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Penn offense lines up against Yale during last season's Homecoming game on Oct. 22, 2022. Credit: Michael Palacios

College football is officially back, and the Ivy League returns in its annual race to battle for the best of brain and brawn. The season kicks off in mid-September, and here is a sneak peek at how the eight teams stack up thus far.

1. Yale (8-2, 6-1 Ivy, 1st in 2022)

The defending champs aim to maintain their momentum this coming season. With an offense centered around returning senior quarterback Nolan Grooms, who led his team in both passing and rushing yards a season ago, the Bulldogs can count on another strong season with core players intact. In 2022, they ranked first in scoring offense and second in scoring defense for the Ivy League, making Yale the dominant team of the Ancient Eight last season, and they are favored to repeat as champions this upcoming season. Heading into their 150th season, the Bulldogs, along with reigning Ivy League Coach of the Year Tony Reno, are confident in their prospects.

2. Princeton (8-2, 5-2 Ivy, 3rd in 2022)

Princeton made headlines in the college sports world last March with their men's basketball team's Cinderella run to the Sweet 16. But can that same magic translate to the gridiron this fall? The odds for the Tigers are reasonable this upcoming season, with returning Ivy League passing yards leader senior quarterback Blake Stenstrom — and Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year senior linebacker Liam Johnson — leading the way to redemption after narrowly conceding the Ivy League title on the final day of the season. Following the departure of leading wide receiver Andrei Iosivas to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Tigers will need to adapt to the absence of one of their most seasoned offensive weapons. Don't underestimate Princeton — their chance of success is as good as it gets.

3. Penn (8-2, 5-2 Ivy, 2nd in 2022)

The Quakers enter the season with victories over both higher-ranked teams — Yale and Princeton — from the previous season. With signature wins such as giving last year's champions, Yale, their only conference loss, Penn has consistently demonstrated the strong skill set necessary to compete at the highest level. However, time is ticking for the Quakers to make a meaningful mark, having not won an Ivy League title since 2016. Considering that all of Penn's first-team All-Ivy members were seniors last season, there may be some concerns within the team, but confidence remains in their ability to develop their current talent to high levels. Junior quarterback Aidan Sayin will need to step up to break the past year's Philly curse and lead the Quakers to victory. 

4. Harvard (6-4, 4-3 Ivy, 4th in 2022)

Crimson fans eagerly await Harvard's return to dominance of decades past. It has been eight years since their last championship, which was a three-way tie, and Harvard must prioritize defensive improvements, as they were ranked sixth defensively last year in the Ancient Eight. After losing the Ivy League's leading rusher, Aidan Borguet, Harvard must also make adjustments on the offense, but hope remains with returning first-team All-Ivy tight end Tyler Neville. Tim Murphy enters his 30th season at the helm of this Crimson squad, so only time will tell how this seasoned veteran coach will navigate adjustments for a team eager to return to the top.

5. Columbia (6-4, 3-4 Ivy, 5th in 2022)

The Lions aspire to take the right steps in ending their 62-year conference title drought this year. Winning the League may be a long shot for this squad, but developing young talent and relying on their upperclassmen for the future could prove to be very rewarding. Columbia is led offensively by junior wide receiver Bryson Canty and senior running back Joey Giorgi — who were named first-team and second-team All-Ivy in 2022, respectively — while junior defensive lineman Justin Townsend anchors the defense. After the retirement of longtime head coach Al Bagnoli, interim coach and former Penn wide receiver Mark Fabish enters this year with plenty of potential.

6. Dartmouth (3-7, 2-5 Ivy, 7th in 2022)

Ranked last in offensive production and squarely in the middle of the pack defensively, the Big Green did not display much prowess in last year's season. Questions arise this season regarding the lack of a single player being named first-team All-Ivy last season. Hope lies in the hands of senior linebacker Macklin Ayers, the 2022 Ivy League leader in average tackles per game. Boasting a successful history as a program with 20 Ivy League titles to its name, Dartmouth must regain its standing to succeed soon.

7. Brown (3-7, 1-6 Ivy, 8th in 2022)

Brown's football team managed only one conference win last season — a nail-biting three-point victory over Penn. Besides that game, Brown has not shown much potential for improvement in the upcoming season. The Bears did feature eight players on the preseason All-Ivy teams, including preseason first-team All-Ivy selection and senior wide receiver Wes Rockett, as well as defensive backs Isaiah Reed and Cooper DeVaue. Brown is led by former starting quarterback from the 1990s and fifth-year head coach James Perry.

8. Cornell (5-5, 2-5 Ivy, 6th in 2022)

For the past 17 years, the Big Red has not had a lot of winning. Cornell, led by honorable mention All-Ivy junior quarterback Jameson Wang, must push to change this narrative of mediocrity. Returning second-team All-Ivy senior kicker Jackson Kennedy also plays a crucial role in this team's steady journey back to the win column.