Roundtable: Will Penn win the Ivy League in 2013?
Penn in yet another dog fight to take the throne this year
August 20, 2013, 7:49 pm · Updated August 21, 2013, 1:16 pm·
Sports Editor Steven Tydings: I think we can expect a campaign similar to last season. With Billy Ragone working his way back from an ankle injury and the defense adjusting to life without Brandon Copeland, it looks like the team may be looking at a slow start in 2013 like the 1-3 start to the Quakers’ 2012 season.
And when it comes to that late season slate of Princeton, Harvard and Cornell to end the year, I don’t think Penn comes out on top. This year’s Penn squad may be just as good as last year, but the 2012 team was able to win six close games in the Ancient Eight and I don’t think that’s sustainable two years in a row. I see this season coming down to the Penn-Harvard matchup in Cambridge this year, and the Crimson will avenge last season’s 30-21 loss to the Quakers.
Sports Editor John Phillips: Steven, you’re absolutely right that this squad could be just as good as last year’s team, and that’s all the more reason to believe that the Quakers will top the Ivy League once again.
While it did take winning six close games to snag the Ancient Eight crown last season, that is what the rest of the Ivy League expects from Penn. This is a team that has taken home three of the last four Ivy titles. That history of winning close contests under coach Al Bagnoli is exactly what makes it so hard for the other seven Ivies to knock Penn down.
Sports Editor Ian Wenik: I’m going to have to side with John. The Ivy League has become a quarterback-driven league, and it’s rare (or lucky) enough for a team to return a two-time All-Ivy passer. But as a fifth-year senior? Though concerns about Ragone’s recovery from his gruesome ankle injury against Harvard last year are valid, Penn still has Ryan Becker as a more than capable backup. You might have forgotten about him after he missed last year with a torn ACL, but Becker has 15 games worth of experience as well.
In contrast, Harvard’s QB situation is anything but settled. With Colton Chapple graduated, the Crimson tentatively have junior Conner Hempel — with just 24 career pass attempts to his name — penciled in as their starter. Their No. 2 QB, senior Mike Pruneau, only has 11 career passes, none since 2011. I can’t see Harvard as the Ivy favorite with a pair of inexperienced question marks under center.
Senior Sports Editor Mike Tony: Nobody is losing more big names this year than Harvard, which graduated five 2012 first-team All-Ivy selections on offense alone. The Crimson lose not just Chapple but his two greatest weapons from last year – halfback Kyle Juszczyk and running back Treavor Scales.
On the flipside, Penn’s greatest strength just may be its returning defensive savvy. Penn’s secondary should be the league’s best, with 2012 first-team All-Ivy safety Sebastian Jaskowski and ballhawk cornerback Dan Wilk both returning alongside a veteran linebacking corps featuring junior first-team All-Ivy Dan Davis.
Last year, Penn’s defense neutralized Harvard’s all-star offense. This season, Penn’s defense matches up even better with Harvard’s offense, the single most important matchup in the entire conference. Penn may very well struggle at Harvard come Nov. 16, but the Quakers’ poise and experience is too much to discount over the long haul. I do see another Ivy crown for Penn on the horizon.