Caleb Crain, Sports Editor:
Penn football no longer has to prove that it is one of the better teams in the Ivy League; the team did that with last year's 8-2 record. The 2023 campaign will instead be judged on whether the Quakers can sustain that success, and if they can win their first Ivy title since 2016. If it seems like a higher standard, it is, but Penn has earned it.
Offensively, junior quarterback Aidan Sayin excelled last year, leading a unit that passed for over 250 yards per game. While Sayin will be without last year's leading receiver Rory Starkey Jr., senior wideouts Joshua Casilli and Malone Howley will be back. Beyond that, Sayin showed impressive power and accuracy on deep passes in practice, including into small catch windows.
The rushing attack, though, is where larger question makers loom. Leading rusher from 2022 Trey Flowers played his last game in Red and Blue, but fifth-year senior running back Jonathan Mulatu is slated to be the week-one starter for Penn. Behind him on the depth chart, though, are junior Jacob Cisneros and sophomore Isaac Shabay, who combined for just ten yards on four attempts last season. Given that the Quakers finished seventh in the Ivy League in rushing last season, these new pieces will have to contribute in a major way for Penn to take the next leap forward.
Last season, Penn's defense was exemplary. The Quakers finished second in the Ivy League in rushing yards allowed, and third in points per game allowed. But there will be some key pieces who need to be replaced, such as Jake Heimlicher, who led Penn with nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss a year ago. But now it will be up to senior captain Joey Slackman and the rest of the defensive line to replicate that impact. However, Penn will likely start nine seniors against Colgate on Saturday, so experience shouldn't be an issue.
Penn has proven that it can win games in the Ivy League. The question is — can they stay there? I think they can; the Quakers are returning tons of production. But with a schedule that sees trips to Yale and Harvard in late October and November before the final game of the season versus Princeton, the Ivy League may once again prove hard to predict.
Predicted Record: 9-1, Ivy League Champions
Alexis Garcia, Sports Editor:
Some may call on skill, others luck, but I believe Penn football’s key factor this season takes on a different form— depth.
Last season’s 34-31 hiccup of a defeat at Brown. A 37-14 blowout loss to Harvard at home. What do both games have in common? They showcased a lack of depth, and the fizzling of a flame as the season stretched on. After a miraculous 6-0 start in 2022, no one could’ve predicted the Quakers fighting tooth and nail for a potential four-way Ivy title tie in their final game. But this year’s foundation is stronger than ever. There’s experience, there’s offense, there’s hunger. But most importantly, there’s depth.
Ask any Quaker athlete, and they’ll confirm that strength and conditioning is at the forefront of every mind in the Red and Blue’s training staff. Hitting the weight room isn’t just for building one’s so-called dream physique. That extra time spent in the gym will be clutch come November, when the exhaustion and injuries start creeping in, but the Quakers still have Harvard and Princeton on the docket.
Now, taking on the preseason-poll favorite Yale on the road may prove a challenge — one that even Quaker depth may not be able to tackle. Strength training can only take Penn so far, and when the team goes toe-to-toe with the Bulldogs in the middle of its season, it won’t be a matter of who’s still got gas left in the tank. It will come down to new faces stepping into the vacant roles in Penn’s rushing attack. It will come down to a resilient defensive line that must prove itself to be more than impressive if it wishes to hold the Bulldogs — who in 2022 ranked fifth in the FCS in scoring defense and ninth in rushing offense — even against the toughest of pushbacks. An Ivy title is up for grabs, and Penn football has proven it can snag it. Now, it’s time to execute.
Predicted Record: 9-1
Walker Carnathan, Deputy Sports Editor
What does it take to achieve perfection? That is the question Penn football will attempt to answer this season. After an 8-2 campaign in 2022, the Quakers return with a goal in their mind and a fire in their hearts. The margin between 8-2 and 10-0 is perilously slim, and I believe this year's Red and Blue team has what it takes to run the table.
The first ingredient for a perfect season is simple: an elite roster. Though Penn lost several key contributors from last year's Ivy League runner-up team, the team returns a great deal of talent on both sides of the ball, as Caleb referenced in his prediction. But it is not just the familiar faces that will make the difference in Penn's campaign — it is those we do not expect. Many Quakers do not break out until later in their career — recently-graduated running back Trey Flowers was a first-team All-Ivy selection in 2022, but had just 458 rushing yards throughout his entire collegiate career prior. Penn has found tremendous recruiting success over the past few years, and it is only a matter of time before some of those seeds start to bloom.
The other, and arguably more important aspect of a perfect season is much trickier: luck. There have been many fantastic teams in sports history, but very few have the remarkable distinction of undefeated. But after seven years of bad breaks since their last Ancient Eight crown, the Red and Blue are due for a magical year. Penn is capable of an undefeated season-- it will just take a little bit of luck to get there.
Predicted Record: 10-0, Ivy League Champions
CALEB CRAIN is a junior and current sports editor studying European history and statistics from Los Angeles. All comments should be directed to email@example.com.
ALEXIS GARCIA is a junior and current sports editor studying biochemistry and anthropology from Los Angeles. All comments should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
WALKER CARNATHAN is a sophomore and current deputy sports editor studying English from Harrisburg, Pa. All comments should be directed to email@example.com.