September 19, 2008

Perennial Powerhouses

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On the last day of the 2007 season, Yale and Harvard met at the Yale Bowl with the Ivy League title on the line. Yale seemed like the favorite after rolling over nearly all of its opponents, but with All-League running back Mike McLeod hampered due to injury, the Crimson won in a blowout. Now both teams are back for more, tied atop the preseason media poll. Brown and Penn are not too far behind, though. Brown boasts one of the best passing attacks in the nation, while Penn’s star quarterback wil return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him last year.

Brown Bears
2007: 5-5, 4-3 Ivy
With 19 starters, including nine All-Ivy players, the league’s top passing attack and senior quarterback Michael Dougherty returning, the Bears are a threat on any given weekend. Dougherty was ranked third nationally in pass completions (26.4 per game), third in passing yards (303.3 yards per game) and sixth in total offense (310.4 yards per game) last year. He tied an Ivy League record by passing for at least 400 yards three times in 2007 — against URI, Holy Cross and Dartmouth. But while the dynamic passing game might catch the eye, the Bears can’t claim a top spot in the conference without improvement from its defense. Last year, the team allowed 454 yards per contest. Senior Jon May was second in the Ivy League with 6.1 tackles per contest.

Columbia Lions
2007: 1-9, 0-7 Ivy
After the Lions lost quarterback Craig Hormann to graduation, the job to keep All-Ivy selection wide receiver Austin Knowlin happy will be left up to the junior combination of Shane Kellyor and M.A. Olawaleto. Knowlin was a force for the New York City team’s attack last year, racking up 998 yards and tying the league record for touchdowns in a season with 10.

Dart­mouth Big Green
2007: 3-7, 3-4 Ivy
The Green has been picked to finish in the bottom half of the Ancient Eight after losing 13 starters from last year’s team that finished with a 3-7 record. In fact, Dartmouth was just in front of Columbia in the preseason predictions in seventh place. The Green will have junior Alex Jenny man the pocket for the upcoming season after the graduation of Tom Bennewit. Jenny was able to start one game last year for the Green. Senior Phillip Galligan will be Jenny’s main target at wide receiver as he leads all others at his position in receptions. Senior co-captain Milan Williams will be expected to improve upon his breakout year at the running back position. For the past two seasons, head coach Buddy Teevens and the Green have improved its record, a trend the team hopes to continue in 2008. Look out for freshmen Mark Dwyer and Shawn Abuhoff to make early impacts at the defensive tackle and the defensive back positions, respectively. Strong safety Ian Wilson returns to the fold after accumulating 179 tackles during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Senior Eric Paul will try to regain his form at wide receiver after suffering a knee injury last season.

Harvard Crimson
2007: 8-2, 7-0 Ivy
Alongside Yale, the Crimson has been chosen to finish first in the Ivy League. After winning the Ancient Eight title last year, head coach Tim Murphy returns 22 starters to a team that went undefeated in conference play last year. Junior offensive lineman James Williams was named a preseason All-American by The Sports Network as well as the College Sporting News. Defensive back Andrew Berry gives the squad a shutdown corner.. Last year, the All-Ivy first-team selection went four consecutive games without having a ball thrown against him in one-on-one coverage. Yet Berry still managed to finish fourth on the team in passes defended and accumulated 29 tackles.

Penn Quakers
2007: 4-6, 3-4 Ivy
Penn was selected to finish third in the Ancient Eight rankings. The likelihood of them doing better or worse relies on the shoulders of senior quarterback Robert Irvin.
In his sophomore campaign, Irvin passed for 2,128 yards, but missed his freshman and junior seasons with an injured shoulder. Overall, the Quakers will return five starters on each side of the ball. One starter that the team will have to replace is Joe Sandberg, who was a two-time All-Ivy first team running back. The defense will benefit from the returns of three All-Ivy league players in senior Jay Colabella, Tyson Maugle and junior Chris Wynn.

Princeton Tigers
2007: 4-6, 3-4 Ivy
The Tigers were picked to finish right ahead of Cornell in the Ivy League standings in fifth place. An experienced offensive line will be in charge of protecting a rather inexperienced quarterback in senior tri-captain Brian Anderson. The Jacksonville, Ill., native has only one start under his belt, a 17-14 win over Dartmouth last year in the team’s season finale.
Running backs Jordan Culbreath and R.C. Lagomarsino will work in the backfield for the Tigers with Adam Berry standing as the top returning wide receiver.
The three-man front for the Tigers will be counted on to help stabilize the defensive side of the ball. Two-time All-Ivy end Pete Buchignani, co-captain and All-Ivy selection Matt Koch and Tom Methvin serve as the team’s defensive front line.

Yale Bulldogs
2007: 9-1, 6-1 Ivy
The Bulldogs weren’t the safest bet for the Red’s homecoming contest on Sept. 27th. The team from New Haven, Conn., boasts the league’s top running back and pro prospect Mike McLeod. His accolades could include the prestigeous Walter Payton Award by the end of the 2008 season.
While it’s obvious who will be running the ball for the Bulldogs, it’s unsure who will be throwing it with the graduation of quarterback Matt Polhemus. The favorite seems to be senior Ryan Fodor who has only attempted five passes in the past two seasons.
Not much is expected to fall off from the squad that led the nation in scoring defense and Ivy League in turnover ratio last year after returning seven of its top-10 tacklers.