Friday, September 22, 2006

Columbia-Georgetown Preview

Columbia is Favored by 11.5 points over Georgetown

(Source:, but please don't take this link as an encouragement to gamble! Gambling on football is a no-win situation and gambling on Ivy League football is a sign of a serious problem... no really it is).

For the odds makers to give Columbia the nod with a double-digit spread shows very unusual respect for this program and a huge amount of skepticism for Georgetown right now. I would have made Columbia a touchdown favorite, but I'm not interested in enticing bets. This bigger spread is probably very much about trying to induce heavy wagering on Georgetown.


Columbia must maintain the defensive intensity that was so evident on the field against Fordham. The Lions really wanted to hit and hit hard on every play, and they did. I suspect there could be a let down after the big 37-7 win and because this game is just before the homecoming showdown with Princeton. Hopefully, the Lion coaches have impressed upon the players that every game is very precious. How a squad that's gone 3-17 over the past two seasons could forget that I'm not sure, but we are talking about 18-21 year-old kids here.

More specifically, Columbia needs to show that the aggressive 3-5-3 defense can guess right against a more varied offense. The Hoyas don't have any one great weapon like Fordham had in James Prydatko, but they do mix the run and the pass well and that means keying on one player will NOT be something the Lions can do all day. It will also be interesting to see if Georgetown learned something valuable from watching game film of the new CU defense. No other I-AA or I-A school that I know of uses the 3-5-3, and Fordham may have been more confused by it than anyone else will from here on out.

Georgetown has decided to start Ben Hostetler again at QB, despite the fact that he was yanked in last week's Brown game and was outplayed by his replacement, Matt Bassuener, albeit in garbage time. Hostetler's stats are unimpressive. In three games, he's thrown for just 392 yards and a 5.1 yards-per-attempt average. He has three TD passes and three interceptions. He's not much of a runner either with 30 yards on 20 carries. I suspect Georgetown first-year coach Kevin Kelly will be keeping Hostetler on a short leash.

Hostetler's #1 target is receiver Brent Craft, but that's all relative. He has just 13 catches for 110 yards and no TD's. The team is high on another receiver, Jasper Ihezie, who is 6"4 and has good speed, but he only has three catches so far this season.

The running game is very weak, as the top runner Emir Davis has just 59 yards on 16 carries. This might have a lot to do with the Hoya's undersized offensive line. The left side of the line features two starters who weigh just 260 pounds, and the center is just 240. The right side of the GU line is much bigger with a pair of guys at 290 pounds each. Columbia is coming off a very successful game where it controlled the line of scrimmage against a much bigger Fordham O-line, so if the Lions don't keep it up this weekend; it will probably be the result of a let down.

The secondary will be tested much more this week than it was last week against Fordham. The Lions pass rush must help out, and it has a chance to rack up some sacks against that smaller offensive line, but at some point Columbia's defensive backs will need to shine in coverage. I expect the Hoyas to test 5"7 junior cornerback Jo Jo Smith to see if they can take advantage of his shorter size in "jump ball" type situations. Smith does have good speed and his aggressive play was on display last week when he stripped a Fordham receiver of the ball at the CU one-yard line, but he'll need help. Columbia can go a long way to demoralizing Georgetown early by stuffing some pass plays in the first quarter.

Georgetown's defense is the stronger unit. They've only allowed 60 points all season, and that average is skewed by last week's 34 points given up to Brown. But the Hoya's have been allowing lots of yards on the ground and through the air. This tells me the GU defense is probably stiffening up in the red zone, and getting red zone TD's has been a problem for Columbia for the last couple of seasons. Columbia must convert a TD when it gets into the red zone, preferably in the first half, instead of relying on Jon Rocholl to bail them out with a field goal every time.

At the line of scrimmage, Columbia needs to keep up the good work when it comes to run blocking. Jordan Davis and the other rushers had a lot more room to run against Fordham than they did at any time last season. But the pass protection wasn't as strong as it needed to be most of the game. I expect the Hoyas to rush QB Craig Hormann hard and often. I think the Lions can neutralize that with some screen passes and a few quick throws to the tight ends. Draw plays might also be a remedy, and I'd like to see Davis make the Hoyas pay with some good gains up the middle. How Columbia responds to the rush early will set a tone in this game.

Ultimately, the game comes down to two questions for Columbia. 1) Will the defense play with as much passion and aggressiveness as it did last week? and 2) Will the offense play a more complete and consistent game? I like Columbia's chances on defense, but I think the Lions' offense may still be a bit rusty so early in the year. The one advantage Columbia is sure to have is on special teams, where Rocholl's leg is never in question. I expect him to have another multiple field goal game and that could be the difference.

PREDICTION: Columbia 23 Georgetown 14

In the Papers

The Columbia Spectator has some pretty thin Lion football coverage today, but there are a couple of interesting takes on the game in the Georgetown student paper, The Hoya.

Or course there is nothing in any of the New York papers.


Harvard (-3 1/2) at Brown

Without a doubt, this is the game of the week in the Ivies and perhaps all of Division I-AA. Harvard is down to its third string QB, but Clifton Dawson is healthy and as effective as ever. As good as he is, I think the Brown defense, led by Zak DeOssie, will be more prepared to stop Dawson and hold him to 125 yards or less. This is finally the year for the Bears to get over that Crimson hurdle.

PREDICTION: Brown 27 Harvard 23

Yale (+2) at Cornell

Both teams are coming off poor performances in their openers. But I think Cornell is a much better team than they showed against Bucknell, while Yale was not so out of character in its big loss to San Diego. Cornell should also get an emotional lift from all-time great Ed Marinaro's presence in the stands as the school will be honoring him and the rest of the 1971 Ivy Championship squad at Schoelkopf Field. This will be a close one as both teams have decent weapons on offense.

PREDICTION: Cornell 24 Yale 21

Lafayette (+4 1/2) at Princeton

Princeton has a very strong defense, but its offense is not going to be very effective this season without that huge and versatile offensive line it had last year. Lafayette is hungry after playing a pretty good game in a losing cause at home to Penn. The Tigers have been living a charmed life since last season and that ends tomorrow.

PREDICTION: Lafayette 20 Princeton 10

Villanova at Penn (no line)

Penn made its case as a true Ivy title contender last week against Lafayette, sending a big crowd home disappointed after they came to see the Leopards in their newly renovated stadium. Villanova is a better team than its 0-3 record indicates, and it will be really hungry to "show-up" the cross-town Ivy swells, but I think the Wildcats will only be able to make it close.

PREDICTION: Penn 28 Villanova 24

University of New Hampshire (-28 1/2) at Dartmouth

This is going to be an ugly game. It would be great if the Big Green put some fear in UNH's hearts at some point, but I don't think it's going to happen. Any chance of a letdown is also diminished by the fact that this is an old intrastate rivalry.

PREDICTION: UNH 45 Dartmouth 7


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