Since Ivy League champion Dartmouth didn't enter the D1AA fall playoffs, and had a legit shot at winning said playoffs, we wondered if maybe we could speculate on whether Dartmouth could actually get there.
So let's imagine that Dartmouth made the final against Bowling Green. Could the Big Green have toppled the Falcons? Let's look at it:
|Bowling Green Strengths||Dartmouth Strengths|
|Fast Back Row||Field and game management|
|Defensive Pressure||Kicking from hand|
|Execute at Set Piece||Teamwork on attack|
|Bowling Green Weaknesses||Dartmouth Weaknesses|
|Lack of major pace||Weak schedule|
|Defense high-risk||Speed in pack|
It's easy to assume that an Ivy League school doesn't have athletic players. But it's worth noting that Eagle Nate Brakeley (who is 6-5 at least) went to Dartmouth, and in fact their back row (Struan Coleman and Fuller Winton), and their midfield (Jasper Green) are big bodies. So if you think those big, bad Midwestern boys are going to pummel the blue bloods, then, no, it won't work out that way.
At the same time, Dartmouth had one really challenging game this season, a 32-25 loss to Army at the beginning of the fall. There's no replacement for tough games. Bowling Green had Western Michigan, Ohio State, Davenport, Kentucky, and Mary Washington.
Where Dartmouth Will Be Better Than St. Joe's
It's a case of matchups. Against Bowling Green, St. Joseph's tried to sidestep their way around the Falcon blitz, and failed, finding themselves shifting left and right only to get flattened by another defender.
And that was partly due to Bowling Green's tackling accuracy.
Dartmouth would likely approach this differently, and instead would have Pat Sheehy or Mike Weir sit back and pop a kick to the corner. Then it would be a case of contesting at the lineout and looking for short-range scoring opportunities.
Where Bowling Green Will Still Be Good
Ryan Steinmetz still has a blinder. He was blitzing on defense in minute 1, and also in minute 80. He intercepted a pass for a try, and blocked a kick that set up a try. You can't predict if these things would happen against Dartmouth, but it's fair to say that he would still have had an impact, and with all the kicking we'd imagine Dartmouth would do, one of those bad boys could be knocked down.
In addition, Bowling Green's powerful and aggressive running, with Levi Muter and Joseph Johnson leading the way, wouldn't go away.
How We See The Game
Dartmouth will get that early penalty that St. Joe's didn't get, and as a result might put the pressure on early. We're thinking the score could be 9-0 before Bowling Green gets rolling. But roll they will and by halftime, it's probably 10-9.
The second half sees Bowling Green extend the lead when a thundering double tackle from Steinmetz and Phil Bryant spills the ball, and Chris Labadie launches an attack that puts Tim May in at the corner.
Dartmouth rebounds, winning the restart thanks to Coleman going up to catch the kick. Quickly they snipe around the weakside, and then sling the ball back to Jasper Green, who sets up Jarrett Lewis for a try under the sticks. Sheehy won't miss and it's 16-15 Dartmouth.
In the closing 15 minutes the hits start to take their toll. Dartmouth takes a little longer to make those tackles and backs up a little. Then a box kick is partially blocked by Steinmetz, and after a mad scramble, Bowling Green gets a scrum deep in the Dartmouth 22. Muter picks up and targets Sheehy, who makes the tackle. But Muter is able to stretch over to touch down on the line. Labadie converted and it's 22-16.
Dartmouth has time, and Sheehy slots one more goal with the idea of setting up a chance to win. It never comes. The Bowling Green forwards grind it out 22-19.
The results this season tell us very little. Dartmouth played (and lost to) Army, a team that thrashed Air Force. Air Force also played Navy, and lost (but not by a lot). Navy lost by a point to Mary Washington, who lost by a point to Bowling Green.
That implies only that Dartmouth and Bowling Green are fairly equal. Bowling Green also lost heavily to Davenport, a team Navy beat comfortably. There are no close crossovers than that.
Ultimately, we think it's a shame Dartmouth wasn't in the mix. We're not even convinced the Big Green would make the final - there are a lot of strong D1AA teams out there. But if they had, the final would have been a lot of fun to watch.