There are more than a couple 0-1’s on the docket this week attached to teams that entered the year with legitimate title aspirations. Penn, Princeton, and Harvard all started 2007 with losses last Saturday. Yet here’s the beauty—or ludicrousness, depending on how you look at it—of the Ivy League: non-conference play is purely for pride. There will be no playoffs, no Week 11, no matter what. Strength of schedule, quality losses, margin of victory—they’re all extraneous concepts. It’s an eight-team round robin, where the best record wins and everyone goes home for Thanksgiving. In essence, voices from the old school contend, the season hasn’t even started yet.
However, to the players and coaches, the non-Ivy tilts aren’t meaningless, and pride is high stakes. The emotional toll on the Crimson of the last-minute loss at Holy Cross in the season opener—the undefeated season, the perfection of ’01 and ’04, gone in the flash of a Dominic Randolph deep ball—is impossible to predict. It’s a sensation that no one on the team has felt before in his collegiate career, having a midseason winning percentage of .000. 10-0 is off the table. But 7-3 and an Ancient Eight crown? That would probably suit Harvard just fine.
HARVARD (0-1) VS. BROWN (1-0)
The on-the-field implications of this home date, a near must-win against a Bears squad that is just a hull of its recent self (Ivy champs in 2005), take the back seat in the run-up to the above-the-field wattage. The lights that now ring the roof of Harvard Stadium will illuminate a football game for the first time, with kickoff set for a fashionably late 7:30 p.m. A 6:44 sunset with allow the Harvard fans observing Yom Kippur to arrive in time for the coin flip with clean slates and empty stomachs.
The Crimson boasts a seven-game winning streak in this series, including memorable overtime victories in 2004 and 2005. Brown’s best chance of snapping the slide is if tailback Dereck Knight can repeat his performance of a week ago, when he carried 33 times for 208 yards in a 28-17 triumph over Duquesne and earned Ivy Offensive Player of the Week honors. Don’t bet on it; the Harvard defense is looking for redemption after allowing four TDs and registering just one takeaway in Week 1. Plus, Liam O’Hagan should have a big day against a Bears D that allowed 300 yards through the air to the Dukes.
Prediction: Harvard 33, Brown 13
NO. 21 YALE (1-0) VS. CORNELL (1-0)
When is it too soon to start fearing for Clifton Dawson’s freshly minted Ivy League rushing record? With 2,210 yards through 21 games, Bulldogs junior Mike McLeod is still more than a mile away (think about that), but with a 1,400-yard season for the front-running and oft-running Eli, the shifty Connecticut kid could move within striking distance of 4,841 for ’08.
Still, there’s a definite sell-high air around Yale, the only ranked Ivy team, right now, and letting a miserable Georgetown team hang around for four quarters last Saturday did little to inspire confidence. Cornell is the apparent buy-low counterpart, but until the Big Red figures out how to win on the road (0-4 away from Ithaca last season, 2-7 the last two), the smart money stays on the blue team.
Prediction: Yale 27, Cornell 24
DARTMOUTH (0-1) AT NO. 10 NEW HAMPSHIRE (1-1)
True story: Backup UNH QB Hank Hendricks was suspended from the team two weeks ago, just days before pleading not guilty to murder in the killing of a pro surfer. Also true, less horrifying story: Starting UNH QB Ricky Santos won the Payton Award as the top player in Division I-AA last season and is poised to repeat this year, with 642 passing yards through two games.
The Big Green surprised a lot of people by opening up a 28-0 lead on Colgate last week, and then surprised very few by giving it all back and going on to lose the game, 31-28, in overtime. Milan Williams was the offensive catalyst with 179 running yards, and new signal-caller Tom Bennewitz threw for three scores. But a porous defense leaves Dartmouth vulnerable to a thrashing by Santos and the Wildcats.
Prediction: New Hampshire 44, Dartmouth 14
PRINCETON (0-1) AT NO. 22 LAFAYETTE (3-0)
The Tigers are still finding their feet offensively, waiting until the second half to score a point against Lehigh last week but ending up with 21 of ‘em. This isn’t the week to straighten it out, on the road against a defensive unit that held Penn to a single score.
Prediction: Lafayette 20, Princeton 10
PENN (0-1) AT VILLANOVA (2-1)
Something to do in Philly if you’re not chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool, shooting some b-ball, or repenting: attend this game between two local rivals. Or read.
Prediction: Villanova 24, Penn 16
COLUMBIA (0-1) VS. MARIST (0-3)
Marist’s two most famous alumni, according to Wikipedia: Bill O’Reilly and former Indiana Pacer Rik Smits.
Prediction: Columbia 23, Marist 14
Record to Date: 6-2
—Staff writer Jonathan Lehman can be reached at email@example.com.