Of all the striking similarities in how the media covers sports and politics, one in particular really sticks out: the pundits are almost never right.
If we lived in the fantasy world created by so-called “experts,” right now everybody would be talking about how President-elect Hillary Clinton, fresh off her defeat of Mitt Romney, was going to throw out the first pitch at the World Series champion Chicago Cubs’ first home game next season.
Having been in the prediction-making business for almost a full football season now, I find it amazing that some people actually get paid to do this. Even more incredible, the people who get paid to do this are almost always wrong, and yet they still keep their jobs.
Among the many wrongheaded and inconsequential predictions made in the last year, a common one was that the Harvard football team’s biggest weakness this season would be its secondary. With All-America cornerback Steven Williams ’08 graduating last year and stud senior Andrew Berry the only known quantity left in the Crimson’s pass defense, the preseason buzz was all about how opposing quarterbacks were going to have a field day against Harvard.
Let’s fast forward to Week 9.
Berry has been his usual self, locking down wide receivers with such efficiency that opponents rarely bother to throw in his direction anymore. Somehow he’s managed three interceptions anyway.
Junior corner Derrick Barker has had his ups and downs, but he leads the Ivy League with nine pass break-ups.
And of course, freshman Matt Hanson has been a revelation. A runaway Rookie of the Year candidate, Hanson is tied for the league-lead with four interceptions and, along with Barker, is second in total passes defended with 10.
It’s understandable that pundits bring up questions surrounding a team at the beginning of a season. That’s their job. But it’s also important to remember that a lot of times the questions answer themselves.
HARVARD (7-1, 4-1 Ivy) AT PENN (5-3, 4-1 Ivy)
Benjamin Franklin’s first rule in reducing a great empire to a small one was that a “great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges.”
Harvard should heed the bespectacled sage’s advice as it plays on his namesake, Penn’s Franklin Field, tomorrow.
The Crimson has better playmakers on offense and better athletes on defense than the Quakers, but with Harvard’s woeful 1-12 record in its last 13 games in Philadelphia, history dictates that something is bound to go wrong for the team. As Crimson writer Brad Hinshelwood pointed out in his column yesterday, Harvard can’t afford to rely just on its core strengths, but must be sharp around the edges as well.
While the Crimson has occasionally compensated for special teams mishaps, costly turnovers, and mental errors with its stellar offense and defense, Harvard can’t afford to do that against Penn.
As defending champions, the Crimson deserves the benefit of the doubt. Look for Harvard to prevail in a tough battle with the Quakers.
Prediction: Harvard 24, Penn 21
BROWN (5-3, 4-1 Ivy) AT DARTMOUTH (0-8, 0-5 Ivy)
Christmas has come early for Brown.
In the thick of a heated three-way battle for the Ivy League championship, the Bears get to sharpen their claws against Dartmouth.
Normally columnists will warn about “trap games” in which good teams mail it in against seemingly overmatched opponents, which in turn take advantage of this sluggishness and pull off an upset.
Don’t worry Brown, it’s alright. Mail it in. You could actively try to lose this game and it wouldn’t matter.
Why? I’m glad you asked. 167. That’s how much Dartmouth has been outscored by its opponents this season. That’s why.
Prediction: Brown 35, Dartmouth 13
PRINCETON (3-5, 2-3 Ivy) AT YALE (5-3, 3-2 Ivy)
Harvard fans, when Yale comes into town for The Game next week, before starting your chants of “Safety School” and plotting sinister plans to steal the Bulldogs ironically named mascot Handsome Dan, remember that first you owe Yale a hearty standing ovation.
By marching into Providence and upsetting Brown, 13-3, last Saturday, the Bulldogs gave Harvard second life in the Ivy League title race. In the spirit of gratitude, Crimson Crazies, be courteous to your guests from New Haven next weekend, and show them how here at Harvard we don’t let silly rivalries get in the way of acknowledging good deeds.
Ok, that’s enough. Yale sucks.
Prediction: Yale 21, Princeton 17
CORNELL (4-4, 2-3 Ivy) AT COLUMBIA (1-7, 1-4 Ivy)
In a battle of the New York Ivies, Cornell would appear to be the heavy favorite. Senior quarterback Nathan Ford leads the Ancient Eight’s top passing offense into Manhattan after a confidence-building rout over Dartmouth the Doormat, which also played the victim in Columbia’s lone win of the season.
But the Lions’ record is misleading. Columbia has only given up 200.4 yards per game in the air this season, good for second-best in the Ivy League. If the Lions’ defense plays like it has all season and Columbia can get a big performance out of star wide receiver Austin Knowlin, I think we could very well see an upset in this one.
Prediction: Columbia 13, Cornell 10
Last Week’s Record: 2-2
Record to Date: 25-11
—Staff writer Loren Amor can be reached at email@example.com.
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