#31 Pennsylvania FCS Football 2016 Preview

Pennsylvania Quakers
Overall Rank: #31
#1 Ivy League
Penn tested themselves early last season and lost three of their first four games. But losing at Lehigh to open the season was not a bad loss. Less than a week later the Quakers upset then fifth ranked Villanova. It was the next game at home against Dartmouth that ended up costing the team. Prior to nearly beating a ranked Fordham team, Penn lost 41-20 to Dartmouth. After reeling off six wins in a row to end the year, it was that loss that kept the team tied with Harvard and Dartmouth for an Ivy League title.
2015 Record: 7-3, 6-1
2015 Postseason: None
Coach: Ray Priore (7-3 at Pennsylvania, 7-3 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: John Reagan
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Benson
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Brian Schoenauer, RB, 652 yards
Passing: Alek Torgersen, QB, 1,996 yards
Receiving: Justin Watson, WR, 1,082 yards
Tackles: Donald Panciello, LB, 61
Sacks: Tayler Hendrickson, DL, 4.0
Interceptions: Brandon Mills, LB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Tre Solomon, WR Christian Pearson, WR Cameron Countryman, OL Daniel Poulos, OL Nick Demes, DB Mason Williams, DB Sam Philippi
Key Losses: QB Andrew Lisa, TE Ryan O’Malley, OL Tanner Thexton, LB Tyler Drake, DB Ian Dobbins, DE Jack Madden, LB Lucas Nossem, DL Dan Connaughton
The Penn offense ranked second in the Ivy League in scoring offense and they could boast the best offense in the conference in 2016. Alek Torgersen is not the most prolific passer around, but he threw for 1,996 yards, 19 touchdowns and completed an amazing 69.1 percent of his passes. With just three interceptions, there are not many quarterbacks who are more efficient than Torgersen. Justin Watson is back at receiver so the passing game will at least be as good as they were last season. Watson caught 74 passes for 1,082 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore. He led the conference in all of those categories. Christian Pearson and Cameron Countryman are also back as secondary targets for Torgersen. The passing game is efficient, but the ground attack is good too. Brian Schoenauer led the team with 652 yards and six rushing touchdowns. Tre Solomon added 453 yards and seven scores. Those two, along with Torgersen, will make Penn one of the best rushing teams in the Ivy League.
The defense had some issues, especially through the air. They ranked 118th in the FCS in pass defense, allowing nearly 276 yards per game. That must improve if Penn wants to win an outright title. The secondary will be led by Mason Williams and Matt Henderson, but Sam Philippi and Ian Dobbins must be replaced. Penn also must replace Defensive Player of the Year Tyler Drake. The linebacker led the team with 80 tackles and led the conference with 8.5 sacks. Donald Panciello, who was second on the team with 61 tackles, will step into Drake’s leadership role. This was a Penn team that got a lot of pressure on the quarterback last season and they will need to do that again in 2016 if the secondary is going to get better. Without Drake, the Quakers may not average nearly three sacks per game again, but lineman Tayler Hendrickson is a good place to start when it comes to rushing the passer.
The Bottom Line:
Penn has a little easier schedule this year. They start the year again with Lehigh, but this time the Mountain Hawks come to Franklin Field. Fordham is still on the schedule too, but this time Penn replaces Villanova with Central Connecticut State. But again sandwiched in the middle of the non-conference slate is the game against Dartmouth, the game that cost Penn an outright title last season. That game in Hanover, New Hampshire will set the tone for the rest of the season. But as we saw last year, even a loss there would not put an end to Penn’s title hopes.
Projected Postseason: None
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 169.2 (51st in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 242.9 (38, 6)
Total Offense: 412.1 (39, 3)
Scoring Offense: 32.9 (24, 2)
Rushing Defense: 142.5 (32, 5)
Pass Defense: 275.8 (118, 8)
Total Defense: 418.3 (86, 6)
Scoring Defense: 26.8 (66, 6)
Turnover Margin: 1.00 (8, 2)
Sacks: 2.90 (13, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.20 (24, 3)