There is an old saying that if you don't like New England weather, wait a week. The same can be said of Ivy League football standings. Since 1970 one game or less has separated the top two teams at the wire. Every season in recent memory the champion has been determined in the final weekend and the title holder has rarely been the preseason favorite.
So much for the reliability of predictions. The 1979 season begins--as have all others in the past--with coaches desperately trying to replace graduated letterwinners and fill porous positions from last year with the hope-springs-eternal "sophomores to watch."
Experienced Ivy quarterbacks are about as easy to find as discos in Iran. Only Columbia and Princeton feature experienced signal callers but neither team has the horses to be a title contender. Meanwhile, Brown, Dartmouth and Yale, on the basis of strength in other positions, look to be the favorites. But whether they win, place or show will depend to a great extent on their ability to solve the quarterback question.
Last year, Dartmouth was expected to languish in the second division, but quarterback Buddy Teevens led his offense to a league-high 170 points as the Big Green captured the Ivy crown. In addition, Teevens led the league in passing and was second in total offense to Harvard's long-lost Larry Brown. Teevens is gone this year, but his favorite target, Dave Shula returns at split end, where he caught a league-leading 39 passes in 1978. However, getting the ball to Shula may be a problem. Larry Mergerum, who backed up Tevens last year, saw only three quarters of action. He will vie for the signal calling slot with '78 J.V. quarterback Jeff Kemp, former defensive back Joe McLaughlin and sophomore Darryl Wong.
One plus for the Green is that its two leading ground gainers, Jeff Dufresne and Greg Henry, are returning. Whether there will be holes to run through is another matter; Coach Joe Yukica is rumored to be roaming the pastures in search of a center and a left guard.
Defensively, Dartmouth has six returning starters but will be hard pressed to replace All-Ivy Joe Nastri and All-East Tom Kuchar at two of the linebacker spots. The secondary also looks thin beyond co-captain and safety Cody Press, especially if McLaughlin wins out in the quarterback derby.
Brown, which finished with a 5-2 record last year has been dubbed "the team to beat" this fall. As Yale's coach Carmen Cozza commented: "They're big, experienced and have some exceptional talent in some key areas."
Coach John Anderson also faces the task of finding a replacement for graduated quarterback, Mark Whipple, Larry Carbone and Scott Dumont. Each have a shot at the position. Both are talented and more mobile than Whipple but neither is experienced.
The other skill positions on the Bruin squad have a high percentage of returnees as does the offensive line, which figures to be the strength of the team. However the return rate of defense is not as great, particularly in the secondary where three of last year's four are gone, leaving only All-Ivy safety Ron Brown. Anderson is touting this year's linebacking corps as the best in Brown history and calls John Woodring "the best linebacker in Brown history."
If the problems at quarterback and in the secondary can be worked out, Brown looks like the class of the Ivies.
Yale finished 4-1-2 in the league last year, good enough for a tie with Brown, but lost 18 starters to graduation. "We lost a number of multiple year starters on defense and whenever our offense is inexperienced--as ours is right now--I worry about our defense," Coach Cozza says. "A key to how we fare on defense will depend largely on our ability to control the ball on offense."
Once again the big question on offense centers on the quarterback position. Cozza will have to choose his third quarterback in as many years from among a field of two: '78 backup Dennis Dunn and rifle armed sophomore John Rogan.
On the Eli offensive line, the two guard spots are up for grabs as Bob Regan and Dan
Ivy Football 1979 Cube Rankings Week One