When a college football conference is filling a noticeable void, it often involves top-level players who have moved on elsewhere.

In the Ivy League, the 2023 season is missing two coaching legends.

In recent years, the Ancient Eight was the only Division I conference with more than one active head coach of at least 20 years in the league, and there was a trio.

This year, only Harvard’s Tim Murphy, who’s in his 29th season with the Crimson, will be on the sideline. Buddy Teevens’ 23rd season at Dartmouth is on hold while he steps away from coaching due to a serious bicycle accident. Columbia’s Al Bagnoli, who spent seven seasons guiding the Lions after 23 at Penn, announced his retirement in early August due to medical reasons.

Here’s a preview of the upcoming Ivy League season, which kicks off with eight non-league games on Sept. 16:


Predicted Order of Finish

1. Yale (2022 Season: 8-2, 6-1) – The defending Ivy champs are primed to go back-to-back while also celebrating their 150th season. Coach Tony Reno’s squad is returning 13 players who earned a form of All-Ivy honors, all but set to flatten defenses with 2024 NFL Draft prospect Kiran Amegadjie at left tackle and three of last year’s top-five rushers in the league, quarterback Nolan Grooms, the 2022 Ivy offensive player of the year, and running backs Tre Peterson and Joshua Pitsenberger, who combined for 2,136 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground. Defensive end Clay Patterson has 18 sacks over the last two seasons, and cornerback Wande Owens, this year’s team captain, and linebacker Hamilton Moore shared last year’s team lead with 63 tackles each.

2. Penn (8-2, 5-2) – After posting their highest win total since 2010, the Quakers will be in title contention again. They’ll have one of the stingier defenses in the league with defensive linemen Micah Morris and Joey Slackman, linebackers Jack Fairman and Jonathan Melvin, and defensive backs Jaden Key, Kendren Smith and Shiloh Means. In addition, QB Aidan Sayin is coming off a breakout season with 2,344 passing yards and 18 TD passes.

3. Princeton (8-2, 5-2) – An impressive 35-5 (23-5 Ivy) with two Ivy titles in the last four seasons, the Tigers are retooling in the offensive skills positions. Blake Stenstrom, the Ivy passing leader at 274.2 yards per game, may find it difficult to overcome the loss of wide receivers Andrei Iosivas and Dylan Classi, and leading rusher Ryan Butler transferred to Stanford. Offensive lineman Jalen Travis will get NFL looks. The defense features linebacker Liam Johnson, who earned a share of last year’s Ivy defensive player of the year award.

4. Harvard (6-4, 4-3) – Harvard begins its 150th season needing seven wins to become the 10th Division I program to reach 900 all-time (Yale has 929), but its Division I opponents’ 2022 winning percentage is the highest in the FCS. Even with the loss of co-Ivy defensive player of the year Truman Jones, the defensive line trio of Thor Griffith, Nate Leskovec and Tyler Huenemann will create havoc, having combined on 29.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks last season. The Jacob Rizy-led offensive line is solid, but the Crimson are replacing Ivy rushing champ Aidan Borguet and quarterback Charlie Dean.

5. Columbia (6-4, 3-4) – Al Bagnoli was set to tie the late Carm Cozza (Yale) for the most career games in Ivy history (303) on Oct. 14 against his former program Penn. Offensive coordinator Mark Fabish was promoted to interim head coach following Bagnoli’s retirement. His offense returns firepower with quarterbacks Joe Green (season-ending injury after five games) and Caden Bell, leading rusher Joey Giorgi and leading receiver Bryan Canty. The defense has anchors up front with end Justin Townsend (9.5 TFLs, six sacks) and tackle Patrick Passalacqua.

6. Dartmouth (3-7, 2-5) – Sammy McCorkle, who’s been a member of Buddy Teevens’ staff since 2005, has served as acting head coach since early spring. Quarterback Nick Howard is utilizing an extra season of eligibility, having rushed for 24 touchdowns and passed for three over the last two seasons. Wide receiver Paxton Scott has been the team’s leading receiver for two straight seasons. The defense struggled to stop the run a year ago, but figures to be improved behind defensive end Charles Looes, linebacker Macklin Ayers and free safety Quinten Arello.


7. Cornell (5-5, 2-5) – Including a 3-0 non-league record, the Big Red finished with their best record under coach David Archer. They should be competitive in his 10th season with quarterback Jameson Wang (2,209 yards of total offense and 22 total TDs) and linebacker Jake Stebbins (230 career tackles) leading the way. The return of offensive linemen Micah Sahakian and Jackson Bradley will help the offense to challenge again for an Ivy-best average time of possession (33 minutes, 31 seconds).  

8. Brown (3-7, 1-6) – Over their past five seasons, the Bears are 3-32 in league games and 10-40 overall. The good news is, they ranked third in the league in passing offense, and will again move the ball with Jake Wilcox passing to wide receivers Wes Rockett and Graham Walker. They’ll need a reversal on defense after easily ranking last in points allowed per game (35.1) and yards allowed per game (432). The secondary is improved behind Cooper DeVeau and Isaiah Reed.

How the League Predicted the Race

Five Players to Watch

Kiran Amegadjie, OT, Yale – The 6-foot-5 strongman appears in the mix for being the top FCS prospect for the 2024 NFL Draft.

Thor Griffith, DT, Harvard (Buck Buchanan Award preseason nominee) – Opponents can’t stop Griffith (22.5 TFLs, 10 sacks in 20 career games) without a double-team.

Nolan Grooms, QB, Yale (Walter Payton Award preseason nominee) – Left-handed signal caller uses the run (second in the league in rushing with 726 yards) to set up the pass.

Liam Johnson, QB, Princeton (Buck Buchanan Award preseason nominee) – Earned a share of top Ivy defensive honors while posting 90 tackles, including 26 in final two games against Yale and Penn.

Blake Stenstrom, QB, Princeton – Led the league in passing yards (2,742) and total offense (2,898).

(Amegadjie, Griffith, Johnson named Stats Perform FCS Preseason All-Americans)

Five Must-See Matchups

1. Harvard at Yale (Nov. 18) – Yale holds a 69-61-8 lead through 138 meetings. “The Game” is the No. 3 most-played series in the FCS (Lafayette-Lehigh is first with 158 meetings and Princeton-Yale second with 144).

2. Yale at Princeton (Nov. 11)

3. Princeton at Penn (Nov. 18)

4. Penn at Yale (Oct. 21)

5. Columbia at Princeton (Sept. 29)

Fast Fact

Despite a later start than the rest of college football, Ivy League teams have combined to go .500 or better in their last seven season-opening weekends. Last year’s 7-1 record against non-league opponents was their best since posting the same mark in 2005. The only team to fall was eventual Ivy champ Yale (38-14 at Holy Cross).