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Penn football beats Cornell at Ithaca in their final game of the 2008 season. Cornell 4 Shane Kilcoyne? Alex Johnson? Penn 27 David Macknet 49 A.J. Hewitt Credit: Katie Rubin

Before the season started everyone knew that Harvard was going to compete for an Ivy title.

Cornell? Not so much.

But when the Crimson travel to Ithaca, N.Y., to take on the Big Red tomorrow, first place in the Ancient Eight will be on the line as both teams enter the match at 1-0 in the conference.

Cornell (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) earned a key road win at Yale, beating the Bulldogs 14-12 upon stopping a two-point conversion with no time remaining.

In a similarly close Week 2 Ivy showdown, the Crimson (2-1, 1-0) triumphed over Brown, 24-21, at Harvard Stadium.

Both teams have also done well out of conference, with their only losses coming to ranked opponents on the road (Cornell lost 45-23 to then-No. 25 Colgate Saturday; Harvard lost 27-20 to then-No. 23 Holy Cross in Week 1).

“Cornell is always a tough place to play,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said during the weekly Ivy League teleconference. “They’re a very good defensive team; offensively they give you an awful lot to prepare for.”

Holy Cross at Brown

Brown started the year off poorly, losing their first two games before finally beating Rhode Island, 28-20, this past week.

Tomorrow they’ll have a chance to get a signature win.

No. 19 Holy Cross travels to Brown Stadium and the Crusaders (4-0) will be looking to avoid their first loss of the year.

Fans of hard-nosed, three-yards and a cloud-of-dust football may want to avoid this game as both teams boast high-flying aerial attacks.

Brown (1-2, 0-1) has two All-American receivers in the senior tandem of Buddy Farnham and Bobby Sewall. The Crusaders, meanwhile, have the top passer in Patriot League history, senior Dominic Randolph.

The 2008 and 2007 games — Holy Cross won them both, 41-34 and 48-37, respectively — showed just how potent these offenses can be. Last year’s contest featured 956 passing yards and 2007’s game had 426.

Columbia at Lafayette

Anyone who likes a good cat fight should be in Easton, Pa., tomorrow at 6 p.m.

Although it’s not the cat fight one would typically expect, the claws will be out and there will be plenty of screaming girls.

The Lions of Columbia (2-1, 1-0 Ivy) will play the Leopards of Lafayette (3-1) in a battle of feline-nicknamed teams coming off wins over Ivy competition.

For the Leopards, it’ll be the third of four-straight games against Ivy competition. They beat Penn, 20-17, in overtime two weeks ago and pulled away in the second half against Yale, winning 31-14 Saturday. Next week they get Harvard.

Columbia meanwhile has loads of momentum after a historic 38-0 shutout at Princeton last week.

The two starting senior quarterbacks have a markedly different style of play. Leopards’ signal caller Rob Curley is a traditional drop-back passer who is currently ranked second all-time in Lafayette history for career completion percentage. Columbia’s QB, M.A. Olawale, is a dual threat who has five passing and three rushing touchdowns on the year.

Dartmouth at Yale

It’s old hat by now, but Dartmouth is wondering if this will finally be the week the team picks up a win.

Currently riding a 15-game losing streak after a 30-24 loss to Penn at home Saturday, the Big Green (0-3, 0-1) will probably get their best shot until the last week of the year to break the streak when they face Yale (1-2, 0-1) tomorrow.

The Bulldogs beat another team with a dog mascot, the Georgetown Hoyas, in their first game, but have since struggled at home, losing to Cornell and Lafayette at the Yale Bowl.

Ironically, the Big Green should be pretty comfortable in the Yale Bowl. From 1924-1970 this matchup was exclusively played in New Haven since it was deemed more profitable than playing in Hanover, N.H.

Considering how poorly Dartmouth’s been playing so far this year, that might still be the case today.

Colgate 21 P’ton 14

Princeton entered last night’s rare Thursday night game against No. 23 Colgate as underdogs.

Yet the Tigers almost pulled a major upset. Almost.

They held the Raiders to just seven points in regulation, but a fourth-down pass in the second overtime was incomplete, as Colgate escaped with a 21-14 win.

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