Princeton finds itself in a good position to earn some impressive team hardware. Since the Ivy League doesn’t allow its teams to participate in the FCS playoffs, winning the Ivy League title means everything to the players, coaches, and fans.
The Tigers are 8-0, coming off their first close game of the season, and can earn at least a share of the Ivy League title by going 1-1 in their final two games.
Yet the Tigers likely aren’t in a sharing mood and they face an end of the Ivy League season that will provide plenty of drama.
The Tigers are 5-0 in the Ivy after last week’s 17-14 win over Dartmouth. The remaining two games are Saturday at Yale and then on Nov. 19 at home against rival Penn.
Both Yale and Penn are 4-1 in the Ivy League, meaning they are looking for some hardware of their own.
Recently, Princeton has been the football standard bearer under coach Bob Surace. A 1990 Princeton graduate, and an All-Ivy League selection as a center in 1989, Surace came to Princeton in 2010 after serving nine seasons as an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Surace didn’t exactly come smoking out of the gates.
He went 1-9 in each of his first two seasons, but the Tigers were rewarded for their patience. Since that second season, Princeton has been at .500 or better every year. Surace has guided Princeton to four Ivy League championships, the most recent one last year when Princeton and Dartmouth shared the crown with 6-1 records.
This year Princeton was picked to finish third in the Ivy League preseason poll, with Harvard first and Dartmouth second.
Before last week, Princeton was not really challenged and even last week deserves a sort of asterisk.
While the Dartmouth final score was close, it was a little misleading. Dartmouth closed to 17-14 on a touchdown with just 17 seconds remaining. Princeton then sealed the win by recovering the ensuing onside kick.
Still, winning a game with the score that close is something the Tigers needed as they prepare for their final two games.
The closest win before last week was a 29-17 non-league victory over Lehigh.
The most impressive win was a 37-10 triumph on Oct. 21 at Harvard.
As for the final two opponents, Yale’s lone Ivy loss was a 20-13 home defeat to Penn. Meanwhile, Penn’s only defeat was a 34-31 loss at Brown.
This year in the Ivy League, the old adage that anybody could beat anybody, or at least scare the living daylights out of them, is certainly true. As an example, despite losing by just three points to Princeton, Dartmouth is tied for last place with a 1-4 record. Brown, the team that beat Penn, is also 1-4.
So far, Princeton has ridden a good formula to the top, which includes an efficiency that could lead to dominance on both sides of the ball.
The Tigers are second nationally among FCS schools and first in the Ivy League in scoring defense, allowing just 11.4 points per game. Princeton is second in the Ivy in scoring offense (29.9), behind Yale (32.5).
Junior quarterback Blake Stenstrom is first in the Ivy League in passing efficiency. While the Ivy League isn’t known for an overabundance of transfers, Stenstrom (6-4, 225) began his career at Colorado, where he spent his first two seasons appearing in just two games.
Last season he was a reserve for Princeton, completing just five passes, but this year has been comfortable running the offense.
He has completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 2,123 yards, 12 touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Senior Andrei Iosivas is leading the Ivy League in the receiving triple crown with 55 receptions for 826 yards and six touchdowns. At 6-3 and 200 pounds, the Honolulu native is an inviting target, not to mention a three-time Ivy League champion in the heptathlon.
Speaking of inviting:
Junior linebacker Liam Johnson is Princeton’s leading tackler with 64, placing him fifth in the Ivy League.
Princeton is seeking its first undefeated season since going 10-0 in 2018. This will be like a two-game playoff for the Tigers, as they look to earn a title where three other teams (Yale, Penn, and Harvard) also have a chance to win or share.