Oct. 21 MVP: MassVarsity Pre-and-Post

Don't concede the Ivy League title to favorites like Dartmouth or Princeton just yet.

Coming into the season, those two teams — along with Yale — were the prohibitive favorites to win the title, and not without good reason.

Dartmouth and Princeton each had significant talent and enough experience to expect similar runs to 2018, when the latter went 10-0 with a perfect 7-0 league mark, and the former 9-1 and 6-1, respectively.

Harvard was the next best thing, the only other team with a winning record at 4-3 and then 6-4 overall. The season was punctuated with a win over Yale at Fenway Park.

But the Crimson graduated some terrific offensive linemen, and Yale brought back most of its team, so in some circles, the Bulldogs were maybe that third team behind Dartmouth or Princeton.

They still could be, or better. Yale had a nice, 28-27 win over Richmond this weekend, and still has Princeton and Harvard on the schedule.

That all said, from what we saw this weekend at Holy Cross, where Harvard earned a convincing, 31-21 win over the host Crusaders, it's hard not to see the Crimson battling tooth and nail with anyone there.

Princeton and Dartmouth are ranked in every Football Championship Subdivision poll you can find, while in some Yale is hanging around just outside or receiving votes, and Harvard is usually nowhere to be found.

Yet if you are going by the eye test, it's hard not to like what you see with that team. Quarterback Jake Smith continues to grow into his role, and outside of one interception he would like to have back, made good decisions with the ball against Holy Cross.

The line play on both sides of the ball is strong, and the defensive front seven at Harvard is fast, physical, and disruptive. That whole side of the ball can be a suffocating unit, and it's going to take a very good team to score a lot of points on it.

We will find out soon enough just how good this Harvard team is. The Crimson travel to Princeton this coming Saturday, then return home the first weekend of November to face Dartmouth.

By then, all these questions will be answered. Either way, it's worth asking if Harvard was a little underestimated by prognosticators coming into the season. We'll just have to wait and see.

Run away with it

That's what Boston College did in its game against NC State, as the Eagles came off their bye with a 45-24 rout of the Wolfpack.

With quarterback Anthony Brown sidelined the rest of the season with a lower leg injury, the game plan was run, run, and run some more, as the Eagles did it 60 times for 429 yards (a whopping 7.2 yards per attempt) and five touchdowns.

The Wolfpack simply had no answer for the bruising attack and dominant offensive line play, and it does not hurt when the two running backs are AJ Dillon and David Bailey. Dillon, at 6-feet, 250 pounds, and Bailey, at 6-1, 240, are nearly 500 pounds of speed and power coming at you for four quarters, and that's not easy to tackle.

Dillon finished with 223 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries, and Bailey had 181 and two scores on 16 carries. You can't really argue with that type of production, and Bailey earned ACC Running Back of the Week honors for his performance.

But, perhaps most importantly, the defense, which had failed to make consistent stops over much of the season, held NC State down when it needed to. This was simply a complete team win.

We talk a lot about BC's need to win games that could go either way in order to reach that eight-win mark. Well, before the season, this would have been one of those, and it turned out to not be a 50-50 game at all, but more of an 85-15 one in how it played out, if that makes any sense.

Now the Eagles go on the road to Clemson in a game they will be heavy underdogs in. Whatever happens there, the Eagles will be playing with house money. Don't expect the Eagles to head in there beaten before the game is over. Had they lost to NC State, you'd worry about the morale of this team. That's not the case here.

Speaking of morale . . .

UMass is coming off a bye and facing a UConn team it beat last year in one of the biggest wins the Minutemen have had in its Football Bowl Subdivision era.

This game is at McGuirk on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., and if there is any game left on the schedule that is a possible win, this is it.

Some might point to the Liberty game after that, but UConn is actually the weaker opponent there, then the Minutemen travel to Army and Northwestern, and finish the season with a home date against BYU.

It goes without saying that there have not been a lot of bright spots for UMass this season, and very few in general since the move up to the FBS level.

Still, UConn is one of those schools that if UMass only beats two teams and the Huskies are one of them, not all is lost. The two schools simply do not have a lot of love lost between them. That's good for UMass, because the Minutemen need that type of victory should they get it.

First things first

Although Merrimack had come close three times before, the Warriors finally broke through with their first win over an FCS team as a full-time member of the division with Saturday's 30-21 win at Delaware State.

Now at 3-4 on the season, Dan Curran and Co. have a reasonable shot at a winning season.

Delaware State is one of the more talented teams the Warriors have faced to this point in the season, and Merrimack now has some momentum going into the back-end of a schedule that is not a cakewalk, but still manageable.

If the Warriors do come out of 2019 with an above-.500 mark, you have to consider it a success, and this program just feels like it has a solid footing.

Let's start over

The last Northeast 10 unbeaten went down this weekend when Bentley pulled out a thrilling, 30-27 win over Stonehill.

Now, Assumption, Pace, and Stonehill all have one loss, and Bentley, New Haven, and Saint Anselm have two.

That's a lot of traffic at the top of the standings, and we are not really going to get into the scenarios of who ends up where or predicting how this will play out, because frankly we'd be here all day if we did that.

However, you look ahead to next week, and Bentley is at Pace, and Stonehill is at Assumption. Both of those games are noteworthy, and will start to sort all of this out a little more. At the moment, though, it's a mosh pit at the top. Sometimes that makes it all more fun.

Bear attack

Bridgewater State was all over a UMass-Dartmouth team we really like, as the Bears dominated in a 56-20 romp that saw quarterback Stefano D'Emilia, a Bridgewater-Raynham alum, go off for a school-record 345 yards passing and account for eight — yes, eight — combined touchdowns through the air and on the ground.

This shows a couple things. One, we severely underestimated the Bears heading into this one, even though we did pick them to win. Our score prediction was 31-27, though, so we were way off. Two, Bridgewater State is not out of the MASCAC race despite a loss to a Western Connecticut team that is still unbeaten in league play.

Framingham State plays Western Conn. next week, and the Bears travel to the former on Nov. 9. If the Rams take care of business until then, the latter matchup takes on a lot more weight.

And then there were two

Milton Academy won a wild, 20-14 overtime contest at Governor's Academy Saturday.

That leaves the ISL with two unbeaten teams left in the Mustangs and Belmont Hill. That is the start of a brutal three-week finish for Milton, who close with BB&N and Nobles after that.

Ditto for Belmont Hill. After the Milton game, it plays St. Sebastian's and Governor's Academy.

Every single one of these games mentioned could go either way in one of the most competitive leagues you'll see.

Right now, the winner of that Milton and Belmont Hill game will be in the driver's seat for the best NEPSAC bowl berth out of the ISL. However, to assume that will remain the case is a little presumptuous. There is a lot of football to be played between some excellent teams, and any predictions at this point feel premature given how tight these teams are.

Just '4' fun

What you are looking at in the MIAA's Div. 4 Central is a very competitive finish.

This week, Fitchburg will travel to Nashoba in a game that has major implications for that bracket.

Maybe coming into the season, the visitors would not have been expected to be right in the thick of that postseason shuffle. But with a big, physical offensive line and a deep stable of backs, Fitchburg is every bit in the mix to come out of that section as Nashoba or Tantasqua.

The Red Raiders' only two losses are to Tantasqua by a touchdown and Wachusett by five points. They also scored an impressive win over a West Springfield team that continues to impress in Div. 5 West.

Fitchburg is also mostly young, so this is a team to watch in the future. But the present is not so bad, either, and an upset over Nashoba would really open some eyes.

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