Thursday, August 16, 2007

Empty Nest

The Crimson will struggle without Clifton Dawson (CREDIT: The Crimson)

Fourth in a team-by-team look at the Ivies, (Yale is my pick for first, Penn for second, Princeton for third, and Columbia for fourth.)

5. Harvard

Harvard was everyone's pick last year to win the Ivies, but a poor showing at the end of the season doomed the Crimson to a tie for third. Now the Cantabs have to face life without tailback Clifton Dawson who spent four years lighting up opposing teams as a running and scoring machine. The "experts" are pointing to Harvard's strong returning defense as a big reason why they should overcome Dawson's loss, but here's a news flash: just about everyone in the Ivies has an excellent defense these days. The top teams are the ones with the best skill players on offense... and Harvard doesn't have enough of them to make a serious run for the title.


Even with the loss of sack master Mike Berg, Harvard's defensive line will be fierce this season. Senior captain Brad Bagdis returns, along with junior Matt Curtis on a unit that allowed an insanely low 66.5 yards rushing per game last season while recording 44 sacks.

The secondary should actually be better this season with pre-season junior All-America candidate Andrew Berry, (his wide receiver twin brother Adam is at Princeton and also a potential star), at one corner and second team All-Ivy Steven Williams at the other.

There is some turnover at linebacker, and Desmond and Brendon Bryant are off the team for reported academic issues, but this is going to be a tough defense overall no matter how you slice it.

On offense, the biggest strength is 5th year senior Wide receiver Corey Mazza and an experienced receiving corps overall. Mazza will make some big plays this season for sure.


Other than Mazza, the Harvard offense is a big question mark. Dawson will not be adequately replaced, at least not this season. Sophomore running back Cheng Ho is really untested and isn't a serious 1,000 yard threat.

The offensive line will not be terrible, but three starters are gone, and frankly, Dawson made a lot of his own holes while he was there anyway.

The biggest question mark is senior QB Liam O'Hagan, who just did not play very well in abbreviated duty last year. I do think he will be better in 2007, but without Dawson he's going to be pressured like never before. I'm not confident he'll come through unscathed.

And don't forget what Dawson's loss means for the special teams. Dawson made a lot of major returns over the years in Cambridge, and that's lost this year too. Luckily for Harvard, senior kicker/punter Matt Schindel has been pretty reliable.


Sept. 15: at Holy Cross

The post-Dawson era begins with a rude awakening at Fitton Field. This is a loss.

Sept. 21: BROWN

Brown doesn't have the horses against Harvard "D."

Sept. 29 at Lehigh

Good matchup, but Harvard falls late.

Oct. 6: at Cornell

Tough game at Schoelkopf, but the Crimson pull it out.


Home field advantage makes the difference.


Crimson make this the highlight of their season with a nice win.

Oct. 27: at DARTMOUTH

Probably a win, but watch out for a repeat of the 2003 Big Green upset.

Nov. 3: at Columbia

Harvard offense struggles all day. Lion eke out a big win.

Nov. 10: PENN

Penn ball control sinks Crimson.

Nov. 17: at Yale

Closer than last year, but Harvard falls again.

Predicted Final Won-Loss Record: 5-5, 4-3 Ivy. 5th place.

BUT ALL BETS ARE OFF IF: O'Hagan plays very well and someone is able to run the ball effectively for the Crimson. Things could get worse though if the D-line falters a bit and the linebacking corps turns out to be a bigger liability than expected.


At Fri Aug 17, 12:02:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally, Jake picks us to win one. How about, the Lions win this one going away? Jake, you are bending over backwards. One note about Harvard: except for Yale, Harvard seemed to have more than its share of off the field problems. I actually thought that last year's Harvard team had appreciably more talent than any other team in the league and that it was basically in free fall by the end of the season. I have always been a fan of Murphy's but wonder if it isn't time for a change of scenery for a very good coach (not unlike how I felt about Ray Tellier, also agood coacha nd a very good man who seemed to get burned out after his nice run).

At Fri Aug 17, 08:25:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harvard sucks!


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