The Harvard football team begins its 101st season today with the same type of outlook with which it begins every campaign: question marks, uncertainties, and a threat to be either the Ivy champion (for the second year in a row) or just another sub-par football squad. But what distinguishes this year's masquerade ball from those of the past is that the entire Ivy League will be at the same party. Nobody knows how strong anybody else is; no coach will claim to be the favorite, yet almost all entertain some sort of hope that they, indeed, will end up at the top of the heap.
For the most part, it appears that the traditionally beastly bunch from down Providence way, the Brown Bruins, deserve at least to be called the team to beat right now. Apart from the squad's very inspiring name, word has it that the same defense that throttled an unsuspecting Crimson team last year is back again and looking for more of the same. Rumors about eating children and kicking small dogs are, however, untrue.
In addition, the Bruins seem to have a quarterback who can walk on water, but only in emergencies. Bob Bateman is the name of this supposedly terrific player, fresh from a record-setting performance two years ago in Vermont--just before the school dropped its football program. To paraphrase everybody else who has written on the issue, he is the key to Brown's possible success this year.
The Bruins represent a thoroughly uninteresting favorite in the Ivy race, one good reason why they probably won't win it. Candidates for Cinderella team of the year are, in alphabetical order: Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale. The inclusion of Columbia was intentional; one victory in the Ivies automatically makes the puny Lions the surprise team of the year. At the other end of the standings, the fact remains the someone, and possibly Harvard, has a good shot for a minor upset.
I kind of lean toward Princeton, one of the longer shots in the grouping, simply because of the fact that they've been down so long they're bound to come up for air. Princeton, like Dartmouth, has a long history of winning in the Ivy League. If tradition counts for anything, then count the Tigers in this year.
The same goes for Dartmouth, which may make a nuisance of itself in the East this year. As for Cornell, they have the man who, for my money, is and has been the best runner in the Ivy League for the past two years. His name is Don Fanelli, and his knees are now held together by two rubber bands and a Band-Aid after countless operations. He was injured in the Harvard game last season, and his return to 100 per cent is questionable. But if he's healthy, Cornell is a factor.
No one seems to know what's going on in regard to Pennsylvania's football team. Information about the team that crumbled in the second half of last year's campaign has been non-existent. The facts alone, such as the graduation of Adolph "Beep-beep" Bellizeare and a number of other Quaker standouts, would seem to make the Philadelphians a losing bet in this year's race.
As for Harvard and Yale, one thing is certain: these two teams are the object of a lot of hatred this year, since they beat almost everybody in sight last season. They don't even like each other, which makes the Ivy League a pretty angry grouping this season. The road will be a rough and rocky one for both squads, but not impossible. Anything's possible in the Ivy League.
The sum of this is that the Ivies are one great big secret this year. There will be a few surprises, and probably one great big disappointment located in Providence, a city which seems to spend a lot of time wondering what's wrong with various Brown varsity teams. The 1975 Ivy League title is strictly up for grabs.
As for now, the gladiators of the Ivies face competition from outside the league, traditionally a good spot for almost everyone to pick up much needed momentum. With a reminder that I nailed 31 out of 40 games last year for a percentage of .775, we turn now to the crystal ball, located in the middle of the Ouija board littered with tarot cards, to predict this week's winners in what appears to be a disturbingly tough slate of eight games:
BROWN--RHODE ISLAND: Starting off with an easy one. No question that the Bruins should win this one, and easily too. Brown 31, URI 7.
DARTMOUTH--UMASS: Not so easy here, but judging from its scrimmage with Williams last week, the Big Green looks to be in good shape. Could go either way. Dartmouth 21, UMass 7.
PRINCETON--RUTGERS: Aaaarrgh. As I said before, Princeton is an up and coming team, and is generally rated a slight favorite in this one. But I have a feeling that a solid Rutgers squad is good enough to hold on for a tight win. Rutgers 19, Princeton 17.
CORNELL--COLGATE: A lot depends on the Big Red running attack, and I don't know if Don Fanelli is back. On the strength of a hunch and a general trend in this series: Cornell 28, Colgate 23.
PENN--LEHIGH: I know very little about either of these two teams. Penn 17, Lehigh 14.
COLUMBIA--LAFAYETTE: I know absolutely nothing about these two. But here's a vote of confidence for beleaguered Lion mentor Bill Campbell, and a hope that he can finally beat a traditionally weak Lafayette squad. Columbia 12, Laffy 10.
YALE--UCONN: The Eli are always tough, especially at the beginning of the season when the University of Connecticut offers itself up as a sacrifice. UConn won this two years ago, but maybe never again. Yale 30, UConn 14.
HARVARD--HOLY CROSS: We beat this bunch last year, and we'll beat'em again, quarterback or no quarterback. A vote for Joe Restic as the best coach in the Ivy League. Harvard 19, HC 10.