balance and depth. The Indians lost their All-Ivy offensive tackle, John Ritchie, but a 6'5", 240-pound sophomore, Joe Leslie, took his place. The other tackle is a third-year starter, co-captain Bob Peters, and the center is another All Ivy selection, Mark Stevenson.
On the defensive line, the Green has four returning seniors and four sophomores who average 6'5", 247 pounds a man to choose from. Dartmouth's opponents are averaging 2.8 yards a play.
Dartmouth's defensive secondary is confident enough to play very close coverage, to prevent even the short pass. Foster will consequently have to throw long, something that he hasn't done too frequently this year.
Dartmouth's offensive backfield is impressive, and running behind the Indians' powerful offensive line, it has scored more points per game this season than any other team in the country.
Indian quarterback Jim Chasey is 21 for 34 for two touchdowns and a 618 passing percentage. However, he has had plenty of time to throw and plenty of open receivers when he throws. Last year he played poorly against Harvard and clutched against Princeton, firing five interceptions as the Indians throwaway the Ivy League championship, 35-7.
If Chasey falters, Dartmouth is still not necessarily in trouble. Chasey's back-up man, Bill Pollock, is 17 for 23.
Halfback John Short is Dartmouth's most threatening back. Short was an All-Ivy selection last year with 707 yards rushing, and this year he leads the Green in rushing, receiving, and scoring.
It is true that UMass, Holy Cross, and Brown have inflated Dartmouth's statistics somewhat, but Ivy tri-champion Princeton fell to the Indians, 38-0.
The Circus Is Coming
Last year Dartmouth rolled into Cambridge with similar offensive statistics, and Harvard stopped the Indians' offense. But Dartmouth still managed to lead 24-0 after 18 minutes.
Poor punt coverage and interceptions gave Dartmouth those 24 points, and it could happen again this year. Harvard's kicking coverage has not been spectacular, and Dartmouth has a return specialist named Tim Cooper who ran back kick-offs for three long runs and two touchdowns in his first three games.
With the Indians' tight pass coverage, Foster will be Lucky to escape without any interceptions. Foster has not been an extremely accurate passer this year. If he is inaccurate today, he will pay for it.