John Pircon leads a shaky Dartmouth defense (CREDIT: John Risley)
Both Columbia and Dartmouth come in to Saturday's Homecoming matchup at Memorial Field with identical 1-4 records. Looking at wins and losses alone might make you think this would be a close game.
But if you are a believer in the transitive property, you have to be expecting a blowout. Dartmouth defeated Penn a few weeks ago at home, while the Lions are coming off a 59-28 thrashing by those same Quakers last week.
Okay, let me say it: I'm not a big believer in the transitive property, not in sports, and especially not in Ivy League football.
I am worried. I'm worried because Dartmouth has a good straight-ahead running back this year in junior Milan Williams, and Columbia has been so weak against the run, especially the straight-ahead run, all season.
Williams has 358 yards rushing on just 74 carries for a 4.8 yards per carry average. He would have more carries if it weren't for the fact that the Big Green have been far behind early in their last two big losses to Yale and Holy Cross. He has the potential to absolutely slay the Lions and will at least be a major test of any defensive adjustments the Columbia coaches make up front.
Dartmouth is also getting good production from QB Tom Bennewitz, who is throwing the ball about 23 times a game and still completing 58% of his passes. Bennewitz doesn't run as well as his predecessor Mike Fritz, whose scrambling made the difference in last year's Big Green win over CU, but he can run pretty well too. Bennewitz has been pretty decent on third down passing, going 20 for 37 for 253 yards, 14 1st downs, 4 TD's and just 1 interception, (he's been sacked just once on third down). He was knocked out of the Holy Cross game last weekend because of an injury, but I do expect him to be back this Saturday.
Dartmouth's receiving corps has been banged up, as a result the Big Green's leading receiver has just 15 catches. But senior Brian Evans is emerging as a deep threat, with 13 catches for 269 yards and three TD's.
Dartmouth's defense has been a different story, but with games against juggernauts like Yale and UNH already behind them, the Big Green will probably show some improvement going forward.
The Lions have to be encouraged by the fact that Dartmouth has registered only ONE SACK through the first half of the season. It would be interesting to see what Craig Hormann and Austin Knowlin can do without having to deal with a massive pass rush every play.
The run defense hasn't been stellar either, leading me to scratch my head a bit about this unit as it seems to have decent talent but is not generating enough results, (sound familiar?).
A Little History
Dartmouth absolutely dominated this series, until about 10 years ago when not only did the teams start trading more wins, but the games became more exciting and close as well. Since 1997, the average winning team in this series has won by fewer than 10 points, and five of the scores have been decided by a touchdown or less.
But with Dartmouth's running power and Columbia's passing attack, I'm thinking that Saturday might be a reminder of one of the wildest shootouts in Ivy League history. That was the 56-41 Big Green win in 1982 during which Lions QB John Witkowski broke several Ivy records, (some of which still stand).
Right now the weather forecast is calling for rain, but I think it would take a major downpour to really make this a low-scoring game.
Expect a "Shootout in the Prairie."