Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Week 4 Thoughts

Some thoughts following Harvard's 31-17 win over Georgetown this past weekend.

1. Yes, They're That Good.  Maybe it's the 31-2 record over the past three seasons. or that its starting QB, a fourth year rookie, was 15 of his first 20 passes, Or that a team had more first downs (25) than points (24) by halftime.  Harvard isn't Alabama, but for its place in the college football firmament it's as good as it gets.

That's a tribute and a testament to Tim Murphy, who has re-written the Crimson record books, but who is not beyond criticism from fans who accuse him of padding the record with soft opponents like...well, Georgetown.

"I battled rush hour traffic to get to Harvard Stadium, to sit in the rain and watch the Crimson only to find out that the best offensive weapon... wasn't playing," said a fan at a popular Ivy League message board, adding, " [He] wasn't dressed because we were playing [a JV team]...You get to see your new young players get their feet wet early but I just can't take another game vs JV Georgie like last night. Harvard used it like a scrimmage and if you can do that against any team then I don't want to be playing [them]."

There is a perception that Georgetown is a second class opponent across the Ivies, academically and athletically. Never mind that Georgetown has split its last eight games with six of the Ancient Eight, but it's a combined 0-9 versus Harvard and Yale and 0-10 is a fair conclusion a year from now when the Harvard series wraps up (the series will not extend past 2017). there are Harvard fans who ask why the crimson can't play a New Hampshire, a Delaware, or how about that team down Commonwealth Avenue it hasn't seen since 1944. Its record versus Boston College? 3-0-1.

"Each one of our forty two Division I varsity sports has a special story to tell, all in a special place in our history," Murphy said. "But the flagship sport at Harvard is Harvard football, and the biggest event on campus is the Harvard-Yale game."

Were that Georgetown could aspire thusly. It doesn't mean it can't be great at basketball, or track, or lacrosse. But football has a place on this campus that remains understated and somewhat underappreciated, and if a coach can get an a self-important campus in Cambridge to take football seriously, certainly it can happen in Washington.

2. Make or Break? There's an argument to be made that this week's game with Princeton is the most important game of the year. Not that Patriot league games aren't important, though given Georgetown's seat at that table, but they aren't make or break. Or not that a win versus Lehigh or Fordham wouldn't be big. But the Princeton game comes at a crucial time of the schedule where the offense has gone silent. Save for two long runs versus Harvard, the Hoyas have generated a total of 110 yards over the last six quarters of play. The running game is non-existent and there is a real likelihood that a sophomore makes his first start at QB if Tim Barnes's shoulder injury proves unworkable. The same Columbia team that came up short against the Hoyas was routed by Princeton, 48-13.

Win this game and the Hoyas move to 4-1. The following two games are admittedly prohibitive--Georgetown is 0-15 against Lehigh since joining the PL, and hasn't won at Fordham since 1974. A fourth win keeps hope to sneak a win over a Lafayette, a Holy Cross, a Bucknell after its October gauntlet. A bad loss Saturday sets the skids that a young team might not recover from.

Princeton is a really good team. But it's not Harvard. Georgetown can win this game but it needs a complete effort.

3. Future Schedules: As discussed above, the Harvard series ends in 2017. What is the status of Georgetown's non-conference schedule over the next few years?

As Ivy teams go, the Hoyas get three in 2017, a mirror of 2016: at Columbia, Harvard, and at Princeton. The list drops to two in 2018 (Columbia, at Dartmouth) and two in 2019 (at Columbia, at Cornell). The football office doesn't talk about who else is on the schedule, though it's likely full through 2021 of 2022. Sadly, it's likely to have its share of Davidsons and Marists.  Much like the aforementioned Harvard fan who would like to see the Crimson schedule up, Georgetown should, at the least, consider it.

My top five picks for a non-conference "play-up game" in any one year:

1. Villanova. A built-in rivalry, an opponent Georgetown alumni would recognize from the start...unlike, say, Butler.

2. Howard: Nothing like a locally promoted DC game, but Howard remains uninterested.

3. Pennsylvania: A series that would be great for both schools. The previous two game tour was one-sided (Quakers, 69-20) but it's worth pursuing.

4. Army: Not there yet, but they're playing other PL schools and the experience for the GU kids would be special.

5. Swing For The Fences: Wagner College, a team that is reasonably competitive with Georgetown in football, has played the following schools in the last four years: Florida Atlantic, Syracuse, Rice, and Brigham Young. This season; Boston College and UMass. To no surprise, they're 0-6 to date, losing 42-10 to the Eagles two weeks ago. Does Georgetown have to go that deep? No, but taking a step up every few years raises interest and expectations. It's doesn't have to be a big-time program, but one that opens some doors for recruits and for fans.

Sunken logs are not stepping stones.

4. Strike Up the Band: The Harvard band sounded great in the corners of Harvard Stadium, with the echoes coming down from the colonnades. On the field, less so. Scramble bands are self-indulgent and not very musical. Having an orator read a rambling essay as the band prepares for some 30 second song is silly.

Don't expect much more from Princeton if their band makes it to Washington. Here's last week's halftime show. (And no, I don't get it.)

Because orange never works in Washington.