Monday, November 17, 2008

Best Case Scenario

The folks in the Ivy League office have to be giddy about the situation we have going into the final weekend of the football season. Four of the eight teams in the league, (Brown, Harvard, Penn and Yale), have a legitimate shot of getting some piece of the league title by the end of the day Saturday and two of the other four teams in the Ivies, (Columbia and Cornell), get the chance to play big-time spoliers.

The other game on Saturday, Dartmouth at Princeton, has drama too as the Big Green will try to avoid becoming the first Ivy team to go 0-10 since Brown laid the goose egg in 1992.

For Columbia, there's a very good chance to finish right in the middle of pack after being picked overwhelmingly to finish dead last in the league in the preseason poll. A win over Brown added with a Penn win over Cornell and a Dartmouth win over Princeton would give the Lions sole possession of fifth place. Not bad for a 0-7 team in the league last season.

On the individual front, the final weekend probably won't pack as much drama. Only one Ivy rusher, Princeton's Jordan Culbreath, has a shot at getting 1,000 yards for the season. But at 930 yards coming in against Dartmouth's worst-in-the-league rush defense, Culbreath seems like a good bet.

For the QB's, Harvard's Chris Pizzotti has 17 TD passes and just four interceptions, giving him a pass efficiency rating just under a stunning 150 for the season. The trouble is, he'll have to maintain those numbers against a super-stingy Yale defense that has thrived against the pass this year.

Some of the individual stat races on defense are basically over, and some are neck-and-neck.

Columbia's Alex Gross has pulled away in what had been a very close race for the total tackles crown. Going into the final weekend, the Lions super sophomore linebacker has 96 tackles and a 12 tackle lead over Dartmouth's Ian Wilson. Fellow Lion Drew Quinn is fourth with 80 stops and the senior about to play his final game is just one tackle behind Princeton's Steven Cody for third place.

Lou Miller has also put away the race for total tackles for a loss. The junior defensive end for Columbia has an amazing 18.5 TFL's, seven more than #2 Matt Curtis of Harvard and 8.5 more than #3 Bobby Abare of Yale. Miller is also still #1 in sacks with 8, but he is only one sack ahead of Kyle Hawari of Yale right now. In total tackles, Miller has blown away every other defensive lineman in the Ivies, with 61 stops. A distant second among linemen is Hawari with 42.

(It is my sinking feeling that somehow the coaches will snub Miller and keep him off the first team All Ivy list. That just can't be allowed to happen. Miller can make an excellent case for being the best defensive linemen in the league this year, and is certainly in the top four).

Columbia's Adam Mehrer is among five players tied for the league lead with four interceptions going into the last game. The sophomore safety should get plenty of opportunities versus Brown's pass-happy offense.

Some Other Interesting Stats

-Columbia's rush defense is now allowing just 97 yards per game. That's 59% fewer yards than last years 237 yards allowed per game. Even the Dow Jones isn't down that much over the past year!

-Despite getting nailed for a ton of yards through the air over the last two games, Columbia is still in the middle of the pack in overall pass defense. But a more telling stat is TD passes allowed. The Lions have given up only 10 TD passes, and that's second in the Ivies behind Yale's 6... and let's see where Yale is after this coming weekend against the Crimson. Also, the drop off in pass defense is deceiving in that opposing teams are being forced to throw against Columbia much, much more than the past three seasons and that's skewing the numbers.

-Columbia and Yale are tied for the team lead in sacks with 20 while the Lions have allowed just 13 sacks against.

-The Lions are second in the league in rushing offense, just eight yards per contest behind league leader Princeton. Columbia hasn't been out of the basement in rushing offense in many years.


At Mon Nov 17, 11:04:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since tied for league lead in sacks, we are getting pressure on the QB. So how are we giving up so much in passing yards?

At Mon Nov 17, 11:34:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps a better measure of run defense effectiveness is yards per rush because total rushing yards can be deceptively low when teams choose to pass because the pass defense is suspect. Columbia fares well in this stat also:

1. Brown 2.44
2. Columbia 2.52
3. Yale 2.72
4. Penn 3.13
5. Harvard 3.57
6. Princeton 3.74
7. Cornell 3.97
8. Dartmouth 5.25

At Tue Nov 18, 12:31:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous friend12 said...

They had a couple covergae issues, but, seemed to correct the problem during half time.

At Tue Nov 18, 04:19:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have been hurt on long passes a few times but seemed to tighten up against Cornell. As for Miller, Coach Murphy seemed to be saying that he is really a linebacker who is playing out of position at DE. But isn't that what our all-Ivy DE of a few years ago whose name escapes me (he was around 5'10" and 210) was doing? Miller deserves defensive player of the year. And where on the all_ivy team should Knowlin go? He is a force and a game changer.

At Tue Nov 18, 06:05:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, the story in the Cornell Daily Sun was really pretty classless. Coach Knowles was gracious, as was their terrific linebackerr Costello, but the reporter sounded like foehi's cousin. As for Brown, I really think we have the talent to pull off the upset.

At Tue Nov 18, 06:44:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Author of 8:04 AM, while they put up 376 yards on passing this week, they only had one big passing play in the first quarter. I was at the game and all I saw was a lot of "dink and dunk" passing by Cornell by two QBs. Their average was about 7 yds/pass. That's all they could do because the running game wasn't making it with only 50 yards.

Shout out to the INT guys, Calvin Otis, Adam Mehrer and Alex Gross. It was too bad that Andy Shalbrack's TD run back of 60+ yds got called back because of a CU below-the-waist blocking penalty. Bad call at that stage of the game. Nevertheless, it was good to see Shalbrack steamroll the QB who tried to stop him 10 yds from the endzone. Ouch x 2. Shalbrack should have had a 2nd INT but the ball got tipped by a ballhawking LB before it got to Shalbrack. Good hustle by both.

The weather held out for the people there at the game. Good to see a win. Let's do it to the Brownies this week.

The Neckman.

At Tue Nov 18, 11:36:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do folks really think Knowlin is All-Ivy this year? Does he have the stats to back it up? How do his stats compare to other WRs? He is a great player...and a difference maker...but this seems like a down year for him. Reputation should not get you on the All-Ivy team...stats should.

At Tue Nov 18, 07:21:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's the corollary to your argument against Knowlin:

WR is a position that requires input from the quarterback and the offensive coordinator. Is it Knowlin's fault that Kelly/Olawale aren't as consistent passers as Hormann, or that the Lions have switched to a run-first option type offense?

Are Cornell's receivers better than Knowlin because they throw the ball more frequently?

The only receivers that one could make a real argument for ahead of Knowlin are Luft at Harvard, and the Brown guys. But they are playing with the two best QBs in the league, and, especially in the case of Brown, use a pass-first system. I guess Thanheiser at Princeton deserves mention, too.

But if special teams performance is used in measuring a players' worth... there's no doubt that AK is deserving.

At Tue Nov 18, 09:35:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AK should make all-Ivy in a category that defies easy description. While he is nominally a WR, and the best player in the league at that position, he is not being suggested based upon reputation. He is a threat as a receiver, runner, punt returner and kick returner to take it to the house any time he touches the ball. The broken reverse in the Cornell game which should have been a huge loss and turned into a gain was aplay that only Knowlin could have made, with the possible exception of MA. I hope that those two guys hook up early and often at Brown, and that they spend the off- season working with each other on timing for the deep ball. One more thought: it was a disgrace that Lou Miller was kept off the Ivy Honor Roll this week after his monster game against Cornell.

At Tue Nov 18, 09:44:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a classless article but if the writer is saying those things about CU football, what in turn does that say about Cornell's program who was beat pretty soundly? sour grapes. We do have a shot against Brown and as we have just pride to play for and them the Ivy crown(or part of it), they certainly might be tight and vulnerable to the upset.

At Wed Nov 19, 03:48:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger dabull said...

Neckman, I too am a little concerned about the pass defense. Because we won the game it is a little easier to gloss over but dinking and dunking is what the spread offense is designed to do and 376 yds of it is a little too much. If not for the fact the Cornell qb made some poor decisions on when and where to throw the ball we probably lose that game because we would not have had enough offensive possesions to pull it out without our picks. With the execption of the Shalbrack pick where he jumped into the pass lane I think the others were gifts that we can't expect to receive from the Brown qb. The one kid Baker had l4 catches for a gaggle of yds. and was in the flat against linebacker Gross a lot so we might have to adjust our scheme to roll a DB into the flat and drop off a linebacker a little deeper in the middle.

At Wed Nov 19, 04:05:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good observation from Dabull. We seem to be vulnerable to short patterns in the seam and out patterns. Our linebackers have trouble covering those patterns and Cornell likes to run a no-huddle which makes substitutions tough. Our best pass defense originates with the rush. We were at our most effective when we put pressure on Ford, who is a pretty good athlete but vulnerable to a ferocious rush. I think that Coach Kelton should be dialing up a few safety blitzes on Saturday. I am hoping that Phil Mitchell has a monster game for his finale. If we can pressure Dougherty I think we can get a W here, if we can squeeze a little more of a passing game from MA.


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