Friday, September 23, 2005

Don't Rain On My Parade

Lions favored by 4 over Duquesne Dukes Tomorrow!

Apparently the Columbia campus is in an uproar over a new tailgating policy that will keep undergrads, and most everyone else, from bringing tons of alcohol to Baker Field. Somehow, I don't think this will distract the team, which hopefully doesn't do much drinking before or during games. The game's the thing, my friends the game's the thing.

Columbia started out the week 6 1/2 point favorites versus Duquesne, a mystery of team from the MAAC. The MAAC is a Division I-AA conference like the Ivies, but their schools are smaller and less well known. Duquesne has been the king of the MAAC for years now, with 5 or 6 titles in a row. They decided to ratchet up their out-of-league competition last year by taking on Penn. The Quakers drubbed them 51-10, and did a similar number on them last week 41-14.

Duquesne has a red shirt frosh QB who's been impressive and two speedy runners who are a problem if they get free. Their defensive line seems strong, and the unit as a whole is opportunistic. They beat Fordham a lot more impressively than Columbia did, but that game was at Duquesne.

For Columbia, coach Shoop says he's going to keep the shuttle system in place for now. If that means Hormann will get about 65% of the snaps like he did against Fordham, that's fine. While I would just give Hormann the job outright, I can see how Winters' presence confused Fordham a bit and neither QB made any real mistakes.

Here are the keys to the game:

Which QB will shine?

Will the young kid from Duquesne, Scott Knapp, slice up the mighty Lion secondary, or will Hormann or Winters steal his show?

The Lions passing game was tremendous last week, and will probably have to be all season if they're going to get to 5-5 or better. But the Dukes also rely on passing most of the time, so that means the secondaries will have to step up along with the pass rushers. I think our secondary is one of the best in all of Division I-AA, and the pass rushing is getting a boost from new-comer Jeff Oke, who helped seal the game for Columbia last week with 3 sacks and two forced fumbles. Duquesne has a star defensive tackle in Josh Antinopoulos, but other than that I don't see much size on their defensive two-deep roster. Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm not sure we'll be facing a ferocious defense here, especially against the pass.

Will the Lion running game make a bigger contribution?

Passing and receiving by committee has been effective, but the multiple runners failed to impress

Alex Erhart, James Cobb, and Jordan E. Davis are all listed on the two-deep for this game, and has to hope that one or all three of them will be able to wear Duquesne down. Duquesne has had good numbers versus the run this year, but I'm not sure the fact that they held Penn's Sam Matthews below 100 yards really means that much in such a rout. Both teams have a great opportunity to cross up their opponents with a focus on the run in the early going, so whatever team gets some traction on the ground could grab a big advantage.

Will there be a crowd?

With all the doom-and-gloom reporting about the new alcohol policy at Baker Field, I'm worried too many students will stay away.

We're supposed to get the most beautiful weather in weeks tomorrow in New York; clear skies, no humidity, and 70-75 degrees. What a waste of a nice day if the crowds don't come. I'm betting if there are fewer than 7,500 people at the game, the athletic department will revise the parking policy by homecoming.

Can We Win?

In the previous post, I outlined how important week 2 games have been for judging this Lions team over the past 10 years. This game is as winnable as we have left on the schedule. If we lose this one, then 1-9 or 2-8 is a real possibility. If we win, the chances of 5-5 or 6-4 begin to get a lot better. We're now only favored by 4 points, but no true Columbia fan cares about the spread! I'd take a 3-2 win with a late FG any day! Let's hope for the best.


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