HERO Sports wraps up the previews with "Two-A-Days" for each FCS conference through Friday, Aug. 24 (see full schedule below). Today, we feature the Ivy League.
SUM IT UP
(NOTE: Team by team previews in this conference are below)
The Ivy League should have its most intriguing conference race in years this fall. Yes, Yale is a significant favorite to repeat as league champions, but the depth of the conference is as impressive as it's been in recent memory. Six of the eight teams have legitimate title aspirations, which means there should be carnage aplenty.
On the macro level, there should be parity. But there are good micro-level stories to follow, too. Harvard had its first non-winning season in a long time last year, but bouncing back won't be easy against all these good teams. Princeton, which has established a choke hold on the league's Offensive Player of the Year award, must train its next award-winning quarterback. Yale runningback Zane Dudek must follow up on one of the greatest individual freshman seasons in the long, storied history of the league.
Even without a FCS playoff representative, the Ivy League stands to offer one of the most fascinating conference races in Division I football this season.
Read on, as we preview the Ivy League.
[credit]Despite finishing as a top-2 team in three of the past four seasons, Dartmouth was slotted at No. 6
in the Ivy League's preseason poll. (Dartmouth Athletics)[/credit]
NAMES TO KNOW
THE VETERAN COACH: Tim Murphy, Harvard
Tim Murphy is entering his 25th year as the head coach at Harvard, which means he was coaching in Cambridge before I was in preschool.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Jack Traynor, Dartmouth
The unanimous All-Ivy League linebacker from 2017 finished second in the conference with 98 tackles, earning a score of regional and national recognition in the process.
TOP FANBASE (*)
Harvard and Dartmouth both came close, but Columbia edged out all other Ivy Schools as the most engaged fan base this summer.
(*) – Based on fan engagement with our previews this summer.
RANKING THE IVY LEAGUE
|RK||HERO SPORTS (CHASE)||COACHES POLL|
|4||Dartmouth (Up)||Columbia (T-4)|
[divider]THE DIFFERENCE: Yale is a deserving No. 1 team, coming off a nine-win season with a young nucleus still mostly in tact. After that, you could really make a case for any one of five teams at the No. 2 spot. But hey, don't take my word for it — ask the coaches themselves, who awarded at least one first-place vote to five different teams.
I do think the coaches ultimately got it right at No. 2. Despite a 5-5 record last year and a quarterback who is now in the NFL, Princeton's consistency on offense and overall number of returning starters make it a formidable challenger.
After No. 2, I diverge from the coaches a bit. Penn and Dartmouth both deserve to be top-4 teams in this poll, in my opinion, albeit for completely different reasons. The Quakers have a friendly schedule and enough talent coming back to pay attention to; Dartmouth turns over a significant chunk of its team, but the consistency the program has had over the last five years is tough to dispute.
Harvard and Columbia don't really feel like bottom-half teams, but somebody has to finish below fourth. Either way, both squads are still head and shoulders above Cornell and Brown, which have a lot of work to do to close the gap from six to seven.
With six playoff-caliber teams, the Ivy League should be fun as hell to watch this year.
PREVIEWS: THE IVY LEAGUE