Ivy League season set to kick off

AP Photo

(STATS) - Everybody else across the FCS had a head start, but the Ivy League teams hope a lot of home-field advantage will tighten the gap this weekend.

Six of the eight Ivy teams will play at home when their 10-game season kicks off. All but one of the opponents have played two games.

Harvard begins the season Friday night by hosting Rhode Island (0-2) before five other Ivy teams open at home Saturday - Columbia against Saint Francis (0-2), Yale against No. 23 Colgate (0-1), Penn against Lehigh (0-2), Princeton against Lafayette (1-1) and Dartmouth against No. 22 New Hampshire (1-1).

Also Saturday, Brown visits Bryant (1-1) and Cornell goes to Bucknell (1-1).

The Ivies are coming off a season in which Dartmouth, Harvard and Penn forged a three-way share of first place - the first time that happened in the Ancient Eight since 1982.

All three teams lost a number of key seniors. Harvard, which has won three straight Ivy titles and four in the last five years, was installed as a slight preseason favorite over Penn, and Dartmouth was third in the league poll. But the next tier of teams - Yale, Princeton and Brown - have veteran teams capable of creating a wide-open league race.

"A lot more question marks, obviously," Harvard coach Tim Murphy said, "and that's the obvious result of losing arguably the most successful senior class in Harvard football history. It's a bit unprecedented for us. We're used to being successful, we're to setting the bar high."

"You just hope the kids develop and rise to the occasion," Penn coach Ray Priore said, "are opportunistic when given the opportunity to make their imprint in the program."

Harvard, an impressive 24-4-2 against teams currently in CAA Football, is replacing quarterback Scott Hosch, the 2015 Ivy offensive player of the year, with 6-foot-5 senior Joe Viviano. The new starter broke his foot in early September last year and missed the season, then broke the other foot late during winter workouts.

Penn's losses include linebacker Tyler Drake, the 2015 Ivy defensive player of the year. The Quakers fell 42-21 at Lehigh in Priore's head coaching debut last season. Priore and Mountain Hawks coach Andy Coen worked together as Penn coordinators for six seasons (2000-05), winning three league titles.

Dartmouth owns the most Ivy titles in league history with 19 - last year's was the Big Green's first since 1996. Their 7 p.m. ET kickoff Saturday against rival New Hampshire makes them the final Division I team to open the season.

Yale's nine-game winning streak in season openers is the league's longest active streak, including a 29-28 triumph at Colgate last season.

Princeton has defeated Lafayette eight straight times, including 40-7 last year.

Brown and Bryant are separated by about 15 miles, although they never played each other until 2013. They have split the two prior meetings.

Columbia and Cornell were mired in last place a year ago. Columbia lists 10 freshmen on its two-deep for the start of coach Al Bagnoli's second season, while Cornell enters the campaign with more playing experience than any of coach David Archer's previous three seasons.

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