With the four teams that split their first two Ivy contests going head-to-head on Saturday, the league has created a de facto “losers bracket” where the victors stay alive and the vanquished start planning for next season. Princeton, which has lost its last two contests, travels to Boston to take on Harvard, which is fresh off a 24-17 rebound win over Lafayette, and Brown ventures to Ithaca, N.Y. to meet Cornell.
Of those four squads, two will join the Yale-Penn loser just a game off the pace with four more weeks remaining. And the other two will join the Columbia-Dartmouth winner, looking only to salvage a winning Ivy season.
With that, let’s get to Saturday’s games:
GAME OF THE WEEK:
YALE (+13) AT PENN
The Bulldogs were looking pretty good last weekend.
Leading 21-6 in third quarter on the road over then-No. 20 Lehigh, Yale seemed poised to score the league’s biggest non-conference win of the season. Then the Mountain Hawks woke up, reeled off 22 straight points—the final seven coming in overtime—and sent the Ivy co-leaders back to New Haven, Conn. with a 2-3 overall record.
Now the Bulldogs have to hit the road to Pennsylvania once again, this time to take on Penn and its lights-out defense. For a Yale team that has had trouble scoring on mediocre defenses, points will be at a premium. Penn, on the other hand, has had no problem lighting up the scoreboard.
If Yale pulls off the win, the vultures might stop following around coach Jack Siedlecki for a little while. But the vultures are lazy, the Bulldogs team lacks the talent, and the Quakers will not lose at Franklin Field.
PRINCETON (+5) AT HARVARD
Who will be dressed? Who will play? Who will be at 100 percent?
These are the questions that have plagued the Crimson over the past four weeks. Harvard needs wideouts Corey Mazza and Ryan Tyler back on the field, running back Clifton Dawson at 100 percent, and a healthy secondary. Without those pieces in place, the Crimson is a 4-3 team at best. If it can get those players back in action, Harvard has a shot at the Ivy title.
The Tigers looked very good at Brown last weekend in a 31-28 loss and appear to have vastly improved since last year. The decision here is based on how many of those skill players the Crimson is likely to get back for this weekend’s game. The guess is that enough of them won’t return to allow Harvard to pull away with a big win.
BROWN (-1.5) AT CORNELL
Everyone’s favorite dark horses face off in the second Ivy elimination showdown of the weekend. The Bears, who are one futile battle with fate away from starting 5-0, have rolled behind All-American running back Nick Hartigan, whose rushing gains would best be tracked in units of miles. Hartigan is averaging 30 carries a game for 165 yards, partially due to the solid Brown passing attack, which has punished teams for loading up the line of scrimmage.
The Big Red shut down Hartigan last season, but a furious 14-point, fourth-quarter rally allowed the Bears to slip past Cornell 21-17. Both teams are improved this season, but Brown has progressed slightly more, so take the Bears on the road.
COLUMBIA (+8.5) AT DARTMOUTH
The YES Network’s mistake is apparently CN8’s gain.
As part of its contract with the Ivies, YES has agreed to show five league games, including at least one contest involving each team. And what better way is there to knock the worst two teams off the list than to broadcast the game involving both.
Sadly, however, that allowed the three best matchups of the weekend to slip through the YES Network’s grasp, something that CN8 jumped on in picking up the Yale-Penn game.
The Lions and Big Green each got pasted last weekend, and both sides are looking to rebound in what will be their best shot for an Ivy win all season. Columbia and Dartmouth mirror each other from a talent standpoint, making it unlikely that either side would be able to forge a touchdown-plus victory.
—Staff writer Michael R. James can be reached at email@example.com.