The most fascinating thing about the process of putting together a projected IHSA playoff field is how everything has an indirect link to everything else.
If a Class 8A team takes an upset loss it may create a vacancy in the field for a Class 1A team, while a result between two Class 2A schools could shift the classification lines for multiple schools.
It all plays together in a form of orchestrated chaos.
Early this past weekend, it appeared as if the Chicago Public League was on its way to upsetting the apple cart for the entire state when it initially proposed that it would cancel and not postpone all of the games in Week 7. Had it not put together a full slate of make-ups on Monday, as many as 10 CPL teams would have lost their playoff slots to the decision.
That would have pretty much guaranteed that almost every five-win team in the state would have gotten into the field.
So instead of that decision causing even more chaos, it probably would have led to more clarity had it actually come to fruition.
I’m glad that the CPL did finally decide to make up the games on Monday because it provided more data points for analysis. And is always the case in the CPL, more information is almost always needed as the conferences also are pretty volatile outside of some upper-echelon programs like Simeon and Phillips.
This year, however, that problem isn’t isolated to the Chicago Public League. There are multiple conferences where things just aren’t clear even after Week 7.
Things at the top of most conferences seem to have sorted themselves out in most circumstances, but the problems in making a projection reside in the middle of conferences.
Most 10-team conferences tend to line up quite nicely with one team from each record group: 9-0, 8-1, 7-2, 6-3 and 5-4. But sometimes, and it has happened multiple times this year, things get clogged in the middle and a league ends up losing a bid because the middle of the pack teams add a loss at an inopportune time.
When you consider there are already 185 teams that have at least five wins in the bank with two weeks to play, the scramble for the back end of the bracket is clearly on.
But here’s an even more confusing number that would ordinarily cause me to scratch my head in wonder. There are 266 teams (only 256 make the playoffs) that currently have records of 4-3 or better. The teams in this massive group need only split their remaining two games to get to the 5-4 plateau.
When you consider we haven’t even talked about the group of 3-4 teams that are still keeping hope alive – and almost certainly some of the field will come from this group of final field – what gives?
Are we running into a situation where we are going to have a bunch of teams sweating it out on playoff pairings night?
I really don’t think so. And the reason is that the losses have to pile up somewhere. While we seem to have more teams in middle, that means there are probably a few more teams than usual that are likely to finish with five losses.
One thing that hasn’t changed, and won’t as long as we have this playoff system, is that everything has an effect on everything else.
Critical Week 8 Games
Hersey (7-0) at Rolling Meadows (7-0): Two of just 40 teams in the state that remain undefeated meet this week. It seems both have flown under the radar quite a bit. Only one will emerge unscathed from this one, perhaps proving a little more about themselves in the process.
Cary-Grove (7-0) at Prairie Ridge (6-1): Cary-Grove has done an impressive job of dispatching everything in its path this, while the defending 6A champs from Prairie Ridge have really caught a roll after an early-season loss to Huntley. I don’t think anyone on either sideline has forgotten the battles between the two from last season.
Moline (6-1) at Quincy (6-1): Both of these two teams have lit the scoreboards up in Western Big Six play this season. If there’s any game that looks like it could be an epic shootout on the slate this week, this is the one.
New Trier (6-1) at Maine South (6-1): New Trier has played one of the softer schedules in the state this season, but this game will provide ample opportunity to prove whether or not it has been coasting or if it is a viable threat to make postseason noise.
Washington (7-0) at Metamora (7-0): It looks like one of Central Illinois’ elite rivalries has regained its luster. Washington has been on an absolute roll as Class 5A’s No. 1 team (although it will likely land in 6A for the playoffs), while Metamora has returned to prominence after a few years removed from the top rungs of the Mid-Illini Conference.
• Joliet Herald-News sports editor Steve Soucie brings more than two decades of Illinois high school football knowledge to Shaw Media. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @thesouc.