Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In the Wilderness

The Big Red have a rough road ahead for 2009

Now for a quick look at the 7th place team in the 2008 Ivy League, Cornell.

I know the official Ivy standings had Cornell and Columbia tied for 6th, but Columbia beat Cornell head-to-head... enough said.

1) What happened to Cornell last year after that great 3-0 start?

Live by the bomb, die by the bomb. The Big Red used a short and long passing attack to squeak by Bucknell, Yale, and Lehigh in exciting fashion to start the year, but then opposing defenses got the message and started to defend the pass in earnest. The result was a 1-6 record the rest of the way and Cornell QB Nate Ford ended the season with a whopping 19 interceptions.

2) Are any of the big name 2008 stars coming back for '09?

With the exception of rising seniors Chris Costello and Bryan Walters, not really. Cornell has just 21 returning seniors this season compared to 33 in 2008. The Big Red needs a new starting QB, a lot of new starting wide receivers, three new starting offensive linemen, three new starting defensive linemen, three new starting defensive backs, and two new starting linebackers. That, my friends, is decimation. Of all the Ivy teams, Cornell is really feeling graduation losses the most, and this was a 7th place team even with all of that senior experience in 2008.

I know there are a lot of people who think the speedy Stephen Liuzza will be a great starting QB this year. But honestly, if he were "all that" as a passer/runner wouldn't he have been given the starting job by now? Nate Ford had a great arm, but he threw way too many interceptions not to make the Big Red coaches at least want to try someone else under center. My take is that Liuzza makes for a better receiver who can occasionally drop back and pass. I don't think he can be the 60-minute starter at QB for Cornell.

2) Are there any reasons to be optimistic?

I still like the Big Red's home field advantage at Schoelkopf, making their home 2009 games against Columbia and Bucknell a lot more winnable. I also think the change in personnel on the field will force Cornell to run the ball more which could work nicely with the experienced, if unspectacular, Randy Barbour coming back. Barbour's fans have long complained that he hasn't been given enough carries. This may be the year he gets to prove them right.

3) Can Jim Knowles Survive?

I think he may be in the most trouble of any Ivy coach right now. Cornell's new-found good national sports buzz thanks to basketball and lacrosse success is making the weaker programs like the football team stick out like a sore thumb. After intially pumping the football team with some excitement in 2004 and 2005, Coach Knowles seems to have fumbled his best chances to move up in the standings. The biggest problem is winning, or should I say losing, on the road. The Big Red haven't won a road Ivy game since 2005. Even Columbia has beaten an Ivy foe away from home more recently than that.

4) Why are you so harsh on Cornell?

I thought Cornell would come in last place in 2008, and after that nice start they played like a last place team and just barely avoided the cellar. Now the team that looked like the weakest in the league in '08 seems a whole lot weaker coming in to 2009. It's hard to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Tomorrow's quick review/previer: PRINCETON


At Thu Apr 16, 03:19:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, doesn't Cornell use its state schools to load up on talent that the rest of the league can't touch? And if that is the case (check out their roster of basketball players and the schools they attned), then I'm surprised that Knowles still has a job.

At Mon Apr 20, 05:27:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW! Dartmouth goes 0-10 and Knowles is the coach most likely to get the axe? Plus Knowles is an alum. I just don't see it happening


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