Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Ivy League Football 2016

Alek Torgersen


The real story for more than a decade now in this storied league has been the continuing domination of the Ancient Eight by two teams. Harvard and Penn in that way are not unlike the two Consuls who used to share power in the old Roman Republic. But in 2013 and 2014, Penn seemed to abdicate its co-ownership of the Ivy kingdom. And as Penn’s legendary Penn Head Coach Al Bagnoli headed from brief retirement to the helm at Columbia, and Dartmouth looking poised to crash the party, 2015 seemed like it would turn the Quakers’ blip into a real trend.

Well, Dartmouth did its part by surging to a share of the Ivy title. But Penn, under new Head Coach Ray Priore, came back powerfully in the second half of the season to emerge resurgent. Harvard did its share and the result was the first three-way tie for the Ivy title since 1982.

But the big story was just how good Penn was on the field. And with so many of the key Quakers coming back for 2016, this season’s predictions are easier than usual. Penn is simply a prohibitive favorite to repeat as Ivy champion, and this time it shouldn’t have to share the crown.

But this isn’t just a testament to Priore and a commentary on Penn. It’s also quite the commentary on Bagnoli who built this new championship powerhouse in his final years of recruiting in Philadelphia. And so now that it’s established that Bagnoli truly “still has it,” this fact surely affects Columbia as well as he works with his first and massively-sized recruiting class.

As for the rest of the league, there seems to be more evidence of relative weakness than usual. Yale’s seems to be in severe decline, Brown hasn’t seriously contended for the title in years, Cornell can’t make real progress, and Dartmouth cannot possibly hope to be as good as it was last year. Harvard and Princeton could conceivably improve over last year, but that’s not based on anywhere near enough evidence.

So, it’s Penn’s league to lose this fall as everything old is new again in Ivies.

Predicted Order of Finish

1)      PENN


QB Alek Torgersen had a monster break out season, WR Justin Watson put up historic numbers, and the two chief Penn RB’s ran for a collective 1,105 yards and 13 TD’s. And they’re all back for 2016. The offensive line also has enough returning talent to truly brush off any serious questions about its effectiveness. The Quakers will score a lot of points this year, and that’s a fact.

I’d also put a very young and talented secondary into the strengths column for Penn. This was a group that really stepped up last season with a lot of rookie standout performances.

Finally, the Penn schedule looks like a favorable strength this season with the crucial game against Harvard slated for Franklin Field.  


It appears the front seven on defense is relatively weaker than some of the other Ivy teams, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in that perception.

All Bets are off if…

Torgersen gets hurt.

2)      HARVARD


The Harvard offense is going to be good, period. WR Justice Shelton-Mosley is a major weapon and I have little worries about new QB Joe Viviano.


There are just too many new starters on both lines to feel confident in picking the Crimson to win another title. No doubt many of these starters will be All Ivy caliber, but will they be up to defeating teams like Penn and Dartmouth on the road their first season as starters?

All Bets are off if…

Harvard loses one of its early season cupcake games.



The QB combination of Chad Kanoff and John Lovett can be lethal. If Lovett can stay healthy this season, the Tigers offense should move something similar to the way it did through much of 2014. The defensive front seven is very strong.


RB Joe Rhattigan is talented, but hasn’t really been thoroughly tested with a season’s worth of carries. There are some promising newcomers in the Tiger backfield, but they’re all unproven. The offensive line is a big question mark. Depth is also an issue up and down this lineup, meaning even a small number of key injuries would be a deal breaker.

All Bets are off if…

The relatively new offensive line can’t hack the burden of a high-speed, multi-faceted office.



The Big Green running game looks very good with RB Ryder Stone returning and a talented and experienced O-line to block for him. The pass rushing unit led by Flo Orimolade should be formidable. Special teams will be another strength based on returning players and Dartmouth’s long-running excellence in that area. The Big Green do have a favorable schedule with home games against Penn and Harvard.


No team lost more star players to graduation than Dartmouth did this spring. The chief question mark is how the Big Green can recover from the loss of QB Dalyn Williams, truly a once-in-a-generation type player. But there are also massive holes to fill from special players gone at the linebacker, DB, and even the O-line positions, (although I think the O-line will be very good).

All Bets are off if…

Dartmouth can make a run at defending its title if new QB Bruce Dixon gets hot right away and one of the WR’s, like Air Force transfer Emmanuel Soto catches fire too. Things can go further south, however, if Dixon is a bit of a bust and the defense loses last year’s level of toughness.

5)      COLUMBIA

My full preview of the 2016 Lions will be out this weekend

6)      BROWN


After an injury-riddled and bad luck-filled 2015, QB Kyle Moreno and the Bear passing game should be back in business this fall. It’s not like it was weak last year, but expect even bigger numbers from Moreno and super weapon WR Alex Jette all year long.
Moreno can also run.


You just can’t be sold on the Brown defense right now and we simply have no idea who the running backs are going to be. While I think the Bears will be able to score, consistency from week to week will be tough to achieve.

All Bets are off if…

Brown finds someone to run the ball consistently to take the pressure off Moreno and/or a premier defensive player emerges.

7)      YALE


The Elis have great depth and talent at RB and WR. In fact, it may be the best talent and depth in the Ivies. The offensive line has a decent amount of returning talent. Yale also has at least one returning All Ivy player on each of the three defensive units from the D-line to the secondary.


Yale’s best overall player, DT Copache Tyler, is suddenly off the team with no explanation as of yet. And then there’s the problem of no real established QB. Yale still has enough talent to win games in this league, but with the loss of Tyler and no real leadership elsewhere, this looks like a return to the Yale woes of the mid-1990’s… at least for now.

All Bets are off if…

Tyler miraculously returns and someone steps up at QB.

8)      CORNELL


The linebackers and safeties, led by FS Nick Gesualdi seem solid. After that…


The Big Red lost RB Luke Hagy and has no experienced or proven talent at QB. It’s hard to see how Cornell improves this year.

All Bets are off if…

Forget about it.


I remain, very truly yours, Richard Szathmary said...

I'm kind of surprised that the normally vocal, certainly combative Lions fans who normally haunt this site seem so quiet so far.

The relative stillness is chilling. Even as it calendrically remains summer. After the St. Francis game la deluge?

alawicius said...

Did you catch the majors of our three captains?

Conway: Political Science
Hollis: Architecture
Mornhinweg: English (!)

Ain't that great! :)


Chen1982 said...

I for one am a bit on edge.....want to believe that we will improve markedly on last year....but have nagging worry about a sophomore slump of sorts....

I know a scrimmage doesnt mean all that much...but Cornell did score four times...

Just as last year's opener against fordham, I think SFu will be a loss with some bright might Georgetown be....and all of a sudden we start 0~2 ....

Maybe just 38 years of neuroses....sorry for the jitters!