After getting picked to win the Ivy League title before each of the last two seasons, the Yale football team will begin the Tom Williams era with lower expectations. Following the graduation of more than 30 seniors in May, the media picked the Bulldogs to finish fourth in the conference.

Not that Williams cares.

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“I haven’t looked at the poll and don’t plan on checking it out,” the rookie head coach said in the Ivy League’s preseason conference call with reporters this week. “The only thing we care about is where we rank at the end of the season.”

And where they rank at the end of the season is a toss up. Preseason predictions are far form an exact science; after all, just take a look at the Elis the last two years.

In each campaign, Yale was picked to finish atop the league but could not come through. Last season, an early home loss against Penn set the Bulldogs too far back in the conference, and in 2007, it was an abysmal 37-6 loss in The Game that derailed a perfect season and gave Harvard the Ivy title.

In spring practice Williams opened each position for the taking, saying that no one on the team was guaranteed a starting spot. And following the graduation of several All-Ivy performers, including tailback Mike McLeod ’09 and linebacker Bobby Abare ’09, the Bulldogs will feature plenty of new players.

Surprisingly enough, junior southpaw quarterback Brook Hart ’11, who split time under center last season with Ryan Fodor ’09 and started five games, is the Ancient Eight’s most experienced quarterback. But even his job is far from certain. Hart is competing with two known quantities — Bryan Farris ’12 and Rich Scudellari ’10 — as well as one new addition to the team, Nebraska transfer Patrick Witt ’12, who may be the most intriguing prospect of the quarterbacks.

On the defensive side of the ball, All-Ivy cornerback and team captain Paul Rice ’10 will be moving from cornerback in to the front seven where he will try ease the loss of Abare, the team’s 2008 captain and an All-American selection at linebacker.

Only punter and placekicker Tom Mante ’10 was named to the preseason first-team All-Ivy league team. Three players were selected to the second team: tight end John Sheffield ’10, defensive end Travis Henry ’10 and Rice.

Harvard was picked to finish first and is the only Ivy League team in the national Top 25 poll, ranked 23rd in the nation. Penn was picked second in the media poll, followed by Brown. Princeton was picked to finish fifth and Columbia, Cornell and Dartmouth rounded out the rankings.