Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ivy League Football Power Rankings (Final)

Penn closes out the season as champions with another perfect Ivy League record, and Harvard continued its dominance over Yale by winning the latest 127th playing of The Game, the last 9 of 10 overall. The season was full of surprises – the resurgence of Yale, the play of QB Sean Brackett at Columbia, the loss of Bears signal caller Newhall-Caballero early in the season – but there was no doubt that the Quakers have been the best team in conference. Last Saturday closes out another season of the Ancient Eight, and it seems like football season can’t return soon enough…

Penn (9-1, 7-0) – Since the 3rd week of the season (after Harvard’s loss to Brown), there was no doubt that Penn has been the most dominant team in the Ivy League this year. QB Billy Ragone and TB Jeff Jack, both underclassmen, formed a powerful combo, leading to the top offense in the conference; expect to see them harass Ivy League defenses for years to come. Defensively, no team seemed to match the pressure and havoc they created in the backfield; senior defensive backs Josh Powers and Drew Goldsmith will be sorely missed next season. I don’t know how the Quakers managed to end up with a negative TO margin, but expect head coach Al Bagnoli to address this issue in the offseason. Playing Penn at Franklin Field this year was the scariest place for a football team.

Harvard (7-3, 5-2) – Harvard continued its dominance of Yale by winning the 127th playing of The Game by a score of 28-21. Despite being limited by a stringent Bulldog defense, Harvard was able to capitalize on several special teams mistakes by Yale, with Iannuzi retuning from injury and also returning a kickoff 86 yards to start the second half. Overall, this has been a rollercoaster season for the Crimson; they started the season with a dominant performance against Holy Cross at home and ended the season similarly against Yale, but coming into season picked #1, Harvard has to be disappointed about some of their losses, including a “failure to launch” against Penn. Regardless, winning the last 9 out of 10 games over Yale is a testament to how consistent coach Tim Murphy and his football team are every year.

Yale (7-3, 5-2) – It’s amazing how much Yale has improved in its second year under head coach Tom Williams, winning three more games than previously and surprising many teams along the way. Captain Tom McCarthy was an anchor for the defensive line that paved the way for such an accomplishment, and his leadership/playmaking ability will be a big gap to fill. A loss to Harvard to end the season is de-motivating, but the Bulldogs have much to look forward next season, including the continued development of Patrick Witt, who has shown to be more than capable QB this year. One glaring weakness for the Bulldogs, however, has to be their special teams play, a very much important and momentum-shifting side of football.

Brown (6-4, 5-2) – Since the loss of QB Newhall-Caballero to a season-ending hand injury, Brown has been struggling to replicate its early season successes, which included a dominating victory over preseason favorite Harvard in Week 2. Good news is that Newhall-Caballero will be returning next season to lead the once-vaunted passing game of the bears. Joe Springer stepped up adequately in his place, and explosive playmaker Alex Tounkara created opportunities for the team throughout the year. They ended the season with a resounding victory over Columbia in which they scored 28 points in the first half alone. In addition, the Bears demonstrated that their offense is not one-dimensional, scoring three touchdowns on the ground. If Newhall-Caballero can return back to form, this is a scary team ready to pull some upsets next year.

Dartmouth (6-4, 3-4) – The sleeper pick of the season came close to pulling multiple upsets throughout the year, but fell short repeatedly. Surprisingly, they played the Quakers to overtime, but the Big Green was largely unable to create momentum in the season, never winning more than two games in a row. The best thing is that QB Connor Kempe and fearless TB Nick Schweigger are only juniors, leaving the core of the offense intact for next season, and imagining how they will contribute and improve next year is a scary thought. I have repeatedly declared that Dartmouth is the “best of the rest” and their improved record is a testament to this fact and a sign of better things to come.

Columbia (4-6, 2-5) – I don’t think there was anyone more exciting to watch than Sophomore QB Sean Brackett behind center. As the definition of dual-threat quarterback, the young signal caller singlehandedly willed his teams to victory throughout the season, including a five touchdown performance against Princeton. Alas, the lack of playmakers on offense and defense has led to another disappointing record for the Lions, but the future can’t be brighter. Deep-ball and endzone threat Andrew Kennedy often provided sparks, albeit inconsistent, and the running back committee provided much needed run support for Brackett. The Lions need to solidify a porous run defense and an inexperience secondary to compete with the likes of Harvard and Penn next season.

Cornell (2-8, 1-6) – Starting a true freshman at quarterback was a gutsy move by new head coach Kent Austin, but it seems like his gamble will payoff heavily next year when gunslinger Jeff Matthews brings a year of experience in the Cornell offense. Not a great year record wise, but they managed to avoid a winless season in conference play by dominating the Princeton Tigers at home. The defense had given up more than 30 points four times throughout the year, none more pronounced than a 7-41 drubbing by Wagner College at the season opener, but this is a very young team, and this season should provide a baseline on which to improve.

Princeton (1-9, 0-7) – The Tigers ended the season in a whimper, being shut out 31-0 by Dartmouth at home, and much like the entire season, Princeton’s offense was ineffective. After a successful campaign last year, Tommy Wornham played well as the signal caller for the Tigers, but the offensive line failed provide and protection and create holes for Jordan Culbreath and Matt Zimmerman. Senior WRs Trey Peacock and Andrew Kerr will leave gaping holes in terms of playmakers and offensive production, and allowing five TDs through the air will give the coaching staff much to think about in the offseason.

Until next year...

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