High school football: Time to sweat? Nearly 20 teams could miss playoffs despite reaching 5 wins

Last week, there was a lot of discussion about how the multiple showdowns of undefeated teams would shape the high school football playoff field.

And those games did just that.

The list of undefeated teams was whittled down to 34, and while those results will have significant effects on how the brackets look at the top of the seed stack, it wasn’t the only field impact we found in Week 7.

For the record, we’ve weeded out all of the “big” games early in the season, with only one more potential undefeated matchup left over the regular season’s final two weeks – a potential matchup of Fairfield and Sesser-Valier in Week 9 should both teams emerge unscathed from their Week 8 matchups.

But to me, some of the more interesting side effects came from the bottom of the brackets.

A number of what I classify as “coin flip games” came out in favor of the team I had tabbed as the underdog. Furthermore, a number of teams that were on the fringe of entering the discussion as a potential 5-4 qualifier experienced an upset loss, either wiping out or severely hindering their playoff hopes.

As such, the race to 5-4 is going to be an absolute mess.

Seventy-four teams have 4-3 records right now, needing one win to join the already 201 teams that have five wins.

With some basic math, you can see the potential problem: 74 plus 201 equals 275.

The IHSA playoffs only take 256.

Now keep in mind, some of those 74 teams won’t win either of their remaining two games, and also keep in mind that some of the teams with five wins already in the bank could drop their last two games and have poor playoff points.

But there might not be room at the inn for everyone.

So the hand-wringing over points begins for many schools. Some schools that were originally on that bubble took care of business by simply locking up that sixth win to find their place in the field. St. Ignatius and Ridgewood are two teams that come to mind. They won games that were close on paper and have clear paths to playoff berths now that seemed murky a week ago.

But the murkiness remains for a whole bunch of other teams, despite the fact that the number of teams projected to reach 5-4 and better drops by a few teams each week, the quality of the playoff point situation of those 5-4 teams remains strong.

With plenty of playoff points, teams such as Palatine, Wheaton Academy, Pekin and Marmion have nothing to worry about as long as they get to five wins. And Providence Catholic could make good business by lending out from their excess, as the Celtics could end up with as many at 59 points.

Others such as Evanston and Aurora Central Catholic might have to sweat it out.

The other thing to watch among 5-4 teams is what class they are coming from. If you see a lot of small schools with low points being eliminated, that’s when schools start to slide into lower classifications. That theory can go the other way as well as large schools struggling with points can push the bigger schools up a classification.

Class 1A has an impact on Class 8A and vice versa. It’s one of the rarely understood facets of the playoff system.

But for the teams left out in two weeks, that facet might be tough to swallow.


Teams that remain playoff eligible: 352

Undefeated teams: 34

Teams that already have at least five victories: 201

7-0 vs. 7-0 showdowns: 0

3-4 teams fighting to remain playoff eligible in Week 8: 78

• Steve Soucie brings more than two decades of Illinois high school football knowledge as a contributor to Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter

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