Columbia-Yale: Keys to the Game
Columbia is an 18.5 point underdog at Yale Bowl this Saturday
Yale is on a high after beating Penn in OT at the Bowl last week while Columbia may have put together its worst performance of the year in its last game; a 20-7 loss at home to Dartmouth.
Yale has the kind of multi-faceted offense that could finally blow the doors off of the Lions' tough defense which so far, hasn't given up more than 21 points in any game.
But Columbia may get a big defensive assist from Mother Nature. Heavy rain and high winds are expected for Saturday and Yale Bowl has a way of making 20 MPH winds turn into 40 MPH winds pretty fast. Columbia was blown out in a windy Yale Bowl in 2000, but that was an otherwise clear day and the home team was able to take advantage.
Despite my pleas to start M.A. Olawale at quarterback, Lions Head Coach Norries Wilson has announced that Craig Hormann will get the start again. However, it looks like Olawale will get into the game at some point. Why Wilson thinks Hormann and company will get something going on offense this weekend when almost nothing has worked in the six weeks coming into this game is beyond me. But you can understand his reluctance to start a freshman.
On offense, Columbia must find a running game. The speedy Olawale at QB gives us an instant running attack, and if he does see significant time he could achieve what tailback Jordan Davis has not been able to do all season. If the rain and mud make moving the ball nearly impossible for both teams, that would obviously favor the Lions, since they haven't been able to move the ball most of the season anyway. But sometimes, heavy rain can favor an offense, especially one with so many weapons like Yale. Meanwhile, the Lions may find it hard to set up screens and other short pass plays in the rain, but those are the only kinds of plays that have worked for them. To be realistic, if the weather really is terrible, Columbia should just focus on holding on to the ball and letting the kicking game and field position be their offense.
On defense, the Lions need to use the foul weather conditions to create turnovers. Eli QB Matt Polhemus is usually good for one interception per game, and Columbia needs to make that two or three tomorrow to have a fighting chance.
I'm not sure anyone can really stop Yale running back Mike McLeod. I think he might get 35-40 carries tomorrow if the rain and wind kills the passing game. The Lions need to pray the muddy field will slow McLeod down just a bit and give the linebackers and safeties a chance to stuff him. It's still a tall order.
If Wilson is able to work Olawale into the game effectively and the defense gets some major help from the weather, Columbia could keep this one close. But winning the game seems like a very long shot.
Prediction: Yale 17 Columbia 7
Brown (+5.5) at Penn
The Brown-Penn game at Franklin Field could be the only dry Ivy game tomorrow. Right now, the forecasters are expecting the rain to be out of the Philly area by game time. That's bad news for the Bears, who needed a terrible weather situation to even the playing field against the Quakers. Brown did get a nice win over Cornell in Providence last week, but some aspects of that contest, especially Bear QB Joe DiGiacomo's strong numbers, seemed like an anomaly. Meanwhile, Penn knows it's still in this Ivy race even after the 17-14 overtime loss to Yale last Saturday. Look for Joe Sandberg to have a big day on the ground for the Quakers.
Prediction: Penn 24 Brown 13
Harvard (-15.5) at Dartmouth
Another game that will be hit with very bad rain, wind and this one will be cold too. Harvard's Clifton Dawson is going to figure heavily in this game, and Crimson QB Liam O'Hagan is going to run it a lot too. Dartmouth will counter with their QB Mike Fritz carrying the ball plenty, but he won't have as much success against Harvard as he did at Columbia last week.
Prediction: Harvard 21 Dartmouth 7
Princeton (-10) at Cornell
Ithaca, NY is going to be a very ugly place to be tomorrow. But Princeton is a team perfectly suited for ill weather. They have a great offensive line, strong possession-type receivers, and a QB who can make things happen with his feet when he needs to. Cornell will counter with Luke Siwula for about 40 carries, but the Big Red just aren't strong enough right now to beat a Tiger team that is very hungry for a championship.
Prediction: Princeton 17 Cornell 6