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After any natural disaster—a tornado, an earthquake, a home loss at the hands of Dartmouth, or the loss of a star quarterback—it’s too easy to fall back on the notion that all is lost.
Instead of fostering the negativity hangover from the weekend, I’ve decided to take some time to accentuate the positives that survived last Saturday’s mayhem.
Harvard remains ranked in both the Sports Network and ESPN polls, sitting at No. 23 in both. Ordinarily, I would remark that the Crimson’s position behind three teams that have three losses—Northern Arizona, Idaho State and Northwestern State—proves that the Ivy League teams don’t get the respect they deserve, but that would be negative.
Rather, I’ll point out how four of the 10 teams immediately ahead of us in the polls face very difficult tests on Saturday—three of those coming on the road. Assuming that Harvard disposes of Columbia, it is quite possible that the Crimson could be back in the top 20 as early as next Monday.
More important, Harvard’s Ivy title hopes are still alive and well. The Crimson needed to beat Penn to win the Ivy championship regardless of what it did against Dartmouth, so from that aspect nothing has changed.
Of course, the loss to the Big Green didn’t come without a price.
Harvard’s quest for a sole Ivy title has all but faded, but that’s due to the fact that the Ivies don’t use a tiebreaking system. I think the lack of a true champion is ridiculous, but come to think of it, watching the tiebreaker chaos that is the SEC East unfold, it’s possible that some tiebreakers are worse than no tiebreakers at all.
Another development from the weekend was the continued growth of the status of Ivy football. This week’s Sports Network poll has the Penn Quakers ranked ninth—the first time any Ivy League football program has cracked the top 10 of a major poll since 1986.
As a Harvard fan, why does that matter?
Penn’s rise up the national standings reflects the ever-improving level of play throughout the Ivy League. The higher the Quakers rise, the easier it will be for Ivy teams to climb the rankings in the future, as the voters’ biases against our league will begin to erode. Plus, Penn has to come to Cambridge to take on Harvard in two weeks, and the higher the Quakers are ranked, the sweeter the taste of a Crimson victory.
I promised that I’d stay away from the negativity, but I have to address one incomprehensible issue from this week’s rankings. The ESPN coaches’ poll has Penn ranked 12th behind No. 9 Western Kentucky, No. 10 Western Illinois and No. 11 Colgate. I have no issue with Colgate being ranked ahead of Penn. Like Penn, Colgate is undefeated and has looked more impressive than Penn in its victories.
My issue is with Western Kentucky and Western Illinois—both of whom are 6-3. Western Kentucky lost at home this weekend and didn’t fall out of the top 10. Is it possible that the coaches are filling their ballots out on Friday night?
Western Illinois is 1-2 in its last three games, with its lone win coming last week over Illinois State (4-6), 24-20. Western Illinois trailed the entire game until a touchdown with 57 seconds remaining gave them the comeback victory. This result is far different from Penn’s 24-21 win, in which the Quakers held a 21-0 lead in the second half.
To ignorant coaches, the scores look practically identical and thus the games must have been equivalent. Since I’m a fan of logic, I guess I’ll never be able to figure out how they decided to leapfrog Western Illinois over Penn.
Shifting gears back to my positive Ivy League outlook, Yale moved up the “Others Receiving Votes” column of the ESPN poll this week to within five spots of the top 25. With No. 24 Lehigh facing Colgate—ranked No. 10 by the Sports Network and No. 11 by ESPN—and No. 25 Hampton taking on No. 13 Grambling next weekend, a Bulldog blowout of Brown could propel Yale into the top 25. In that event, it would be the first time that three Ivy teams are ranked in the same week.
So what’s today’s lesson?
One loss does not a season make. One quarterback does not a team make—though admittedly, sometimes he comes pretty close. With the Ivy championship still up for grabs, it’s time to move forward and focus on claiming the title of a league that is gradually making its mark on I-AA football.
—Staff writer Michael R. James can be reached at email@example.com.
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