Last week’s predictions were hit and miss. We definitely got a heavy dose of short passes last week, but we did not see as much from Andrew Holland as expected. No QBs in this week’s list though:
Scott Lopano: This one’s more of a no-brainer than you might think. Lopano ranks seventh in the nation in punting average with 43.9 yards per punt this year, including two over 50 yards. He has pinned eight of his 18 punts inside the 20-yard line. If Lopano is able to routinely pin Columbia’s anemic offense deep in its own territory, it could be lights out for the Lions pretty quickly.
Ryan Mitchell: With Joe Holder out for the year and Conner Scott routinely drawing double coverages, look for Mitchell to get more touches in the passing game. Mitchell currently ranks fourth on the team in receiving yards and is tied for fourth in receptions with Holder. Columbia ranks sixth in passing defense and seventh in passing defense efficiency, so you’d expect Mitchell to take on a more prominent role against the Lions this week.
Sebastian Jaskowski: Jaskowski leads all Ivy defensive backs in tackles and ranks sixth in tackles overall. He’s been a steady hand in what has often been a shaky secondary this season, and it’s hard to imagine him getting burned much by the worst passing offense in the conference.
Pass protection: The Lions have three players with at least two sacks this year, led by 2010 and 2011 All-Ivy senior defensive end Josh Martin. Columbia ranks third in the Ivy League in sacks, and Penn allowed four sacks last week to William & Mary. One of the few feasible ways Columbia can pull off the upset is to get consistent pressure from up front on Ragone and benefit from resulting turnovers.
Lyle Marsh as a receiver: Offensive coordinator Jon McLaughlin told me this week that he wants to see more downfield success in the passing game in addition to the high-percentage throws Ragone seems most comfortable throwing. This game is the perfect opportunity to hook up with receivers who can extend the field like Conner Scott, but it might mean less touches for Marsh as a receiver. William & Mary blitzed often last week, making Marsh a great safety valve for Ragone to throw to. (Marsh had eight receptions for 47 yards.) But seven of Columbia’s 11 sacks this season have come from the defensive line, suggesting that the Lions may not have to blitz so much to get pressure. With Penn potentially looking downfield more and Columbia not likely to sell out with the blitz, Marsh’s value as a receiver diminishes.
Kick returners: Dan Wilk and Dexter Davis may not get a lot of kickoffs to return because the odds are that the Lions won’t be scoring very much. In this case, kick returners being down means the rest of the team is up.
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