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11-26-2021-football-princeton-karekin-brooks-alec-druggan
Graduated Runningback Karekin Brooks attempts to make it through a line of Princeton defenders on Nov. 26th, 2019. Credit: Alec Druggan

This fall, Penn football will be charging into an unfamiliar competitive environment, as the Ivy League learns to operate the circus that follows when a season is canceled: freshmen and sophomore athletes who are essentially rookies, "super seniors" in their fifth year of competition and most significantly, the effects of a long break on performances on the fields. Here's a preview of how the Ancient Eight schools hope to recover from the canceled season.

Princeton

The 2018 Ivy League champions are the favorites to finish on top of the conference once again. With coach Bob Surace on the staff since 2010, the Tigers have had only two poor seasons since he took over. 

Despite being considered favorites, Princeton has not been immune to losses from graduating players, especially as the team manages the depth of its offensive and defensive lines. The roster is also without a quarterback who has ever started a game for the Tigers, but with six experienced seniors, who will serve as captains into the 2021 season, the rookies can learn from the winning ways of the returning players. 

Princeton will be the Quakers' last matchup of the season, as they host the Tigers at Franklin Field on Nov. 20.

Yale

The Bulldogs follow Princeton at second in the Ivy League preseason media poll ahead of a season in which they will try to defend the team's share of the recent championship title. The Elis’ roster is led by junior quarterback Griffin O’Connor, who is stepping into a role left vacant by reigning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year Kurt Rawling, who graduated in 2020.

In pursuit of a sequel to their 9-1 record in 2019, the roster has been reshuffled, with 24 new faces featuring a handful of 3-star recruits, as well as a group of second-years who have never hit the field in competition before. The Quakers will head to New Haven to play the Bulldogs on Oct. 23.

Harvard

The Crimsons’ defeat to arch-rivals Yale was a tough way to punctuate the end of the team's 2019 campaign, but Harvard enters this season with optimism. Recently, 12 of its players were named to the Phil Steele Preseason All-Ivy team, and with depth in positions on both sides of the ball, the Crimson are set to be a tough opponent. 

Coach Tim Murphy is on the sidelines with his sights set on a 18th Ivy League title, and he will place his faith in senior linebacker Jordan Hill who will captain the Crimson. Senior Jake Smith is in the mix for the role of starting quarterback after previous seasons of fluctuating performance. The Quakers will head to Cambridge on Nov. 13 to fight for a repeat of their 2019 win.

Dartmouth

Finishing higher than the team's ranking in the preseason poll has become a habit for the Big Green, who have outperformed expectations in 10 of the last 11 seasons. 

Fifth-year quarterback Derek Kyler, who is 14th in all-time passing yards at Dartmouth, returns for another year to lead the offense. He will be accompanied by three fifth-year players and one senior to captain the team, which makes this season only the fourth time that the Big Green will be led by four captains. 

Head coach Buddy Teevens will also face the challenge of replenishing many of the starters from 2019, particularly on defense as fifth-year captain safety Niko Mermigas is the only returning player in the starting lineup from the team's championship season.

The Quakers are scheduled to host Dartmouth on Oct. 1 at Franklin Field in a chance to redeem the team's loss that contributed to the Big Green’s 19th Ancient Eight title.

Penn

The Quakers have held on to an overall winning record every year since 2014 and seem to be far from letting this streak be broken. But with the graduation of starting quarterback Ryan Glover, the path of succession has remained unclear. And with two years of players who have yet to compete on the field, coach Ray Priore will be managing 57 new players on his roster. Penn ranks fifth in the preseason polls, a one-place drop from its fourth-place finish in 2019.

Brown

The retirement of long-term coach Phil Estes presented an unanticipated shuffle for Brown's team dynamic. Current head coach James Perry inherited the role in 2019 and led the Bears to a 2-8 overall record but immediately faced the challenge of an absent season the following year. 

Brown concluded its most recent season with a lot of close contests, but the team's 2-8 record in 2019 has left plenty of room for redemption. This season, Perry will have to manage a team of players with a wide range of experience. Brown features 13 players who took an additional year of eligibility, one of whom being starting quarterback and captain EJ Perry. The Quakers will host Brown on Oct. 30.

Columbia

Before what would have been a chance for redemption in the 2020 season, expectations were high for former Penn football coach Al Bagnoli to mirror the success of his two winning seasons at Columbia in 2017 and 2018. 

With 11 players named to the preseason All-Ivy team, the Lions can find sources of optimism in their roster. Senior Ty Lenhart, the most experienced quarterback on the Lions’ roster, will be accompanied by six returning starters from the 2019 season. Penn football is headed to Manhattan on Oct. 16 to face the Lions at their home.

Cornell

Cornell concluded the team's 2019 campaign with a momentous return to form after defeating Dartmouth in the penultimate game of the season. The Big Red closed the season with a 4-6 record and finished fifth in the league after a seventh-place spot in the preseason polls.

Coach David Archer’s next year at the helm will be presented with the challenge of crafting a starting lineup from a roster with few experienced names. The team features 21 "super seniors" and 30 fourth-year players, along with many first and second years, who have yet to formally compete as college athletes. Despite the dramatic finish to their 2019 season, the Big Red ranks eighth in the 2021 preseason polls. The Quakers will face Cornell at Franklin Field on Nov. 6.

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