Not since 2003 has Penn football (4-0, 1-0 Ivy) had this strong a start to a season, and on Saturday, the Quakers will look to extend their winning ways against a Columbia (3-1, 0-1 Ivy) team that beat them last season 23-14. Four Daily Pennsylvanian Sports reporters make their picks ahead of Penn's second Ivy League game of the season.
Penn 14, Columbia 10 — Walker Carnathan, Sports Reporter
The Quakers occupy rare air at 4-0, but Columbia will provide a more difficult test than any they have faced thus far. For the first time this season, Penn will face a team with a winning record, and the Lions have come by it honestly. They travel to Franklin Field with a suffocating defense that has let up an average of just 10 points per game, and has not allowed a rusher of more than 25 yards.
Penn may have found its offensive groove in a 59-point explosion against Georgetown, but make no mistake, the identity of this group remains on the defensive side of the ball. That foretells a low-scoring matchup in this Ivy League clash, one that I believe the Quakers will ultimately emerge victorious from. Look for a high volume of punts, and for the Penn defensive line to get after Columbia quarterback Joe Green, sacking him two or more times.
Penn 24, Columbia 27 — Caleb Crain, Sports Associate
This week, the Quakers face possibly the toughest challenge of the season thus far going up against a stout Columbia squad. The Lions' defense has been giving up an average of 10 points per game. On the ground, Columbia has impressed, giving up only 10 rushing first downs through their first four games.
However, their pass defense has been less than stellar, with opponents averaging nearly 300 yards per game. In order to win, Penn's sophomore quarterback Aidan Sayin has to put up big passing numbers, as the Quakers rushing attack will likely be rendered largely ineffective this week.
On the other side of the ball, Penn’s defense will need to step up. The Lions have been gaining nearly four yards per rush, and Green has been completing over 70% of his passes. Penn’s defense, though, has held opponents to 2.1 yards per carry and an under 55% completion percentage.
So far, the Quakers have only generated three turnovers, two of which came last weekend at Georgetown, and continuing that trend could be the difference between a win and a loss.
This game will probably come down to a few key plays. Penn’s passing game has improved as of late, setting up big throws down the field for Sayin, but look for Columbia's defense to remain stout in a crucial Ivy matchup.
Penn 21, Columbia 16 — Kristel Rambaud, Sports Reporter
The undefeated Quakers return to Franklin Field this weekend. And in an Ivy League matchup against the Columbia Lions, they’re likely to leave the stadium again with a victory.
Penn has been remarkable in stopping opponents from scoring via the passing game thanks to a secondary featuring the likes of senior Kendren Smith and junior Shiloh Means. Of the seven touchdowns Penn has allowed, only one has been a passing touchdown. Penn’s defense has also accumulated 17 sacks this season.
This strong defense can help Penn win the game against a Columbia offense that loves to pass. In Columbia’s Ivy opener against Princeton, junior quarterback Green threw the ball 43 times, leading to three interceptions and zero touchdowns. The Lions' high-scoring offense, which averages 36 points per game excluding the Princeton outlier, is fallible.
And Penn’s defense could very well capitalize off it.
Penn 24, Columbia 17 - Sean McKeown, Sports Reporter
Coming off a statement win against a stout Dartmouth defense and an absolute demolition of Georgetown, Penn now looks to trample on Columbia to continue its hot start.
Helmed on offense by sophomore quarterback Sayin, the Red and Blue have fired on all cylinders in recent weeks, racking up 59 points against Georgetown in their last outing. This strong showing by the offense is exactly what the Quakers needed, seeing as they plan to line up against their toughest defensive opponent yet.
The Lions have allowed only 10 points per game so far this season, holding three separate teams to seven points or less. In its recent win over Wagner, though, Columbia’s offense thrived, racking up over 150 rushing yards and three touchdown passes.
I believe that Columbia’s offense isn’t strong enough in the air to prevent the Quakers' defense from crashing down on the run, which will be the deciding factor in Penn’s favor.