The other Ivy League schools have changed head football coaches in an effort to catch Penn, Harvard and, to a lesser extent, Brown.
In a new twist, Cornell has staked its championship bid to the youngest head coach in Division I - former Big Red captain David Archer, all of 30.
The Ivy script may not change, however. Penn is gunning for a fourth outright Ivy title in the last five years, which has never been accomplished in league history. Harvard and Brown are prepared to keep that from happening.
With eight returners who earned All-Ivy honors last season, including two first-team honorees, Penn will try to win a 10th Ivy title during the Al Bagnoli era.
Harvard is vulnerable after losing a dominant senior class, but the returning talent is led by junior defensive end Zach Hodges, whose 16 tackles for a loss led the league.
Princeton had the league's 2012 defensive player of the year in defensive end Mike Catapano. Defensive tackle Caraun Reid, who could have entered the NFL Draft, is the favorite to give the Tigers two winners in a row.
Tyler Varga's eligibility was changed from freshman to sophomore during Yale's season a year ago, but it didn't stop the Canadian import from being one of the most multi-purpose players around. His 194.3 all-purpose yards per game led the FCS. At least he has two years of eligibility remaining.
Columbia coach Pete Mangurian had an influential freshman class last season and is hoping the group has grown up.
OH, YES, THEM AGAIN
The league lost some heavy hitters at quarterback - Harvard's Colton Chapple, Columbia's Sean Brackett, Penn's Billy Ragone - but Cornell record-setter Jeff Mathews will be light's out, especially with sophomore running back Luke Hagy's continued development.
Penn running back Brandon Colavita, who missed all but two games last season, is returning from injury. He was the team's leading rusher in 2010 and '11.
Columbia senior running back Marcorus Garrett fell just short of a 1,000-yard season last year and will keep defenses honest against a new Lions quarterback.
Brown's success rides heavily on quarterback Patrick Donnelly playing like he did over the final three games, when he was a dual passing and running threat.
Harvard tight end Kyle Juszczyk might be going off to the NFL, but senior-to- be Cameron Brate was particularly effective, too, last season as the Crimson offense dominated teams with their tight ends.
Quarterback Alex Park isn't out of the mix at Dartmouth, but Dalyn Williams showed athleticism and throwing ability after taking over for the final three starts last season.
Brown has some pieces to form a terrific defense, but the biggest one might be senior defensive end Michael Yules, who could go from the All-Ivy second team to an elite level.
Senior defensive end Wells Childress gives Columbia a much-needed veteran presence on the defensive line. The Lions are replacing five starters in their front seven.
Princeton's quarterback competition (Connor Michelsen, Quinn Epperly and little-used Kedric Bostic) will interest people after the Tigers rebounded nicely last season.
Can last year's injury-plagued Brown running game be solved by Jordan Reisner or Cody Taulbee?
Yale quarterback Eric Williams took the majority of the snaps last season, but his 14 interceptions to six touchdowns reflected he was a freshmen. He will face competition from Henry Furman, Derek Russell and Logan Scott.
Cornell returns senior wide receiver Grant Gellatly, but it lost a ton of production at the position and needs the likes of Jesse Heon, Lucas Shapiro, V.J. Fitzpatrick and Ben Rogers to raise their play.
SPRING PRACTICE DATES
Brown: April 5-27
Columbia: April 8-May 4
Dartmouth: April 10-May 5
Harvard: April 1-27
Penn: March 12-April 6
Princeton: April 5-27
Yale: March 27-April 20