As the Crimson look to finish their non-conference schedule with a matchup against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks at Harvard Stadium, there is no better time to release the inaugural WHRB Sports power rankings for football.
1. Penn (3-1, 1-0) – The defending champions of the Ivy League rightly claim the top spot for their consistent play throughout the season. Al Bagnoli just became the winningest coach in Penn history with a thrashing over Bucknell. Their vaunted defense that allowed them to win the title last year has faltered at times (Dartmouth comes to mind), but otherwise Penn is a well-oiled machine comparable to Ivan Drago from Rocky. “I will break you!” Anybody? They won’t face much competition until the Brown game at home. NEXT GAME: vs. Columbia
2. Brown (2-2, 1-0) – I admit that I almost ranked Harvard ahead of Brown for the inaugural power ranking based solely on a mathematical logic of the transitive property. The Bears lost to the Holy Cross Crusaders in a tight game 17-13 the past week. If Harvard man-handled Holy Cross, and Holy Cross notched an “upset” over Brown, then Harvard theoretically should have sent the Bears crying home to their mothers. Alas, I stopped myself of such foolish thoughts. Brown is still the best passing offenses in the Ivy League, and their defense has looked surprisingly formidable of late. NEXT GAME: vs. Princeton
3. Harvard (3-1, 1-1)– Although picked to finish 1st in the Ivy League this year, Harvard is not the same team that began the season with such high expectations. Injuries to on all sides of the football – offense, defense, and special teams – will hurt the Crimson in the long run. However, despite the lone, yet horrific loss to Brown in the second game of the season, head coach Tim Murphy has admirably managed the game to exploit the strengths of the team. With the offense firing on all cylinders – over 400 yards of offense the past two games – and the defense looking like their usual dominant selves, don’t count out the Crimson just yet. Run Gino (or Treavor or Rick), Run! NEXT GAME: vs. Lehigh
4. Columbia (3-1, 1-0) – There is no team carrying greater momentum than the Columbia Lions at this moment; winner of three straight, the latest being a 42-38 pounding of Lafayette. QB Sean Brackett is on fire and the defense is playing with the vengeance of a scored lover. But somebody should tell Simba soon that playing at the beautiful Pride Rock might not last much longer. An ominous trip to Penn looms ahead, and this matchup should provide answers to how good this Columbia team actually is, away from home. Are dark times ahead in the New York-ian Safari? NEXT GAME: vs. Penn
5. Yale (3-1, 2-0) – Yale carries a lot of momentum coming into the Ivy League stretch of their schedule with an emotional victory thanks to Phillipe Panico’s last second field goal to beat Dartmouth 23-20. Head coach Tom Williams has the Yale program back on track after a slow season last year, and as of now, they are tops in the Ivy League. Patrick Witt in his 2nd year as starting QB is developing surprisingly quickly, which is a warning to the entire conference. Although they may not have the talent or experience just yet to contend for a title, look for Yale to pull off a few upsets to shake the Ivy League standings like a Polaroid picture. NEXT GAME: vs. Fordham
6. Dartmouth (2-2, 0-2) – The Big Green is my colleague Brendan Roche’s sleeper pick of the year and so far they have not disappointed (even though their record may say otherwise). Clearly overmatched, they nevertheless took Penn “Ivan Drago” Quakers to OT, just coming off a bit short near the end, and they competed well against a great Yale team. However, coming off short doesn’t win championships – only defense. Dartmouth is an upset-minded team ready to play with the big boys of the Ivy League, but consistency (of actually coming out with the win) will be the difference maker for the rest of the season. NEXT GAME: vs. Holy Cross
7. Cornell (1-3, 0-2) – Cornell gets a thumbs up in my book for having the best hospitality of any Ivy League team. However, they start a true freshman QB Jeff Matthews, who I think will be contending for the Ivy League Player of the Year in the near future, and have one worst defenses in the conference. Matthews definitely has played like a veteran at times but his inexperience often translates to turnovers in key situations. He just needs more time to develop and get used to the college game. Props to 1st year head coach Kent Austin as well. They did show flashes of brilliance in the Harvard game, limiting the Crimson offense through 3 quarters, but as John Madden might say, “the game is 4 quarters.” Brilliant. NEXT GAME: vs. Colgate
8. Princeton (1-3, 0-1) – My own sleeper pick for the year is in full hibernation mode thus far into the season. Is it that time of the year already?! The last two games have been blowouts of monstrosity: 42-14 loss to Columbia and 44-10 loss to Colgate. As they get ready for the their Ivy League schedule, 2nd year starter Tommy Wornham needs to get his mind together and get the offense clicking or it’s going to be a long season for head coach Bob Surace’s team. Besides a 2OT victory over Lafayette, all parts of Princeton’s game have been in disarray. Do I smell a QB controversy ahead? NEXT GAME: vs. Brown
Till next time...