The Ivy League scratched out a winning week, going 9-7 with a couple majors and a few high-quality mid-majors on the schedule. Cornell and Harvard led the league with a combined 6-0 mark, while Dartmouth and Yale took down Hartford, and Brown breezed past non-Division I University of the Sciences.
The losses to Syracuse (Columbia), California (Princeton), and Siena (Brown) were to be expected, but the Lions’ loss to Sacred Heart and Bulldogs’ loss to Army were both disappointing for the league.
With the college football bowl season about to kickoff with matchups announced this weekend, this edition of the Ivy Power Rankings will get into the spirit of the season with a decidedly gridiron-related theme.
The R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (No. 8 Penn (Last Week: 7) vs. No. 7 Dartmouth (8))
Possibly the worst matchup of the college postseason pits the winner of the Sun Belt conference against a team from Conference USA in a contest that takes place a full 18 days before the BCS championship game.
So, no more fitting place for the biggest disappointment in the early Ivy season (the Quakers) to meet a team that was pretty much incapable of disappointing (the Big Green).
Dartmouth notched a tally in the win column with a strong defensive effort against Hartford and then almost shocked an incredibly tired Vermont squad, which was playing its fourth game in five nights. For that the Big Green gets a week off from the basement and gets more than a week off from competition, not taking the floor again until meeting Army at home on Dec. 12.
Penn hasn’t taken the floor since a miserable defensive slugfest and 58-49 loss to Drexel on Nov. 24. The Quakers return to the floor Friday night against Navy and will have five of their next seven contests against teams ranked 240th or higher in Pomeroy’s ratings. At the same time, six of those next seven are on the road and road wins are always tough to come by regardless of the quality of competition.
Meineke Car Care Bowl (No. 6 Columbia (2) vs. No. 5 Brown (4))
Given how jumbled the third through sixth place Ivy teams are in terms of quality and performance, it’s only fitting to match the Lions and Bears up in a bowl that can end up with anywhere between the fourth and eighth best team in the ACC and the second and fifth best team in the Big East.
Columbia was the surprise of the first two weeks, playing DePaul close and then nabbing home wins against Longwood and Bucknell. But reality has set in rather coldly, as the Lions expectedly were destroyed at Syracuse and then unexpectedly lost to Sacred Heart on the road. With a bunch of winnable games to close out the non-conference slate, it would be surprising if Columbia didn’t finish above .500 out of conference, but for now, the Sacred Heart loss sinks them toward the bottom of the list.
Brown probably deserves better than this fate, but it went 1-2 this week with a non-D-I win, a fatal failure to field a team for 210 seconds in the first half against Siena, and an epic collapse at home against a struggling Holy Cross squad. With Minnesota and Providence on the docket before a three-week break, the Bears have two more chances to make an early-season impression.
Music City Bowl (No. 4 Yale (6) vs. No. 3 Princeton (5))
Sure it’s the only game on television its night and it’s a day later in the bowl season than the Meineke, but it involves the same caliber of team from the ACC and anywhere from the fourth to tenth best team in the SEC. In other words, it’d be hard to say these teams are any better than Columbia and Brown above.
The Bulldogs have only scored a total of two points in the first five minutes of their last two games. Against Hartford, Yale survived by playing tough defense and getting just enough out of Alex Zampier to lead the team to victory. At West Point, the Bulldogs compounded their problem by failing to score a point during a seven-plus minute stretch in the second half as Army pushed a 10-point lead to 19. Yale badly needs to beat Vermont and Bryant at home next week, as road dates at Providence, Colorado and Colorado State await after the exam break.
Princeton has played only top 200 teams to this point but gets a break starting tonight at Rutgers, facing six straight teams ranked outside the Pomeroy top 250. The Tigers have shot horribly from three, can’t get to the line, turn the ball over too much and don’t grab offensive boards. It’s astonishing that they’ve been able to scratch out a 2-3 record against the nation’s 45th most difficult schedule to date despite playing so poorly.
BCS Championship Game (No. 2 Cornell (1) vs. No. 1 Harvard (3))
Unlike the normal BCS title bout, only the ordering of the two teams involved is controversial in this one. Cornell is coming off a 4-0 week in which it defeated a bad Toledo team and three intriguing mid-majors in two neutral and two road contests. The Big Red’s fourth game in six nights, however, showed off tired legs as Cornell struggled to put together the stops necessary to escape Lewisburg with a victory.
The Big Red has three more intriguing mid-majors and a potential BCS opponent (St. John’s or Hofstra for day two of the MSG Holiday Festival) in the next three-plus weeks, so it should have ample opportunity to reclaim the league’s pole position.
It’s fitting that the Crimson climbs to number one this week given that both the top spot and its upcoming schedule offer nowhere to go but down. The road win over Boston University and the impressive shellacking of Rice once again have the pundits suckered into buying a Harvard team that has historically overachieved in non-conference play and disastrously underachieved within the league.
Harvard’s next four Division I games are against top 100 opponents, starting this Sunday in Storrs against Connecticut. Even if the Crimson plays pretty well in those games, it could still be stuck on six Division I wins into the new year, as it will be a sizeable underdog against the Huskies, Boston College and Georgetown and at best even with George Washington at home to end the calendar year.
Harvard is a very talented team, and it is a very confident one as well right now. But it will be interesting to see how the players respond to the adversity that will inevitably accompany playing three BCS schools in as many games.