Before last week fans around the Ivy league looked at this Saturday’s matchup between Dartmouth (5-1) and No. 21 Harvard (5-1) as a potential conference title decider. Both teams were undefeated and slated for another classic Big Green-Crimson show down to decide the Ivy League.
Like the midweek Nor’easter that rocked the region, things didn’t go according to plan. Dartmouth were shut out at home by Columbia and Harvard lost a controversial heartbreaker in overtime to Princeton, with the Ivy League even going as far to admit their officiating crew made a mistake in a press release.
For Harvard, one of the biggest challenges they’ll face aren’t just the Big Green themselves but overcoming last week’s vexed ending. The same can be said about Dartmouth who came into last week’s game riding high off a win over then ranked in-state rivals UNH. This battle won’t just be about the stats, but rather who has the mental fortitude to rebound from a bad loss.
Nationally, Dartmouth carries the edge statistically, ranking 44th in total offense and 6th in total defense, whereas Harvard sits 58th in total offense and 8th in total defense.
Within those national statistics there are strengths each side possess in the Ivy League that make for a highly intriguing football matchup.
Dartmouth still has the edge within the Ivy League at fourth in total offense and second in total defense, ranked above Harvard at sixth in offense and third in defense.
However, an intriguing detail to note is the stout Harvard rushing defense, who’ve allowed just 46.3 yards a game and three rushing touchdowns on the season. While Dartmouth are third in the conference in rushing offense, when facing a tough rushing defense, they’ve shown to struggle a bit.
Last week against a good Columbia run defense the Big Green had a very hard time moving the ball, gaining just 60 net yards on the ground. With tomorrow’s game projected to be a total washout with some wind expected, it could be difficult for Dartmouth to move the ball.
The weather conditions definitely favor a team like Harvard who rank first in the Ivy League in rushing. Dartmouth sit at just fifth in the conference in rushing defense and are coming off 141 yards allowed on the ground last week against Columbia.
The Crimson are led by junior back Aaron Shampklin (85 ATT, 508 YDs, 7 TDs) and sophomore Aidan Borguet (77 ATT, 425 YDs, 5 TDs). It could be a big day for the pair who are coming off a lackluster performance against Princeton.
Dartmouth relies on junior quarterback Nick Howard (75 ATT, 505 YDs, 9 TDs) to move the ball on the ground. Howard is a bruiser that runs incredibly hard but doesn’t possess the “dual threat” passing ability some rushing quarterbacks possess, as he’s only thrown the ball 12 times this season, making the Big Green offense incredibly predictable.
While neither team possess an outstanding passing attack, if either offense is going to get their game going in the air it’s the Big Green, who also posses the best passing defense in the conference as well.
Dartmouth senior quarterback Derek Kyler (103 CMP, 153 ATT, 1,152 YDs, 9 TDs, 1 INT) can sling the bell fairly well, as his lone interception on the season came just last week against Columbia.
For Harvard, sophomore Charlie Dean (52 CMP, 95 ATT, 604 YDs, 4 TDs, 2 INTs) has been the regular starter this season but was removed at the end of the first quarter in last week’s loss. Senior Jake Smith (48 CMP, 81 ATT, 497 YDs, 3 TDs, 4 INTs) would be in line to start if Dean doesn’t go.
With Princeton (3-0) atop the conference, Columbia (2-1) sit in second place, holding the tiebreaker over Harvard (2-1) then Dartmouth (2-1). As Yale also (2-1) hangs behind all four teams, the Ivy League is very much open season with four weeks to play.
Tomorrow’s game will have major implications in the standings, as a loss for either team can make it incredibly difficult to find a way back into the conference title picture. Still, even in the projected hard rains over Harvard Stadium, it should be another classic Crimson-Big Green clash.
@TheRealRBarry Prediction – Harvard 20, Dartmouth 14
Broadcast: ESPN+, NESN
Weather: 58 degrees, Rain, 13-14 mph wind