In the end, there can only be one — or in the Ivy League’s case — maybe two or three champions.
The Ivy League might allow for co-champions, but that doesn’t mean the competition isn’t stiff. If Penn football wants to defend its back-to-back co-championships, it will have to go through the rest of the Ancient Eight. Scouting out all those teams can be challenging, but the DP is here to help you know the ins-and-outs of every Ivy team the Quakers have to face.
Just a week before the Penn-Princeton game, Penn’s game at Brown has all the makings to be the quintessential trap game. Brown, which finished 3-4 in the conference last year, is well off the first tier of the league, but it’s a squad that is more than capable of pulling off the upset at home.
The Bears almost did it last year at Franklin Field when the Quakers were just one score away from squandering a 21-0 halftime lead. If Penn wants to set up the highly anticipated and undefeated matchup with arch-rival Princeton at home, the Red and Blue will have to bring their A-game to Brown.
Other than Penn football’s own coaches, there might not be a single coach in the country who knows the Quakers as well as current Columbia coach and former Penn coach Al Bagnoli.
As the coach for Penn from 1992-2015, Bagnoli led the Red and Blue to an Ivy League record nine titles and even coached many of the team’s current seniors during his last year in University City. Luckily for Penn, though, the Lions have struggled against the Red and Blue each of the last two years, and the lights don’t look much brighter in Manhattan this year as Columbia was picked to finish second to last in the Ivy League preseason poll.
Cornell might have been picked to finish last in the Ivy League preseason poll, but this won’t be a game you want to miss if you’re a Penn football fan. The Big Red will be the Quakers’ very last game of the season, so this match-up could prove to have huge championship implications.
Junior quarterback Dalton Banks struggled in his season finale last year against Penn with three interceptions, but the dual-threat passer showed flashes of potential last season and will have another year of experience under his belt this time around to keep the Quakers honest in their final game of the season.
Penn’s 41-20 loss to Dartmouth in 2015 ended up forcing the three-way tie along with Harvard for the Ivy League championship, so the Quakers know from experience not to underestimate the Big Green. Dartmouth struggled a lot more last year with only one win in the Ancient Eight, but the team is hopeful that 2017 will be better.
While the Big Green graduated last year’s starting quarterback Jack Heneghan, 2016 All-Ivy honorable mention running back Miles Smith returns for his junior year and will be hungry to bring his team back into the championship discussion — if not on the fringes of the tier one teams.
Although Harvard lost to Penn last season, the Crimson started the year picked first in the preseason poll as one of two teams ranked above the Quakers again. Regardless of whether or not the poll is accurate, Saturday’s November 11 matchup in Cambridge should be circled on the Ivy League's calendar of must-sees.
It will be the Red and Blue’s last road game of the season, and if all goes as expected until then, the contest could end up serving as a de facto championship game.
It’s Princeton. What else is there to say? Not only have Penn and Princeton been rivals since the 19th century, but the blood has been especially bad between them as of late. Last season, the two teams ended tied for the Ivy League championship, but the Tigers dominated the head to head matchup 28-0.
With this year’s game falling during Homecoming Weekend, the Quakers will certainly hope to have a toast to revenge in front of what will most likely be their biggest crowd of the year.
Picked to finish right behind Penn in the preseason poll, the Bulldogs should be a good mid-October test for the Quakers at home before their schedule picks up. Penn handled the Elis with ease 42-7 in New Haven last season, but Yale played its best football of the season down the stretch, highlighted by a 21-14 victory over rival Harvard to finish the season.
The Bulldogs are hopeful that the Harvard result is a sign of what’s to come this year, so the Quakers should expect to be challenged by a streaky and confident squad.
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