Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Who's Your MVP?

John Witkowski was the last Columbia Bushnell Cup winner... 28 years ago

The Ivy League championship race is, for all intents and purposes, over.

The ONLY way Penn doesn’t walk away with its second straight solo title is for Cornell to beat the Quakers in Ithaca AND Yale would need to beat Harvard at Harvard.

The Cornell over Penn thingy is not going to happen.

Congratulations to the Quakers, they were clearly the best team this year.

What isn’t even remotely as clear is who will be the MVP of the league and the winner of the Bushnell Cup.

And the suspense is even greater this year because the announcement of the winner and presentation of the Bushnell Cup will be at a special ceremony in Manhattan on December 6th.

Usually, voters in these competitions like to reward the key star player on the championship team.

But who is the key star player for Penn this year?

Nobody, really.

It speaks volumes to how strong a team the Quakers have been that they’ve been so strong without any major individual star.

But that doesn’t help us decide our Ivy MVP.

Voters also usually favor the best offensive skill player in these things.

There are some good names to throw out here:

Nick Schwieger

The Dartmouth running back has the inside track to win the Ivy rushing title. He’s already over 1,000 yards rushing this season. He has 11 TD’s. And seriously, is there any doubt that Schwieger is the biggest reason why the Big Green have won ANY games this season? Even in the games where he was not dominant, he was a key contributor.

Those are the arguments FOR Schwieger.

The arguments against are not numerous. But you could quibble with the fact that his 1,028 yards rushing this season aren’t exactly Earth-shattering. You could also point out that Dartmouth has only won two Ivy league games, (so far – I like their chances against Princeton Saturday), and was never in the title hunt.

Gino Gordon

The Harvard running back just barely trails Schwieger in total rushing yards. Gordon has eight touchdowns. He is averaging an astonishing 6.6 yards per carry. Gordon successfully carried a huge load for the Crimson offense as Harvard suffered numerous key QB and WR injuries. He ran for 110 yards and a TD against mighty Penn. Plus, he and the Crimson were in the title race until this past Saturday. Unlike Schwieger, Gordon is a senior and the awards voters tend to favor seniors.

But Gordon only has 1,023 yards overall, and that’s not incredible by any stretch.

Sean Brackett

Fresh off being named an Ivy Offensive Player of the Week
for the third time this season, Brackett is seemingly in the race.

We all know how electric and versatile the Columbia QB is. Only Schwieger comes close to being as crucial a cog in his team’s offense as Brackett is to Columbia’s. He has six more TD passes than his nearest competitor, has a comfortable lead for most total yards in the Ivies, and has come up strong despite taking some terrible beatings in numerous games.

But Brackett’s Lions are just 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the league. And he’s just a sophomore. The voters are very likely to deny Brackett first place votes as they figure he has two more chances to win the cup.


The voters could go for a defensive player this season, but no one player seems to pass a serious litmus test.

There have been some huge stars like Harvard’s DT Josue Ortiz, who leads the league in tackles for a loss. But his total TFL’s are only 12, less than 1.5 per game.

Columbia’s Alex Gross is having a monster senior season. He leads the league in total tackles, has two INT’s, one INT return for a TD and has been the heart and soul of his team. But he faces many of the same disadvantages as his teammate Brackett, mostly because of the Lions overall won-lost record.

Dartmouth’s Charles Bay has only played in seven games, and he still leads the league in total sacks. But Dartmouth actually WON two of those games he missed, and his overall contribution to the team hasn’t been as consistent as Gross or Ortiz’s.

The numerous other defensive stars deserve great recognition, but they all seem to be at least a bit short in the race for the Bushnell Cup.

And My Winner is..

Just because you can’t give an MVP award to an entire team, it shouldn’t mean that you can’t give an MVP award to a single UNIT of a team.

And with that in mind, I think there’s no question that the Penn offensive line deserves to be the MVP of the 2010 Ivy League season.

That’s right, give the cup to LT Greg van Roten, LG Luis Ruffolo, C Joe D’Orazio, RG Drew Luongo, RT Jared Mollenbeck.

Together, they are the biggest reason Penn was able to win each of its Ivy games this year.

They are the reason QB Billy Ragone and a revolving door of Penn RB’s have been able to crush defense after defense.

They are the reason why a team without much of a vertical passing game still leads the Ivies in scoring.

They are the reason why the Quakers average 239 yards rushing per game.

They are the reason Penn has allowed just FIVE sacks ALL season.

They are the reason the strong Penn defense hardly ever has to come on to the field without a decent rest.

The list goes on and on…

Do I expect the Penn O-line to get the MVP award and split it five ways?


But they deserve it, and I suspect most Ivy watchers know it as well as I do.

Jake’s Week 9 Ivy Power Rankings

1. Penn (#1 last week)

There is no doubt who is the top dog. No one else even comes close.

2. Yale (tied for 2nd last week)

I have to admit I was dead wrong about how good this team was at the start of the season. The Elis are a very decent team, but the lazy way they beat lowly Princeton at the Bowl Saturday just goes to show how far they are from being anywhere near as good as the #1 team in the league this year.

3. Brown (5)

The gutty win at Dartmouth Saturday puts the Bears back in the top 3. Who knows how well they could have done this season with a healthy Kyle Newhall Caballero all year long?

4. Harvard (tied for 2nd last week)

Without healthy QB’s this team just isn’t strong enough to compete for a championship. It was 27-0 Penn before the Crimson even woke up in the biggest game of the year.

5. Dartmouth (4)

The Big Green had a chance to make a pretty big statement against Brown at Memorial Field, and they failed.

6. Columbia (6)

Despite the weak opposition, it was very important for Brackett and company to pull out a final minute, 4th quarter win. But the Lions were 19-point favorites after all.

7. Cornell (7)

The Big Red clearly have some bright spots for the future, and they really outplayed the Lions for most of the game on Saturday. Now, they need to learn how to win.

8. Princeton (8)

The Tigers really woke up and nearly pulled off a shocker at Yale this weekend. But a loss is a loss. And Princeton is staring at an 0-7 Ivy record.

Congrats Coach Kelton!!

Former Columbia defensive coordinator Aaron Kelton completed a perfect 8-0 season in his first year as head coach of Williams College. Numerous reports say the Williams crowd on the road at Saturday’s game was wild and big.

Kelton became the first Williams head coach to lead his team to an 8-0 mark in his first season.


At Tue Nov 16, 09:49:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brackett is the best player in the league.

At Tue Nov 16, 10:47:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My problem with all these Ivy League media polls and awards is that I have no idea who is voting and what exactly is the criteria. From what you're saying, Jake, I have the impression that you expect the voters to give the award to a team with at least a winning record even if the best player in the Ivy League plays for a team without a winning record. If that's the case, then three of the best football players in the Ivy League--Brackett, Gross and Schweiger--are unlikely to win the award. That would be a shame. Brackett is an outstanding player and certainly deserving of the Ivy League MVP award unless the voters (whomever they may be) use either his being a sophomore or playing for a team with a losing record as a lame excuse for not naming him as the MVP. Alex Gross is a terrific defender and also deserving of the MVP award unless the voters (whomever they may be) use his being on defense or playing for a team with a non-winning record as an excuse for not naming him the MVP. If one of the two named Columbia players fail to win the MVP award, then it has to go to Dartmouth's Nick Schweiger unless the voters (whomever they may be) choose not to vote for him because he too plays for a team with a losing record. So what is the criteria and will it be applied fairly to all the nominees regardless of whom they played for?

At Tue Nov 16, 08:05:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is the coaches who vote. Bags will never vote for a Columbia player. So we start with that fact.

At Wed Nov 17, 01:15:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We may reasonably argue that it is unfair that the Bushnell Cup is de facto reserved for players on winning teams. But that is apparently human nature. Even though it is the eight Ivy coaches who vote, they seem to have the same bias as Heisman voters, who have in effect made the Heisman Trophy an award for "the most outstanding college football player among the four or five highest ranked teams at the season's end."

At Wed Nov 17, 01:26:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever else one may think about these things, one thing that strikes me as beyond obvious is that there ought to be an offensive POY and a defensive POY.

At Wed Nov 17, 01:51:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

agree with Dr. V; Brackett and Gross

At Wed Nov 17, 01:57:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alex Gross is one of the great stories in college football..Recovers from a potential carrer ending injury and still leads the league in tackles, A Bushnell Cup finalist. Who is a better example of an MVP than this kid ?


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