New Hampshire Football Report

Dartmouth picked third in poll

HANOVER — The last time the Dartmouth football team took to the gridiron in 2019, it was finishing off its 19th Ivy League title, the most of any team in the Ancient Eight. But in order to win a 20th conference championship, the Big Green will have to continue its tradition of ending the season higher in the standings than it was picked in the preseason poll.


The Ivy League announced the results of its football preseason media poll today with Dartmouth picked to finish in third place behind Princeton and Yale. The Big Green has been slotted lower in the preseason poll than where it actually finished no fewer than 10 times in the last 11 seasons, including 2019 after Dartmouth was pegged for second. The Green ended up with a 9-1 record and 6-1 mark in league play while ranking 21st in the final coaches’ poll.

Princeton received eight first-place votes and collected 113 points to sit atop the poll with the Bulldogs nine points behind with six first-place votes. One of the 16 voters did take Dartmouth to win the title as the Big Green edged out Harvard by one point — 88 to 87 — for third place. The bottom half of the poll had Penn in fifth (61 points), Brown in sixth (52), Columbia in seventh (44 but with the other first-place vote) and Cornell bringing up the rear (27).

Dartmouth will have to replace a large portion of its starters from the 2019 campaign, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Only fifth-year safety Niko Mermigas, an All-Ivy League honorable mention, was regularly in the starting lineup two years ago, though senior nickelback John Pupel was third on the team in tackles, just ahead of Mermigas.

The offense will be led by fifth-year quarterback Derek Kyler, who has thrown for 2,437 yards in his career while completing 68.2 percent of his passes. He will have a pair of returning starters up front to anchor the line in fifth-year center Evan Hecimovich (All-Ivy second team) and senior J.P. Flores, and another starter to throw to in graduate Masaki Aerts. Senior running back Zack Bair is looking to return to the form that had him averaging over 5.0 yards a carry before an injury sidelined him for the last seven games of the 2019 campaign.

The Big Green will appear on ESPNU three times on Friday nights this fall, beginning with the Ivy League opener at Penn on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. The other two national television appearances will come at Memorial Field when Dartmouth hosts Columbia on Oct. 22 and Princeton on Nov. 5. In each of the last two seasons, that game with the Tigers pitted the two undefeated teams in the Ivy League. All other Big Green home games and Ivy League road games will be streamed live on ESPN+, while all 10 games will feature an audio broadcast available through the official website of Dartmouth athletics.

The 2021 season will begin on Sept. 18 at Valparaiso for the first football game between the two schools. Dartmouth has not lost to a first-time opponent since 1951, winning the last nine, including the 2019 season opener at Jacksonville, 35-6. The Big Green will also be putting a 16-game win streak against non-conference opponents on the line, as well as a six-game road win streak. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.


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