Goss: Seeds may not reflect football playoff teams’ capabilities
October 17, 2012 10:16PM
Bolingbrook quarterback Aaron Bailey. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 19, 2012 3:07PM
When the IHSA playoff brackets and pairings are announced Saturday night, fans of Bolingbrook, Joliet Catholic and Lincoln-Way West may be disappointed because all three are better than they will be seeded.
Or, maybe the higher seeds that draw them as first-round opponents will be the most disappointed.
Defending Class 8A champion Bolingbrook (6-2) endured a hiccup when All-State quarterback Aaron Bailey, who will play at Illinois, went down with a right knee sprain early in the Lincoln-Way East game in Week 6. The Raiders lost, which might have happened regardless, but they also dropped a 13-6 overtime decision to Sandburg the following week. Sandburg is very good, but Bolingbrook wins that game with a healthy Bailey.
Joliet Catholic (5-3) has faced a difficult schedule and has done it with a series of injuries, most notable to wingback Ty Isaac. The USC recruit suffered a right shoulder injury in a 40-34 Week 1 loss to Providence and later has battled a sore groin. He has been in and out of the lineup as the Hilltoppers attempted to stay afloat against the difficult East Suburban Catholic schedule.
Meanwhile, several of Isaac’s teammates have gone down as well, including wingback Tyler Reitz and linebacker/tight end Zach Rezin. Depending on how healthy they can get, the Hilltoppers will be a threat to win 5A, but you would not know it from where they will be seeded.
Lincoln-Way West (5-3) could lose Friday night’s regular-season finale at Bradley. The Warriors still likely would qualify for the playoffs based on having what I project as 41 playoff points (opponent victories). The cutoff last year for 5-4s getting in was 40, the highest it ever has been.
The Warriors will be a fairly low seed even with a victory at Bradley, but that will not necessarily reflect their capabilities.
Once the 32 teams in each class are determined, the IHSA will create a “south” bracket and “north” bracket in each class with 16 teams in each, although geography could dictate four eight-team quadrants may be better for one class or another. Because of our location here in the Joliet area, we often do not know for sure whether our teams will go “south” or “north” in a given class.
The seeds for each class, each 16-team bracket or each quadrant are done first by record, then by opponent victories. So forget the Associated Press rankings or anyone else’s rankings. Forget how good you think your team is compared with other teams in your bracket. None of that matters.
Whether all fans will understand how it works is another issue. Every year, I field questions about why this team or that team was not seeded higher than it was, and I expect that to happen again.
The higher seed always gets the home game in Round 1. Teams that finish 7-2 are the most likely to enter Saturday night unsure whether they will play at home or away. However, some 6-3 teams have hosted and some 8-1 teams have traveled.
For subsequent rounds, the team that hosted fewer times in this playoff series will be home. When teams have hosted the same number of times, the higher seed hosts.
I have previously written about my wish that the IHSA eventually would adopt a true 1 through 32 seeding system in each class, and one where the better seed decides whether it wants to host the first-round game.
If you have a first-round opponent you should beat, you may want to travel in order to make it more likely you will be home later in the playoffs, against a stronger opponent. Yes, you are gambling that you may play one less home game overall than you otherwise would have, but having to make that decision would add an interesting element to the process.
But, alas, that never has happened.
Here is a summary of our 12 probable qualifiers and their classes:
8A: Bolingbrook (6-2).
7A: Lincoln-Way East (8-0), Providence (7-1), Plainfield North (6-2), Plainfield Central (6-2).
6A: Lemont (7-1).
5A: Morris (8-0), Joliet Catholic (5-3), Lincoln-Way West (5-3).
4A: Coal City (7-1), Peotone (4-4).
3A: Wilmington (6-2).
Because this weekend’s results statewide affect the final field, scenarios exist where Morris could wind up in 4A and Lincoln-Way West, Providence and/or Plainfield North in 6A. But I don’t see any of that as likely.
On Friday, we will review our 12 projected qualifiers and what on their resumes may suggest playoff success.