As a New England Patriots fan, I’ve seen this play out first-hand this season and in a few seasons past. Two straight losses, one to the Detroit Lions, had detractors salivating and clamoring to fire off tweets about how the Tom Brady is done, Bill Belichick is finished, and the Patriots are history. The team responded by blowing out the Miami Dolphins, 38-7, and even though the Dolphins aren’t necessarily elite competition, I’ll go out on a limb and say that it’ll win the AFC East for the tenth consecutive season (not really the highest of accomplishments, but oh well).
Harvard’s rebuilding phase was slightly longer than that of the Patriots, but it still wasn’t excruciatingly lengthy. I mean Brown hasn’t won the league since 2008, Cornell last came out on top in 1990, and Columbia fans have to go back to 1961 to find the sole instance the Lions secured the trophy, so at least the team’s fans haven’t suffered through that. After a 5-5 finish last season, the Crimson appears to have improved team chemistry and play-making ability about a third of the way through its 2018 campaign. Yes, I’m saying this after Harvard lost for the first time this season, but too bad. A take is a take.
And if somehow, some way, the Patriots and/or the Crimson fail to live up to my lofty billing? Well, you may just find all traces of this article scrubbed from internet history.
DARTMOUTH AT YALE
Football fans can be awfully partial to their version of the transitive property. The Browns beat the Jets, who beat the Lions, who beat the Patriots, so the Browns by definition are better than the Patriots, right? Well there’s a simpler version to that formula relevant to this game: Dartmouth beat Holy Cross, which beat Yale. So of course I’m taking Dartmouth over Yale this week.
Under 19-year veteran coach Buddy Teevens, the Big Green has started off 3-0, just as it did last year. In 2017, Dartmouth lost two crucial games — to Columbia and Harvard in back-to-back weeks — which dropped it just short of an Ivy League title. However, that means that Yale’s lone loss last fall was to the Big Green, in a game that featured a wild fourth-quarter finish.
This time, Dartmouth needs to travel to New Haven, Conn., to face off against the Bulldogs, but is it really home field advantage when your stadium is about a two-day journey from your campus?
Dartmouth by 1.5
LEHIGH AT PRINCETON
What do you expect when an Ivy League legend, Chad Kanoff, departs for the final time from Princeton’s hallowed halls? Not this.
Princeton has begun its 2018 season on what you could call a bit of a hot streak — it has blown the doors off three consecutive opponents, averaging 48.7 points per game on offense and conceding only 8.7 per game on the other side of the ball. The Tigers have averaged a 40-point margin of victory. Think about that. I know I don’t want to.
Behind Princeton’s offensive explosion is Kanoff’s heir apparent, John Lovett. So far, Lovett has completed 64 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns in the air, and he has tacked on an extra five on the ground. Lovett is one of the biggest enigmas in the league; in 2015 and 2016, he was a dual wide receiver and quarterback, and in 2016 he ran in 20 touchdowns and passed for 10 more.
With all of that said, betting Princeton in this game? I don’t like it, I Lovett.
Princeton by 30
MARIST AT COLUMBIA
As I said earlier, Columbia has not had the most luck when it comes to winning the Ivy League. Despite having one of its best seasons in recent memory last year, it still fell short, with one of its two losses coming at Harvard’s hands. Now that I think about it, the Crimson was a real spoiler last season. It didn’t work out perfectly, though, as its wins over Dartmouth and Columbia led directly to rival Yale claiming the trophy.
Just as I used Holy Cross as a proxy for picking the Dartmouth–Yale game, I’ll use Georgetown (poor, poor Georgetown) in this case. As expected, the Lions took care of the Hoyas in their week two game. Marist was unable to do the same. In fact, Georgetown beat the Red Foxes by 25. Yikes. I’ll roll with Bagnoli this time around.
Columbia by 7.5
BROWN AT RHODE ISLAND
This one’s going to be a real battle, folks. I devoted a full day to researching and writing this section and about twenty minutes combined on all the rest. After a grueling 24 hours of historical analysis, statistical modeling, interviewing college football experts, and throwing all that out the window and trusting my instincts instead, I’ve reached a decision: the Bears will win this game.
Weren’t expecting that, were you? Well, it’s true. I believe in Michael Hoecht, I really do. The guy got the entire press corps fired up and ready to run through a wall with his answers after Harvard beat Brown.
“You take out that first quarter of the game, we beat that team, 100 percent. Even the first 10 minutes,” Hoecht said. “We all know it.”
Brown by 1
HARVARD AT CORNELL
Two weeks ago, I spent the entirety of this column talking about a band — Led Zeppelin. Some readers probably appreciated it, and for others the rock genre is not necessarily their cup of tea. But the band I’ll talk about this week has not endeared itself to anyone — not a single person — throughout its history. I’m talking about the Harvard University Band.
A rag-tag collection of “musicians” playing seemingly whichever instruments they can find lying around before any given game, the Harvard band is even worse at running a Twitter account than it is at getting through “10,000 Men of Harvard” without a band member tripping over their own feet. This is not an unprovoked attack on an innocent band; it has levied a handful of mild sarcastic insults at our Twitter account over the years. (Shameless promotion: Follow us @THCSports. Do not follow @HarvardBand. And no, I don’t have thin skin. Why do you ask?)
I have a pretty simple solution to this problem, though. When Harvard returns home to face Holy Cross next Friday night, whoever is in charge should just send the band to the moon — if that’s not possible, the roof of the Smith Campus Center will do. It’s a win-win for all sides: inhabitants of Harvard Square get a free concert, Harvard Stadium can just let its sound system do all the work, and the band can finally make some friends at the renovated and #cool campus center.
Oh yeah, the football game. I’ll go with the Crimson.
Harvard by a billion
PENN AT SACRED HEART
Aside from the Dartmouth–Yale game, this might be the most evenly-matched contest we see this weekend — at least when you just look at each team’s record and its scores. Like I said earlier, I wasted all my time and energy researching the Brown–Rhode Island matchup.
To this point, I’ve picked Ivy League teams to win each game. Let’s mix it up.
Sacred Heart by 3.5
—Staff writer Jack Stockless can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.