With the IHSA state playoffs nearly upon us, I fully expect several storylines, upsets and a few surprises to arise over the next handful of days.
What could be one of the most talked about subjects on the IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show, live on CSN and CSNChicago.com from 8 to 10 p.m. on Saturday night?
Class 8A. And how stacked it is.
Start with the Week 9 power rankings. Of the top 25 ranked teams, the top six are undefeateds in Loyola, Homewood-Flossmoor, Brother Rice, Palatine, Neuqua Valley and Hinsdale Central. Want to go deeper? Add to the potential 8A field with Marist (8-0), Naperville North (7-1), the perennial 8A/7A bubble team Glenbard West (6-2), Lincoln-Way East (6-2), Stevenson (7-1), Oak Park-River Forest (7-1), Lyons Township (6-2), Barrington (7-1), St. Charles East (8-0) and Oswego (8-0).
In case you didn't do the math, that's potentially half of the 8A IHSA state playoff field (16 teams), Their current combined record is 118-10.
Yet we also all know rankings and high seeds seldom tell the whole story when it comes to the state playoffs. While it would be easy to just go with the higher seeds/ranked teams, you might also want to consider at least a handful of teams with lesser records heading into the IHSA Class 8A state playoff field.
Edwardsville (7-1) seems to be left out of the 8A discussion at times, simply because of the lack of 8A teams south of I-80. Yet the Tigers, led by the state's top Class of 2017 name in four star-ranked A.J. Epenesa (Iowa), features a terrific defense and trust me, the Southwestern conference teams handle travel as well as anyone in the state come playoff time.
Or how about New Trier (6-2)? All the Trevians did was snap Maine South's 77-game Central Suburban South winning streak. Would you want to draw Maine South (5-3) in the first round, with an offense that is capable of putting up 40-plus points against some of the state's top defenses?
Anyone still remember a team like Waubonsie Valley (4-4)? The Warriors playoffs begin this Friday hosting Wheaton North (4-4) in what could be one of the state's top regular season finales. All Paul Murphy and his Warriors did last season was sneak into the 8A state playoffs as a 5-4 team and wound up making it to the 8A semifinals. Could Waubonsie Valley be this year's, well, Waubonsie Valley all over again?
The overall depth and quality in this 8A field will be as strong --or even stronger—than ever this playoff season. Throw in the second year of the IHSA’s true 1-32 seeding system, and the 8A playoffs will be incredibly fun and nerve-wracking to watch starting in the opening round.