Columbia-Brown Keys to the Game
The wind is expected to pick up right at kickoff
1) Establish the Run, Control the Clock, and SCORE!
Everyone and their brother is going to say stopping the Brown passing attack is the key to winning this game for Columbia. True enough, but the only problem is you can't really stop it. Brown QB Michael Dougherty will get his completions and Sewell, Farnham, and Cloherty will get their catches.
But I'd like to see all that happen in haste, after Columbia has chewed the clock with a series of M.A. Olawale 3rd down-converting rushes and long Lion TD drives. Columbia almost had that scenario working last week against Cornell, but too many Lion drives ended with no points. Columbia was good enough to beat the Big Red last week, but they'll need to finish drives with scores to beat the Bears tomorrow.
Olawale doesn't have to be the only runner. Zack Kourouma, Ray Rangel and Jordan Davis can get into the mix too. Brown has made a living this year stuffing the run, but if Olawale can loosen them up with his scrambles, the Bear "D" may get winded pretty quickly. Passing will be important, and Olawale will need to complete 15 passes or so at least... but I think the Lions can take Brown way out of its comfort zone by running successfully.
2) Pressure on Dougherty
Dougherty isn't Nathan Ford, but he throws interceptions when he's rushed. He has 10 picks this year and could be ripe for more if the wind is as strong as expected tomorrow. This is going to be a huge game for the defensive ends; Lou Miller, Phil Mitchell, Conor Joyce and, if he breaks onto the travel team, Matt Bashaw. This is Miller's chance to make one final argument for being placed on the All Ivy 1st team. This is Mitchell's chance to have the dominant game rushing the passer we've waited for all season long.
The tricky thing here is that the Lions may have to get this pressure going without the help of blitzing linebackers. With all the short passing targets available for Dougherty, it seems too dangerous to leave guys open. The Lion linebackers did very nicely last week against Cornell holding the receivers to 4-5 yard gains with immediate tackles after those short passes. Safety or corner blitzes would be even riskier. Showing the blitz and then backing off may be the best strategy, especially if it induces some false starts or other Brown mistakes.
3) Win on Special Teams
The special teams battle here will be critical, especially if the wind really is a big factor. When the Lions are facing the wind, they'll have to make sure they still get decent kicks off and get down the field in time to cover the return. When they have the wind at their backs, they'll need to take full advantage and not do anything careless, like booting kickoffs out of bounds. The wind is expected to be so strong at gametime that wind chills will be about 20 or lower. I wish that would translate into big problems for the Brown passing game... and it might. But it's more likely to play a role in special teams.
4) Feed off the Crowd, and Brown's Planned Celebration
The Bears will be fired up and so will the crowd* as they anticipate celebrating a title. That kind of enthusiasm should pump up the Lions on the other side of the field too. Not that enthusiasm has been a problem for this Columbia team this year, but I'd like to see them turn it up a notch tomorrow.
(*The crowd is likely to be much more fired up than the kids remaining on campus. Today's Brown student paper has NO SEPARATE ARTICLE on tomorrow's game or the football team at all! All the team gets on the verge of winning a title is two paragraphs in a general "what to look for in sports this weekend" story. Whoa!)