September 21, 2001

In West Philadelphia, Born and Raised

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For years, football’s been played on a field. Silly boys. We at The Sun have figured out a much cleaner, much easier solution. Playstation 2: The answer to all our problems.

One day last week, while playing some NCAA 2002 on a PS2, three of The Sun’s editors had a brilliant idea. Listen up closely, because that doesn’t happen too often.

Instead of actually filtering through books and books of statistics to decide who will come out on top in the Ivy League this year, we’re going to let EA Sports do it for us.

Our gaming formula was simple enough. We ran through 10 simulations of the Ivy League season.

After a couple bags of Tostitos and a few cases of Corona, here’s what we came up with. (OK, we’ll actually tell you what we think too, stats included):

1. Pennsylvania

2000 Record: 7-3, 6-1 Ivy

Returning lettermen: 42

The Good: There aren’t too many people right now that would go against Penn for the Ivy League title this year. Here’s why: Gavin Hoffman.

A transfer from Northwestern, he was the Ivy League Player of the Year last season as a junior while passing for 3,214 yards and 24 TDs. Thanks to him, the Quakers were first in D I-AA in passing (342.7 yards per game).

Hoffman probably could carry the Quakers by himself. But the bad news for the rest of the League is that he won’t have to. Seventeen other starters from 2000 are back with him. Most prominent on that list is running back Kris Ryan, who despite being hurt for much of the season, ran for 683 yards and eight TDs.

Against Cornell, he had his best performance of the year, gaining 243 yards on the ground. And in 1999, when he was healthy, Ryan led the Ivy League with 1,197 yards and was a unanimous choice for conference first-team. If that wasn’t enough, the Quakers also return their top receiver (Rob Milanese) and their entire starting offensive line.

And even though Penn probably won’t even have to field a defense, it sports possibly the most experienced and deepest one in the league.

The Bad: None…seriously, we are all screwed.

The Ugly: See the bad.

NCAA 2002: 1st (47-23)

2. Harvard:

2000 Record: 5-5, 4-3 Ivy

Returning lettermen: 36

The Good: Not too many weaknesses on this year’s Harvard team. In senior Neil Rose, the Crimson has arguably one of the top QBs in the League. He holds most of the school’s passing records and last year was ranked ninth in Division I-AA in total offense. Behind him will be a running unit that took top honors in the Ivies in 2000 with almost 180 yards per game.

Now both juniors, rushers Nick Palazzo and Matt Leisler will look to keep Harvard at the top. The quality doesn’t drop much at the wide receiver level either: junior Carl Morris (60 receptions last year), senior Sam Taylor (36), classmate Dan Farley (24) and Sean Meeker (16) give the Crimson one of deepest crews in the conference.

On defense, Harvard returns nine starters from a group that was best in the league in stopping the run. It should be anchored by sophomore linebacker Dante Balestracci, who was both Ivy Rookie of the Year and a selection to the all-conference First-Team. And to boot, he’s a preseason All-American this year.

The Bad: The chinks in the team’s armor could be its offensive line, which lost three-year starter Mike Clare to graduation, and also its kicking game, which saw now sophomore Robbie Wright connect on only 3 of 8 field goal attempts last year.

The Ugly: Harvard got beat out by Princeton in U.S. News & World Report. Ha ha.

NCAA 2002: 2nd (46-24)

3. Brown:

2000 Record: 7-3, 4-3 Ivy

Returning lettermen: 40

The Good: Yea! Brown’s off probation. After being disqualified from the title race last year for less than savvy donations by boosters, the Bears are back. And hopefully, their alums learned a thing or two about giving (il)legally.

Cornell should be quite familiar with what Brown can do on offense. After all, the Bears did put up 56 points against the Red last season. While most Ivy teams find success through the air, Brown’s strength this season lies in its ground game. Returning senior All-Ivy tailback Michael Malan racked up 1,213 yards last year (243 of them coming at Cornell’s expense). And with the help of All-Ivy fullback Michael Borgonizi, there’s no reason why he won’t put up similar numbers in 2001.

Don’t underestimate its receiving crew, though. Junior Chas Gessner was named honorable mention All-American last year with 52 catches. At 6-5, 210, he’ll surely give short Ivy cornerbacks a slew of nightmares.

Defensively, junior safety Bobby Parisien and senior linebacker Uwa Airhiavbere, both honorable mention All-Ivy last year, should give Brown a strong foundation.

The Bad: Sean Jensen will once again have to be responsible for both the place kicking and punting duties. That could get weird.

The Ugly: Brown must really hate graduation ceremonies by now. Just take a look at who the Bears lost to the real world. Eric Webber, the number one passer in the nation last year. All-American Stephen Campbell, who set the D I-AA record with 120 catches in 2000. And All-American tackle Drew Inzer. The QB situation may be a bit murky this year — head coach Phil Estes has to choose between senior Kyle Rowley and sophomore Nathan Poole — but the Bears should still be able to steamroll most teams with their offense.

NCAA 2002: 6th (31-39)

4. Cornell:

2000 Record: 5-5, 5-2 Ivy

Returning lettermen: 36

Have you read the last 10 pages? Cuz, that might give you a bit of clue.

NCAA 2002: 3rd (40-30)

4. Yale:

2000 Record: 7-3, 4-3 Ivy

Returning lettermen: 36

The Good: Back for Yale is senior quarterback Peter Lee, who threw every single pass for the Bulldogs last season and holds many of the school’s passing records.

That’s about it though. They do have an alum in the White House, if that’s any consolation.

The Bad: When your top two receivers, your top running back, three of your starting defensive linemen, two of your starting linebackers, three of your defensive backs, both your kickers and your top punt returners are gone due to graduation, it’s not a good sign. Yale will be very young this year, and will have to expect yeoman’s work from quarterback Lee. The problem is, if he doesn’t have anyone to pass the ball to or anyone to at least hand it off to, Yale can say hello to the Ivy League basement.

The Ugly: Well, first of all, no starting offensive lineman weighs more than 300 pounds. The biggest one should be Kyle Mettzler at 280.

Then there’s that whole bit about becoming the second winningest school in college football. Sure, Michigan’s loss two weeks ago to Washington kept it from moving above Yale on that list. They may be tied at 806, but sooner or later, Yale’s going down.

NCAA 2002: 7th (30-40)

6. Princeton:

2000 Record: 3-7, 3-4 Ivy

Returning lettermen: 36

The Good: Princeton’s dismal record from last year is awfully deceptive. Six of its games happened to be decided by seven points or less. Fans at Schoellkopf last season should remember the Tigers nipping at Cornell’s
heels late in the fourth quarter. Only place kicker Taylor Northrop’s slip on the wet field on a point after attempt prevented Princeton from forcing the game into overtime.

What’s going to make or break the Tigers’ season in 2001 is their quarterback situation: they have too many of them. Head coach Roger Hughes can call on three signal callers: David Splithoff, Tommy Crenshaw and Brian Danielewicz. As of now, it looks like Splithoff will take most of the snaps. But the way Hughes manages the situation and maximizes the productivity at the position will be a telling factor in where the team finishes.

Princeton’s kicking game at least should be in the safe hands (or feet) of Northrop who was 14-of-18 on field goal tries last year.

The Bad: The defense is quite young, and it could only record a total of 12 sacks last year.

The Ugly: Princeton’s in New Jersey.

NCAA 2002: 4th (33-37)

7. Dartmouth:

2000 Record: 2-8, 1-6 Ivy

Returning lettermen: 33

The Good: The Green should be very deep at wide receiver this year. Senior Damien Roomets had 43 catches in just six games (a campus disciplinary action robbed him of the other four) in 2000. Classmate Matt DeLellis and sophomore Jay Barnard also chipped in with 39 and 40 receptions, respectively.

At running back, Dartmouth has a two-headed monster, composed of Michael Gratch (513 yards last year) and Aaron Pumerantz (377 in just six games).

On the other side of the ball, senior linebacker Matt Mercer, who was first-team All-Ivy last season, is also back. He recorded an astounding 113 tackles last year, 75 of them solo. Another plus is the Green tall defensive backs. With all of the starters around 6-0, Dartmouth will at least have a fair chance at containing the Ivy League’s numerous gunslingers.

The Bad: The loss of the graduated Caleb Moore, All-Ivy guard, leaves a hug gap in the offensive line. Whether the Green can patch it up and give its quarterback some breathing room will be key.

Ah, the quarterback situation. Last year saw now seniors Greg Smith and Brian Mann split duty. Theoretically, Smith has won the starting role, but don’t be surprised to see a shared status as the season progresses.

The Ugly: Dartmouth averaged the least number of points per game last year in the Ivy League (23.1) and the gave up most number of points per game (38.8). That should be fun for the scoreboard operator in Hanover (wherever that is).

NCAA 2002: 8th (21-49)

8. Columbia:

2000 Record: 3-7, 1-6 Ivy

Returning lettermen: 31

The Good: The Lions’ offense should start and stop with tailback Jonathan Reese. His numbers speak for themselves: last year, he ran for 1,330 yards and averaged another 36.8 on kick returns. Quite good…

The Bad: …too bad the rest of the team’s not.

The Ugly: Columbia’s prospective starting kicker and punter, Sam Warren, wasn’t even in school last year.

NCAA 2002: 5th (32-38)

Archived article by Shiva Nagaraj