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For those of you that don't know, each state runs its high school football playoff system differently, and there are a wide variety of different systems.
In some states, such as Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, there is a minimum number of wins (typically six in a nine-game season) that you need in order to automatically qualify. Then some teams with one less win can qualify if there are still spots available.
In Kansas, (this could be wrong, but this is what I've gathered), it all comes down to your district. Each school is placed into a four-team district before the season starts. You play a full regular season schedule, and then your last three games are a round-robin against the other three teams in your district. The team that emerges with the best record in those three games makes the playoffs. So, theoretically, you could be 0-6 or 0-7, but if you get hot against your district opponents, you make the playoffs. I think that's crazy, but it also keeps every team's hopes alive for the full season.
In both Iowa and Minnesota, there's also a minimum number of wins required. In order to fit in all the games, they cut down on rest time between games. For instance, the last regular season game in Minnesota was played on Friday, and the first round of playoff games are tonight (Tuesday). The second round games are played on Saturday, and then the third round games the following Friday. After that, there is a regular week-long interval between games. It's a similar format in Iowa, but the playoffs start tomorrow night (Wednesday) instead. With less recovery time, it really rewards the great teams that are able to blow out their first three opponents and sit the starters in the second half of each game.
In Ohio, it all comes down to computer rankings. There are six divisions, with division one being the biggest schools, and there are four regions within each division. Each region contains 32 teams. Eight teams in each region make the playoffs, and it all comes down to the computers. You get points for the strength of each win. In other words, if you beat a division one team, you get a certain amount of points, if you beat a division two team, you get a slightly lower amount of points, and so on. And you also get second-level points - whenever a team you beat wins a game, you get a certain amount of points for that. So strength of schedule is paramount, and margin of victory is completely irrelevant. So based on who you beat and who THOSE teams beat, a 7-3 team could be ahead of a 10-0 team in the computer rankings.
Having grown up with the Ohio system, I'm partial to that. Until the 1999 season, only four teams in each region made the playoffs, and everything else was the same. I liked that better, because it was a major accomplishment just to make the playoffs, let alone to do any damage. It's still a great accomplishment to make the playoffs, but it's a little easier to do so now. Under the old system, you'd regularly have 10-0 teams that didn't make the playoffs because they didn't play a tough enough schedule. For those of you that remember Scott McMullen, the former quarterback at Ohio State who came in with Craig Krenzel (and actually played a lot in Ann Arbor in the 2003 game), he went to Granville High School. They were stacked his senior year (my roommate freshman year in college was actually McMullen's number one receiver, and they had a bunch of other very good players as well) and went 10-0, but didn't get in. Theoretically, you could still go 10-0 and not make it, but it's not as common now with eight teams making it. Another drawback is that the regions are predetermined and largely geographical, so you'll sometimes see two powerhouse teams facing off before the state semifinals or finals, so you're liable to see some blowouts in the state finals, depending on the matchups.
Anyway, feel free to chime in regarding the playoff systems in other states, which ones you like the best, etc. Figured it'd make for an interesting discussion.
Sounds like MI used to have a system similar to OH. Back when I played (90s) each region took 4 teams and those teams were based on some kind of computer ranking. Four regions so 16 teams for each division. I remember some team being left out because of the number crunch that were supposed to be favorites, for instance CC one year, weren't able to defend their championship. They changed it to the current system to get more teams involved I believe.
Down here is Texas we have a unique system. There are 6 different classes controlled by enrollment, from smallest to largest, 6 man, 1A-5A.
These classes are seperated into 8-9 team districts based on geography and growth or decline in schools. These districts are realigned every 2 years.
The top 4 teams by district records make the playoffs which are split into Div 1 and Div 2 brackets for each class. The Div 1 bracket is comprised of the two schools from the district with the highest enrollment, and D 2 bracket for the 2 schools with lower enrollment. Each class 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, and 5A have two state champions. We call it the small school and big school champion, and they do not play each other after the championship game of their individual bracket.
Michigan's old system was quite complicated, so much so that sometimes you wouldn't know if you were in or out even with a 7,8,or sometimes 9 win team.
I like the current system of 6 wins and you're in.
This post was edited by Due51 18 months ago
That's interesting. Has there every been a push to have the small school champ play the big school champ?
Just trying to learn more about it, does the 6 wins and you're in system lead teams to pad their nonconference schedule with easy games to make sure they qualify?
Which one do you like better? I can see advantages and disadvantages for each type of system.
It is talked about by fans and debated every year which team is better, especially in the 4A, and 5A classes. Ironically, in the 5A class it is fairly popular for the small school state champion to be touted as the better team . I don't know if the two champions have ever played each other, I do think it would be a great addition to the system for the two champions to play.
This post was edited by Amazinglyblue78 18 months ago
Thanks for the info! That'd be neat to see the two champs square off for a few years in a row. If it works, they could stick with it, and if it doesn't, they could return to the current format.
There are also playoff points involved with the current Michigan system. Points are earned for each win your team has, then multiplied for each win your opponents have. The multiplier increases when your opponent is a bigger school. Points determine seeding in the playoffs.
So, to answer your question, you get more points by playing better/more successful opponents. A 9-0 team that played a bunch of 0-9 teams from lower divisions would have fewer playoff points than a 7-2 team that played tougher competition. In that scenario, the 7-2 would host the 9-0 team in the playoffs, should the two teams meet in the playoffs.
I gotcha - thanks for the explanation. So in terms of qualifying for the playoffs, all that matters is that you get the minimum number of wins, but when it comes to seeding, that's when strength of schedule comes into play? Am I understanding that correctly?
The school I coach at is a Div 4 school. Our league is made up of a couple Division 5 schools and a Division 3, so for our OOC, we try to play a couple bigger schools. That way, we are better prepared for the playoffs and we get more points (if we beat those teams).
Unfortunately, if we get by our first round opponent this year, we'll face Country Day. That's hardly even fair.
Makes sense - thanks for the info!
And you never know...as they say, that's why the ball's shaped the way it is! Hope you guys make a great run in the playoffs.
We always had a good feel for who was in when I played, then again my two years varsity we had 8 and 9 wins. But there were stories of 8 win teams not making it and that does seem extreme. Then again does a 5 win team really deserve to make the playoffs? You figure most of those teams just lose 1st round but wasn't Rice a 5 or 6 win team last year?
Great points on both ends of the spectrum. I like the idea of giving more teams a shot, because it's always fun to see those cinderella stories unfold. But at the same time, I'd also like to make qualifying for the playoffs a really special accomplishment.
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