Harvard hosts Dartmouth in battle of remaining Ivy unbeatens
(STATS) - Last year's Ivy League title was ostensibly decided Nov. 1 in a meeting between Harvard and Dartmouth.
Although the calendar has yet to flip, the same situation is likely to be the case Friday night in Cambridge.
The No. 15 Crimson face the 22nd-ranked Big Green in a nationally televised battle between the two remaining unbeaten teams in the conference.
Harvard (6-0, 3-0) beat Dartmouth 23-12 last year, dealing the Big Green their only league defeat before going on to finish 7-0 and claim a second consecutive championship.
The scenario is exactly the same this season as Harvard tries to gain the inside track to another league crown by extending its winning streak over Dartmouth to 12 games.
"This is definitely a huge game, but we treat every Ivy League game the same," Crimson quarterback Scott Hosch said, echoing coach Tim Murphy's one-game-at-a-time mantra.
That attitude has served Harvard well while putting together the longest active overall FCS winning streak at 20 games - a span in which the Crimson have outscored opponents by an average of 24.6 points.
The Crimson's dominance has been especially eye-popping over their last four games. Harvard has outscored Georgetown, Cornell, Lafayette and Princeton 169-10 and held them to an average of 226.0 yards of offense.
Dartmouth's success, meanwhile, also isn't too shabby. Since the last matchup with Harvard, the Big Green have won nine in a row with a 26.3 average margin of victory.
Unlike the Crimson, the Big Green's streak came under threat last weekend, but they held on to edge Columbia 13-9. Dartmouth was penalized 17 times for 159 yards - both setting team records.
"We've had the good fortune to get our points on most teams," coach Buddy Teevens said. "You're not playing close, you're not playing from behind, so to be in that situation and maintain your confidence."
Quarterback Dalyn Williams, who was sacked a season-high six times by the Lions, thinks Dartmouth is ready to bounce back. However, he's completed 35 of 62 passes for 434 yards with no touchdowns and one interception while being sacked seven times in three career matchups against Harvard.
"I have full confidence in my teammates and we're going to come out, bring our 'A' game and we'll do a great job and we'll look to go 7-0," said Williams, who leads the league with 14 passing touchdowns compared to one pick.
Hosch has been nearly as efficient in his first full season as a starter for Harvard, throwing 12 scoring passes compared to one INT. He's also rushed for four TDs, matching Williams' total on the season.
Hosch raced for a touchdown last week and connected on 29 of 40 passes for a career-high 437 yards with two more scores in a 42-7 win over the Tigers.
"I'm definitely more comfortable this year having a full offseason of getting reps with the first offense, something I wasn't able to do last year," said Hosch, who is 12-0 as a starter. "I definitely feel like I've done better because the guys around me have been great this year.
"The offensive line has really dominated. The receivers are making plays. Tight ends are doing very well and we just have some stud running backs."
Paul Stanton Jr.'s 617 rushing yards and nine touchdowns lead the league, while his 6.2 yards per carry are behind only Princeton's DiAndre Atwater (6.8). The 5-foot-9, 190-pound senior has done much of his damage over the past four weeks, gaining 456 yards and seven scores on 68 carries.
"The offensive line is just driving guys down the field and Paul is just so explosive. He hits the hole and he's already down the field before you blink," Hosch said.
That was evident at Dartmouth last year as Stanton raced for 180 yards and two TDs on 24 carries.
A repeat performance seems unlikely since the Big Green's defense yields a conference-low 63.0 rushing yards per game. The unit gives up an average of 268.3 yards from scrimmage, ranking behind only Harvard's 265.3 in the league.
"There's a complete defense. They're solid in all three levels," Hosch said. "There's no weak link ... We're looking forward to seeing what we can do against them."
Whatever happens, it's very likely to determine which team is atop the Ivy League in three weeks.
While Harvard and Dartmouth are vying for the upper hand in the Ivy title race, Brown (4-2, 3-1) and Penn (3-3, 2-1) square off Saturday in another matchup with major championship implications.
Bears coach Phil Estes, however, just wants the focus to be on the Quakers.
"The most important thing is that we play Penn on Saturday," he said. "We won't think about the Ivy race until the season ends."
Brown, though, has become a factor in the race after Johnny Pena scored four touchdowns in last week's 44-24 win at Cornell. That came a week after he ran seven yards for a score with 57 seconds left in regulation of a 38-31 win over Princeton.
Penn is also aiming for a three-game winning streak in league play after beating Yale 34-20 last weekend, essentially ending the Bulldogs' chances at an Ivy championship.
The Quakers and Bears have split the last six meetings, but Brown has won the last two by a combined 48-13 score.