Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Penn football picked 2nd in Ivy League preseason poll

Defending champion Harvard was picked first.

Penn football picked 2nd in Ivy League preseason poll


The headline pretty well sums things up. I'm on a conference call with the league's coaches at the moment, and I'll be back later with quotes from Al Bagnoli and a link to the audio.

Here's the full preseason poll:

1. Harvard, 129 points (10 first-place votes)
2. Penn, 117 points (4 first-place votes)
3. Brown, 106 points (3 first-place votes)
4. Yale, 82 points
5. Princeton, 67 points
t-6. Columbia, 44 points
t-6. Cornell, 44 points
8. Dartmouth, 23 points

The Crimson have won the last two championships. There hasn't been a three-peat champion since Dartmouth from 1990-92, when Jay Fielder was their quarterback.

I think Penn has a pretty legitimate shot at the title, though they'll have to win at Brown and Harvard to do it. The game in Providence will be Oct. 24, and the game in Boston will be Nov. 14.

Quotes from Penn coach Al Bagnoli:

Bagnoli addressed how his offense has changed with spread-option quarterback Kieffer Garton under center.

"We haven't historically been much of a quarterback-run team," Bagnoli said, and you get the point of what he meant. "We're trying to define what exactly is a quarterback-run game - how many carries do you want him to have?"

Bagnoli expressed concern about running Garton too much because of the risk of injury if he gets tackled hard a lot.

"Not every guy is Tim Tebow," Bagnoli said. "I think it's a huge concern for us all, but it's a very effective way for us to move the ball as an offense. It's a high-wire act - I think he'll improvise if it's needed, so now you have to factor those in as non-called runs."

But Garton won't have to do it all himself. Running backs Michael DiMaggio, Bradford Blackmon and Matt Hamscher are back, as are wide receivers Kyle Derham, Marcus Lawrence, David Wurst and Tyler Fisher.

As mentioned above, Penn's schedule will be a factor. In addition to the Brown and Harvard games, the Quakers go to Dartmouth on Oct. 3. Granted, the Big Green were a perfect 0-10 last season, but to have all three trips in one season after having none last year isn't quite balanced - especially when you're traveling by bus.

"I don't think anybody who made it realized that you put three of the longest trips we take in the same year," Bagnoli said. "Not only is the ride long, but you face some teams that have been outstanding the last five, ten years."

Quotes from Harvard coach Tim Murphy:

"I feel like Penn's going to have a very, very good football team," he said.

I asked Murphy for his impressions of Penn quarterback Kieffer Garton, and Murphy said he "gave us fits. We were very fortunate to win that game in Philadelphia" last year.

The Crimson left Franklin Field with a 24-21 victory after Ryan Barnes intercepted a Garton pass in the end zone with 20 seconds left in the game.

"We couldn't tackle the guy," Murphy said. "If they can balance their offense and be able to throw the football, they could be the team to beat in the Ivy League."

I'm sure Penn alum David Montgomery will be happy to hear that line.

I asked Murphy how much it matters that the Penn game will be at home:

"The road to the Ivy League championship for Harvard goes through Penn whether that game's in Boston or Philly," he said. "If you'd asked me that question 10 years ago, I would have said it's relatively important... I don't think it's as big a deal [now]. There was once a stigma that it's so hard to play in Philly. Regardless of where it is, it's going to be a tough game."
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Soft Pretzel Logic is's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

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