The postseason has arrived! The most exciting time of the year where an entire season of work comes down to a tournament of single elimination games. Who will dominate their way to victory? Who will fail to meet expectations? Who will surprise us? All of these questions will be answered over the next month.
As a fan of high school football, it might be a bit overwhelming to sort through the nine playoff brackets. There are 108 games on tap for this week, which means 216 teams will be on fighting for their playoff lives this Friday night.
We all realize that not every playoff matchup is built equally. Some teams made the playoffs with just one win on their record, while other teams lost just two games and have to go on the road. If you are a fan who wants to go and see a great high school playoff game but don’t know where to go, we are here to help. We have ranked every game on schedule for this Friday night.
Methodology: There are a few things that make up a great football game. One is a close game, the other is a game between teams that are talented. Using the Sonny Moore Power Ratings, which ranks every team in the state of Tennessee, we were able to develop a point spread for every single game. We were also able to take an average ranking between the two teams to weigh just how good they are supposed to be. Additionally, we calculated total regular season wins between the teams. We ranked every single matchup by each piece of criteria and took the average between those three rankings.
(Disclaimer: This analysis is in no way perfect. Every year we see upsets in the playoffs. It is a major accomplishment to just make the playoffs, so all of these teams are deserving of praise for their season. This analysis is here to try and help determine which games might be the most interesting this week. We encourage everyone to go out and support their favorite school, regardless of where they rank on this list!)
The Sonny Moore Power Ratings give a power rating for each team, which can be used to calculate a predicted score differential between two teams. Allotting two additional points to the home team for home field advantage, we can rank every game by projected point differential.
As you can see, we project a number of close games this week. In fact, there are 25 games in the ranking that are projected to finish as one possession games.
These are projected to be the most lopsided games in the state this week. Not overly surprising as most of these favorites were top teams in their region, going up against the bottom ranked teams from the opposing region. Our rankings project a number of lopsided games this week, as 32 games are showing a point differential that would result in running clock games (35+ points).
Point Spread was an important cog in determining the best games this week, but it is in no way the only factor. We don’t just want a close game, we want to see a close game between two high quality teams. By averaging the power ratings of each school, we can determine the overall strength of the matchup.
It isn’t surprising to see some of these games toward the top of the list, as some of the top football names in the state rank toward the top. This average ranking is also generally skewed toward benefiting the larger schools, we will correct this bias in our next criteria.
As mentioned before, this piece of criteria generally skews toward benefiting the larger schools and hurting the smaller schools. We see a lot of 1A matchups in this portion of the ranking. This isn’t surprising as smaller schools are going to struggle putting together teams full of deep talent given the smaller pool of kids they have to choose from. However, not all small schools rank low on the list. One of 1A’s top teams ranks in the Top 50 in the entire state in overall ranking.
As mentioned in the previous section, the average ranking gives us an idea of the quality of each team playing, but it neglects to adjust for school size. The easiest way to correct this is by looking at total wins between the two teams in the matchup. For most teams, a majority of their schedule is made up of opponents in their own classification. This means if they won more games, they theoretically should be considered higher ranked with respect to their classification.
This ranking showcases a number of the undefeated regular season teams, whose 10 wins helped boost their matchups ranking. However, we do see some matchups between teams that both had 7+ wins.
While total wins aren’t always the best indicator of quality play, when you see total win values in the single digits, it is cause for concern. For instance, Bolton made the playoffs, despite winning only one game. To make matters worse, they weren’t even the lowest seeded team coming out of their region. It is issues like this that need to be addressed during the next round of reclassification and building of regions.
Using the methodology outlined above, these are the rankings for each playoff game being played tomorrow night.