Coming off of winning a share of the Ivy title in 2015, Penn football was predicted to finish second in the Ancient Eight preseason media poll this year, trailing only Harvard.
Although the Quakers’ 119 total points fell just short of the Crimson’s 126, the Red and Blue took home the most first place votes, with nine to Harvard’s seven. The final first place vote went to Brown, who ended up sixth overall in the poll.
After losing only a handful of offensive starters to graduation – and even fewer on defense – expectations are high for Coach Ray Priore’s squad.
“Programs that have had a great deal of success like we’ve had, those guys understand the rhythm and culture we have that it’s next man up to take the reins and lead,” Priore said on the Ivy League Football Media Teleconference.
Looking to lead the way for the Quakers is junior wideout Justin Watson, who has received his own share of attention this offseason. A preseason All-America selection, the Bridgeville, Pa., native was also one of 22 players named to the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year watch list. One of four wide receivers, Watson is the Ivy League’s lone representative on the watch list.
STATS also named Watson to its preseason All-America lineup – along with three other Ancient Eight players – as did Football Gameplan and College Sports Madness. Only Cornell punter Chris Fraser joined the Red and Blue wideout on all three lists.
Priore noted that last year, Watson was sidelined for spring ball, meaning that coming into 2016, he’s had even more time to train and work with the staff before the season.
“We’re able to do a lot of things with him this spring,” he said on the teleconference. “[We were able to] move him around. ... He’s worked really really hard he was in Philly all summer with Alek [Torgersen, Penn’s senior quarterback] and the guys working, so we’re really excited about the fall.”
The Red and Blue will have their chances to show off their weapons in front of national audiences throughout the year.
Of the Ivy League-record 21 nationally televised games on tap for 2016, the defending Ancient Eight champions will play before a national audience a record six times.
Three of those games will be on NBC Sports Network and will be played on Friday nights, which the Quakers did against Yale in 2015. This season, Penn will play Friday night games on the road at Dartmouth on Sept. 30 and Yale on Oct. 21, as well as against Harvard at home on Nov. 11.
On top of the NBCSN contests, three other Ivy contests will be nationally televised. The Oct. 15 matchup against Columbia will air on ONE World Sports and for the second straight year, the Princeton game will be on the American Sports Network on Nov. 5.
The season will wrap up on Nov. 19 in Ithaca, where Fox College Sports will broadcast the Quakers’ tilt with Cornell, capping off the program-record six national TV spots.
In addition to the six nationally televised games, the Red and Blue have four more contests on tap, starting off with the season opener at home against Lehigh on Sept. 17.
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