With three games left in the season, several teams could still win the Ivy League title. It all depends on Princeton, however, as the Tigers have surged back to relevance and now control their own destiny. Here’s how the Ancient Eight looks as we get set for an exciting end to the 2013 football season:
1. Princeton (6-1 overall, 4-0 Ivy League): Just two years after finishing 1-9, the Tigers find themselves on top of the Ivy League and need only two more wins to secure at least a share of the championship and three to do so outright. Junior quarterback Quinn Epperly has earned three straight Ivy League Player of the Week awards and shows no sign of slowing down in what has been one of the best seasons of any quarterback in Princeton history. Meanwhile, the defense held Cornell to just 13 points (seven of Cornell’s points were scored by their defense) and pressured Cornell senior quarterback Jeff Mathews all day Saturday. The Tigers will need to bring that kind of pressure next weekend as they travel to Philadelphia to take on Penn — a win would put the Tigers one game closer to the title while a loss would land them in a two- or potentially three-way tie at the top of the league.
2. Harvard (6-1, 3-1): The Crimson rallied back from a demoralizing defeat two weeks ago to overcome Dartmouth last weekend, thanks largely to a 146-yard game from freshman running back Paul Stanton. Though it needs Princeton to lose in order to have a shot at winning the league, Harvard has a good shot at winning out. Expect Harvard to roll over Columbia next Saturday on the way to the biggest game it has left on its schedule: a showdown with Penn in Cambridge on Nov. 16.
3. Penn (4-3, 3-1): The Quakers dropped the ball in Providence last weekend, getting blanked and falling out of a tie for first in the league. That loss makes next weekend’s matchup against Princeton huge: If senior quarterback Billy Ragone wants to lead his team to a second straight championship, they will have to win out, and that means putting up a lot of points against the Tigers.
4. Brown (5-2, 2-2): The Bears’ 27-0 thumping of the Quakers last weekend may turn out to have spoiled the Quakers’ hopes for back-to-back Ivy championships. Brown has not been mathematically eliminated from title contention but only a bizarre set of circumstances would result in the Bears reaching the top of the league. Still, the Bears can be proud of a season in which they have put up over 40 points in four separate games.
5. Yale (4-3, 2-2): After a shockingly good start, the Bulldogs have cooled off. Though they snapped a three-game losing streak with a huge win over Columbia on Saturday, Yale has a tough slate ahead. Regardless of whether or not the Bulldogs can finish with a winning record, it has been a great year for junior tailback Tyler Varga, whose outstanding rushing has earned him his own page on Yale football’s website.
6. Dartmouth (3-4, 2-2): The Big Green nearly pulled off what might have been the biggest upset of the Ivy season last weekend, coming within three points of handing Harvard its second straight loss. Thanks in part to a fumble return by junior defensive back Stephen Dazzo, the Big Green put up 14 points in the third quarter to tie the Crimson but let up a field goal in the final period. Still, the fact that Dartmouth held Conner Hempel to 135 passing yards spells trouble for the Big Green’s next opponent, Cornell.
7. Cornell (1-6, 0-4): It’s been a disappointing season for the Big Red and especially senior quarterback Jeff Mathews. Mathews leads the league with 330.9 passing yards per game despite playing behind an offensive line that allowed Princeton to rack up seven sacks last weekend. As rumors swirl about Mathews’ chances in the NFL Draft, Cornell will have a chance to finish with a respectable Ivy record as it faces Dartmouth and Columbia in the coming weeks.
8. Columbia (0-7, 0-4): The Lions are all but guaranteed a winless season after losing 53-12 to the Bulldogs on Saturday, as their remaining opponents are Harvard, Cornell and Brown. Unfortunately for Columbia, finishing last in the league does not give a team a better shot at young prospects as it does in the NFL, and a lot will have to change in New York for the program to be turned around.