Thursday, August 10, 2017

Busy Days

John Lovett

It's been an eventful few days in Columbia and Ivy football news.

Let's list those big stories in order of importance:

1) Princeton's WR/RB/QB John Lovett, the best all-around player in the Ivies, is going to be out for a significant part of the season. He might be out for the entire season. That changes a lot of things for the league as a whole and especially for Columbia, who will almost certainly not have to face Lovett in week three of the season.

2) The preseason Ivy football media poll came out, with Princeton and Harvard tied for first, Penn just behind them, and Columbia picked seventh. The poll was taken before the news about Lovett became widely known, and thus it's probably more meaningless than it usually is.

3) Columbia has secured a fourth committed player for the 2018 freshman class, apparently a wide receiver from Florida. But we don't have confirmation on his name yet.

Lovett Leaves it Wide Open

The Lovett story is explosive when you consider just how incredible a weapon he is and the way he makes it impossible to beat the Tigers unless your defense plays its very highest level. He was the 2016 Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year for a reason. He personally scored 21 TD's and threw for 10 more in his "slash" mode on offense. Without him, Princeton's offense is really just a bit above average in the league. The Tigers still have a great offensive line, very good RB, and a good full-time QB in Chad Kanoff. So again, that's still an above average crew.

But remember that the Princeton defense has to replace an incredible 10 starters now gone to graduation. That was already a tall order and now the team's chances of repeating as champions seems like more of a stretch.

Four months ago, it looked like we were heading into a season where the chasm between the top three teams, Harvard, Penn, and Princeton, and the rest of the league was the greatest in recent memory.

But now that we know of the loss of Penn's presumptive new QB and its best DB to transfers, Harvard's loss of its best O-lineman to an undisclosed reason, and Princeton's loss of the best player in the whole league to injury, the Ivy League football race looks like it may be the most wide open affair in many years. (Off hand, I'd say it's the most wide open since 2005).

Media Poll (1st place votes in parentheses)

1. Princeton (6) 120
1. Harvard (5) 120
3. Penn (5) 110
4. Yale 71
5. Dartmouth 60
6. Brown (1) 57
7. Columbia 38
8. Cornell 36

The media poll is usually pretty accurate when it comes to pegging the top teams, if not in exact order. But this year, even somewhat casual fans could make the easy choice of putting Penn, Princeton, and Harvard in the top three. If we knew for sure that Lovett was out for the entire season, I'd be comfortable putting Princeton at 4th or 5th, but it sounds like there's a good chance he'll play for some portion of the year. 

There's always one yahoo who gives Brown a first place vote in this poll. It does skew the whole voting process and also runs contrary to the kind of practice I employed, (at a steep personal cost), when I participated in the poll and refused to cast "homer" votes for Columbia or continue acting as a mindless homer when previous coaching regimes were causing serious harm to the program. 

That said, even with the added boost Brown got overall from that first place vote, the voters gave Dartmouth and Yale possibly the biggest votes of confidence by placing them above Brown, Columbia, and Cornell by somewhat significant amounts in total votes.  

I'll have my own Ivy predictions ready to go the week of August 21st, but those of you reading my team-by-team analyses of the league over the summer so far know that I'm not all that high on any team right now. Again, that's part of my assessment mentioned above about how this is shaping up to be a more wide open race this year than we've seen in a long time. 

I don't see why Yale especially is getting so much more love than anyone else. But getting bent out of shape by the poll is something too many of us do every year and it's a waste of time. 

Where do Columbia's chances fit into all of this? The Lions have significant questions like the rest of the league's teams, especially at the running back position and depth at the QB role. But they have a better offensive line than most of the league, a better receiving corps than most of the league, a better secondary than most of the league, and a QB who could also be better than most of the league if he plays like he did the last three weeks of the season. That's a bag of positives I don't think Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, and Cornell can match. The big question is whether they will get the Lions a win against Penn, Princeton, or Harvard to properly announce their arrival as a contending team. 

But for now as we look at the schedule, I simply don't see any "impossible to win games" on the slate anymore. I had thought the road contest at Princeton was pretty close to unwinnable, but without Lovett the Tigers are beatable. I had thought that the Penn game at Homecoming would again be a stretch, (the Quakers have the best two-year track record in games against us since Al Bagnoli came to NYC), but it seems a little less so without that presumptive QB and their top veteran DB. 

Again, that's how it looks coming from a Lion lens. But every team in the league not named "Harvard, Penn, or Princeton" has to be more optimistic and excited than they were a week ago. And they should be. 


oldlion said...

Devin Hart, 6'4" WR/LB from Georgia. We also have a transfer I understand. And Anders Hill is going to be the offensive POY.

Jake said...

The transfer was the one I already reported, Carson Griffis

DOC said...

Your mouth to God's ears Old Lion !