Steve Williams has an incredible 7 interceptions! (CREDIT: DSPics.com)
When you look at this Harvard team on paper, it appears there's a recipe for disaster in Saturday's game:
1) The Lions struggling running game and offensive line will face a Harvard defensive line that is still the toughest in the league despite giving up a few more rushing yards and racking up fewer sacks than last year. Matt Curtis and Brad Bagdis are lethal weapons that set the Crimson apart up front.
2) The mostly strong Columbia passing game goes up against a secondary with three outstanding defensive backs. Andrew Berry, John Hopkins, and Steve Williams are all having super seasons.
3) Harvard's running game is not a super threat, but against the Lions that may be irrelevant. Every one of Columbia's opponents this season has run the ball very well, bar none. Cheung Ho could have a monster game if Columbia doesn't do something about it.
4) The Crimson passing game is looking better and better as backup QB Chris Pizzotti continues to prove that he should have been named the starter in the first place. Lately, he's been doing a good job of finding top targets Corey Mazza and Matt Luft.
5) This is the same Harvard squad that mauled the Lions in a preseason scrimmage by 40 points.
Can Columbia compete? Is there any hope here? One thing to hold on to is that Harvard has not really had to play very strong competition in the Ivies this year, at least not at home.
Yes, Dartmouth is much improved this year, but I still don't think the Big Green are that great. Certainly Columbia could have easily beaten Dartmouth two weeks ago in Hanover. Meanwhile, Harvard barely escaped with a 28-21 win over the Green in Cambridge last week.
Harvard also barely escaped with a close win over Brown at home in week 2. The other home win was against Princeton, but that game was not close. The 32-15 win over Cornell in Ithaca was more impressive, but the Big Red have really fallen off since last year, especially on the road.
It may sound crazy, but Columbia may be the best Ivy team to face Harvard at home so far this year. And with games against Penn and Yale after this weekend, there's a very good chance the Crimson will get caught looking ahead.
But that might not be nearly enough to topple the Crimson. This is a team with an incredible 17 interceptions that are the result of a talented secondary and a furious pass rush that forces QB mistakes. On the other hand, Harvard hasn't faced a team with a multi-faceted passing attack like Columbia's. The closest they came to that was against Brown, and the Bears darn near won that game.
I'll address this in my "keys to the game" later this week, but if Craig Hormann can throw the ball crisper under pressure than he did against Yale, the Lions may have a chance.