Returns were mixed on last week's predictions. Conner Scott wasn't up at all, catching just one pass for seven yards. Jeff Jack didn't carry the load as much as I forecasted either, but Dave Twamley came up with an interception to save Penn's Ivy title hopes in the fourth quarter. So who's looking up and who's looking down against Harvard?
Three Up —
Dave Twamley: Cornerbacks coach Jon Dupont told me this week that Twamley is “the grandpa of the secondary,” and his experience in defensive coordinator Ray Priore’s complex schemes has been evident all season. Twamley currently ranks second on the team in tackles and came up with the interception that preserved Penn’s Ivy title hopes in the fourth quarter last week. Twamley mentioned that Harvard’s offensive strategic continuity from last year is making for an easier time dissecting the Crimson ‘O’ in the film room this week, so maybe Twamley’s studying will pay some dividends when it matters most and keep him on the up and up.
Conner Scott: One catch, seven yards. That was Scott’s stat line at Princeton, and so he really has nowhere to go but up this week against Harvard’s seventh-ranked pass defense, its Achilles heel. Dartmouth wide receiver Michael Reilly, whose receiving stats are very similar to Scott’s this season, burnt the Crimson for 12 catches, 165 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago, so Scott is capable of that kind of performance against Harvard as well.
Attendance: If there aren’t signs of life in the stands for an NBC Sports Network-televised de facto Ivy championship game against Harvard, there’s a serious problem. But chances are the casual Penn student/fan will make his way to the Frank to see what all the football buzz on-campus (yes, there’s a Penn athletics buzz on-campus outside of the Buzz this week) is about.
Three Down —
Running game: This one’s too easy. Harvard’s rushing defense has been ridiculous all year, giving up just 1.5 yards per carry and 43.4 rushing yards per game. That’s 67 less rushing yards per game than Brown’s second-ranked rushing defense. While Penn’s rushing attack has momentum after a 211-yard performance at Princeton last week, it will be a major feat for the Quakers to even pass the century mark on the ground against the Crimson on Saturday.
Flags: As in down on the ground. If the rest of Harvard and Penn’s 2012 campaigns are any indication, there will be a lot of yellow laundry tossed upon Franklin Field this weekend. The Crimson have amassed more penalties and penalty yardage than any other Ivy team, averaging 59.2 penalty yards assessed to them per contest. And only three Ivies have racked up more penalties and penalty yardage than the Quakers this season. But since this is the Ivy championship tilt, it seems discipline isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Third-down situations: Harvard ranks first in both converting third downs and stopping opposing offenses on third down. Penn struggled stopping Princeton on third down last week, allowing the Tigers to get a fresh set of downs 41 percent of the time on third down. First-team All-Ivy tight end Kyle Juszczyk is a dynamic third-down receiver for Harvard and can make plays to move the chains from either the backfield or split end, so the Quakers will have to play tighter on third down on both sides of the football.