I’m usually wrong about these sorts of things, but this time I’d be happy about it.
I don’t think Penn football will be particularly good this year. I also hope they prove me wrong.
The Quakers are coming off two straight seasons of Ivy League mediocrity after a run of (shared) conference championships in 2015 and 2016. Without solid quarterback play, Penn’s chances at serious Ivy contention were more or less dead in the water.
Last season, the contrast between the haves and the have-nots of Ivy football was more stark than usual. Two teams finished the season ranked in the top 25 of FCS nationally, including the dominant undefeated Princeton Tigers.
In what amounts to a seven-game season, a single misstep can destroy title chances. I don’t expect the Quakers to approach the level of perfection necessary to contend in an increasingly competitive Ivy League. Again, I really hope I’m wrong.
One thing working in Penn’s favor is newness. The Red and Blue have an entirely new offense led by offensive coordinator Kevin Morris and senior quarterback Nick Robinson. Senior Karekin Brooks will shine again at running back.
The defense will feature new and emerging stars: a new middle linebacker will be forced to assume leadership for the graduated Nick Miller, while Mohammed Diakite has the promise to become an elite Ivy League cornerback in his sophomore year. Take that and add to it a healthy Sam Philippi ready for take two on his senior season and there are plenty of reasons for optimism.
The problem is that new personnel doesn’t always translate to better personnel. This season will be Penn’s third straight year with a new quarterback, and the past two changes did not inspire to say the least — and Penn finished well behind the Ivy frontrunners.
Pessimistically, these new and emerging Penn stars are inexperienced and unproven players forced into bigger roles than they can handle. I’m no pessimist, but there are enough holes on the roster to warrant preemptive concern. The voters in the preseason poll agree.
Look, predicting another 3-4 or 4-3 record is safe, even boring. Expecting little and hoping to be pleasantly surprised falls along the same lines. I wish I could more easily rationalize optimism in this team, but right now, I just don’t see it.
The great news is that they have plenty of chances to prove me wrong. Going and beating — or even keeping it close against — a nationally ranked Delaware team on its home field, for example. Even then, Delaware is not the FCS power it once was. The Blue Hens are currently ranked No. 20 in the country. Princeton, one of the favorites in the Ivy League, is No. 24.
The improvements in the top Ivy teams — Yale and Dartmouth also received votes in the national poll — will make it hard for the Quakers to contend for a conference title. As a reminder, these three Ivy teams are considered among the top 30 teams in the nation despite not having played a game while the rest of the country just finished Week 3.
I don’t know exactly how the Ivy League season will pan out for Penn. I don’t think they’ll contend. I hope I’m wrong.
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THEODOROS PAPAZEKOS is a College senior from Pittsburgh and Senior Sports Editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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