2006 Football Preview: What to Expect

A showdown between storied history and newfound momentum. The Elis are a whopping 114-17-2 in season openers. But the sizzling Toreros may have the edge after dunking the Bulldogs last September, becoming the first team in their conference ever to topple an Ivy entry. The defending Pioneer League champions have but a single loss to their name since.

The Big Red’s blowout loss to the Bulldogs sparked a late-season performance unmatched by any other Ancient Eight program. Although Cornell lost a huge component of its 2005 running game in lineman Kevin Boothe, now a guard for the Oakland Raiders, Ivy coaches still gave the Big Red a slight edge over the Elis in the Preseason Poll.

The Elis may find the first of their two forays against Patriot League programs to be the more difficult. Though the Leopards graduated all three of their standout linebackers in May, the defense has only gotten more bulletproof, allowing just 14 points through their first two games.

Prognosticators have deemed the Big Green only worthy enough to challenge perennial doormat Columbia for second-to-last place. With an offensive line that allowed a league-high 54 sacks in 2005, the best Dartmouth can hope for is outdoing last year’s squad on the scoreboard — a safety or field goal would do it. The Elis should roll.

This is the team that beat Harvard 49-24 last September. This is also the team that could still be reeling from a final-day collapse against ancient rival Lafayette that cost it a Patriot League title, and the team that graduated a whopping eight of their 11 total All-Patriot starters. There is good reason to believe the Bulldogs will round out their non-league season with a win.

Only time will tell if the 2006 Quakers can recover from a stunningly disappointing 2005 campaign. Assuming all things return to form this fall, Harvard superstar running back Clifton Dawson may be the only thing stopping Penn from claiming Ivy title number 14. This is the most important game to be played at the Yale Bowl this year.

Seniors who want to make sure they see one more Yale win during their college years ought to head to the Bowl this weekend. The Lions were winless in 2005 conference play, and their neighbors across the Harlem River at Yankee Stadium may win more games this week than this squad will win all football season.

Gone is star running back Nick Hartigan, whose 1,727 rushing yards were the heart and soul of last year’s title run, and Ivy coaches agreed that this alone was enough to push the Rhode Island school back into the middle of the Ancient Eight pack. The Elis remain underdogs in this matchup, but do not expect another 38-21 rout this year in Providence.

The good news is Tiger QB Jeff Terrell, who uncorked a league-high five interceptions against Yale last Nov. 12, will be back for more. The better news is that five of the Tigers’ six starting offensive linemen from 2005 will not. Yale-Princeton will play an even more distant second fiddle to The Game than usual this November, since the folks down at Old Nassau fielded an unusually weak team this fall.

Best case scenario: Harvard quarterback Liam O’Hagan, never quite the same after an early-season suspension, has as weak a first half as the 2005 Game, but this time, the Bulldogs are able to hold off a late Crimson comeback. Worst case scenario: Weary Yale fans watch yet another season end with thousands of red-shirted Cantabs rushing the field to celebrate yet another widely anticipated Ivy League title. Clifton Dawson, with nearly as many rushing yards as the entire Yale offense in his final college game, is carried off the field, while a third consecutive Bulldog class prepares to graduate without a single Harvard-Yale win to their name.

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