With its second loss to Brown last Friday, the road between Penn football and an Ivy League title has immediately become murkier. Now with two conference losses, the Quakers have a limited array of options at their disposal to finish the season atop the Ancient Eight standings for the first time since 2012.
The last time a two-loss team won the Ivy League title was even longer ago, in 1982. "E.T." was still in theaters, Ronald Reagan was president, and Penn was a very different place. But in an era where what's old is new again, there is a path for the rest of the Ivy season to take a trip back to the '80s, and it requires just one concept: parity.
College football writ large has seemed to have plenty of parity so far in the 2023 season. Despite coming off back-to-back national championships, Georgia has seemed flawed at times. Michigan and Ohio State are undefeated, but both still have questions. The ACC and Big 12 always seem to cannibalize each other, and there would hardly be a more fitting way for the Pac 12 to have its last season than with teams beating up on each other all season long and end up with no teams in the College Football Playoff.
All this is to say that no team has emerged as dominant in the top tier of college football this year. So far, the Ivy League appears to not be immune to this trend.
With all eight teams having played four games against conference foes — and with three games left in the season — no team is still undefeated. Instead, Princeton and Harvard are leading the pack at 3-1, followed by a quintet of teams locked at 2-2 in conference. Columbia remains in last, still searching for its first conference win.
Penn is one of those five teams with a .500 conference record. With no set of tiebreakers or a conference title game, the Quakers' hopes remain within one.
The remainder of the schedule is also kind to Penn. Games against the two teams with better conference records — Harvard and Princeton — will be in the final two weeks of the season. This means that the Quakers control their own destiny. All they have to do is win out, and Penn will have at least a share of a conference title.
Not that this will be easy, though. Both the Crimson and the Tigers will pose tough tests, and this week's game against Cornell shouldn't be slept on either. For every complete football game leading to a ten-point road win against Yale, there has been a mistake-prone, heartbreaking loss against Brown.
Penn might not be an elite team this year. But it might not need to be. The Red and Blue just have to hope that no one else in the Ivy League is.
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.