After a sixth place Ivy League finish last season, the Cornell football team is confident as it prepares to start league play this Saturday at Yale, looking for its first league championship since 1990.
“There’s pressure in the sense that it is an Ivy League game,” said senior linebacker Dan Crochet. “In terms of outside pressure, I mean, we were picked to go eighth in the Ivy League, no one’s been respecting us since I’ve been here so it’s less pressure and more motivation. We want to win because we plan on winning the Ivy League — that’s our goal.”
But standing in Cornell’s way is an Ivy League that head coach David Archer ’05 said is deep and competitive.
“If this league could go to the playoffs, a lot more people would be talking about how competitive this is and the caliber of student athletes that are there,” Archer said. “Things like [six Ivy League teams winning their first games] only help the cause.”
The tough Ivy League is highlighted by last year’s co-champions, Princeton and Penn, along with Harvard, who joins Princeton atop the preseason rankings. Princeton and Penn both suffered only one league loss last season.
Quarterback Kurt Rawlings powers the high-octane Yale offense, and the Bulldogs have a defensive scheme Archer described as “NFL-esque.” The Red’s upcoming opponent looks to build on its 3-4 conference record from last year.
The Tigers, one of the league’s toughest teams, also runs a high-powered offense, led by John Lovett. The Ivy League offensive player of the year a season ago, however, is sidelined for the first few weeks of the season with an injury.
Quarterback Will Fischer-Colbrie leads the Penn offense after the graduation of NFL-bound Alek Torgersen. The Quakers, who the Red concludes its season against on Nov. 18, came in at No. 2 in the preseason rankings.
A perennial contender in the Ivy League, Harvard enters this season looking for redemption after coming up short in 2016. The Crimson’s disappointing season included a loss to Yale in “The Game,” ending a nine year Harvard win streak.
Brown, who the Red will face in its homecoming game Oct. 21, comes off a 3-4 season and fourth place league finish, including a double overtime win over the Red.
The Red lost a close game to Dartmouth last season, and will look to keep the Green — 2016’s last place finishers — behind them in this year’s standings. Columbia, who joined the Red with a 2-5 league record in 2016, will visit the Red at Schoellkopf Field Nov. 11. Cornell beat the Lions in a 42-40 thriller last season.
Despite the odds being against Cornell heading into a stacked league schedule, junior running back Chris Walker, a first-team All-Ivy selection last year, emphasized his team’s confidence.
“We want to win, we don’t want to just be competitive. We’re going to win, that’s not the mindset that we have, just being competitive, at all,” Walker said.