Football season begins

I don't generally look forward to this time of year, to be honest with you.

Those of you who know me well know that I'm not all that into professional football, and that I especially can't stand the suffocating hype that surrounds the NFL preseason.

But as Michael Vick's exploits swallow up even territory claimed by the Phillies' run towards another NL East title, this blog makes space for another traditional autumn pursuit.

The new college football season begins this week, which means it's time to hang some new livery above the headlines.

On Thursday night, I'll be at the Linc to liveblog Temple's showdown with Villanova. But we've got a good bit of ground to cover before then, starting with a trip to Franklin Field for Penn's media day.

It's been a little while since the Quakers had serious expectations placed upon it coming into a season. It's also been a little while since Penn last won the Ivy League.

Strike that. It's been a long time, at least by the standards of Al Bagnoli's tenure.

Six years without a title may not seem like long if you're Dartmouth or Columbia. But in Bagnoli's 17 years on 33rd Street, only his two most recent graduating classes never won a title at any point in their college careers.

Keiffer Garton might just do something about that. Once he got the reins at quarterback midway through last season, he literally ran over Bagnoli's offensive playbook. The more he played, the louder the rumblings grew that Penn's championship drought might come to an end in 2009.

Of course, it didn't hurt that among Garton's runs were a game-winning touchdown at Princeton and two more the next week in a last-minute loss to Harvard. The question now is whether the Quakers can turn six years of almosts and nearlies into actual wins.

"Hopefully we've learned," Bagnoli said. "We had every chance last year to win it and couldn't quite get it done."

There's more from Garton and Bagnoli in the audio player below.

As ever, Penn's schedule is backloaded with all of its tough games at the end of the season. Nor does it help that the Quakers' two toughest games, against Brown and Harvard, are both on the road.

But this is the first year in a while in which Penn is seriously in the title conversation, and Garton is the biggest reason why. As this rather glowing piece in Saturday's New York Times notes, spread-option offenses are not the norm in Ivy League football.

Expectations for Penn success are nothing new, though. The question is whether Garton can fulfill them.

If he does, perhaps his newfangled offense can wake up some old ghosts at Franklin Field. It's been a while since anyone's heard from them.