Playoff picture is coming into focus

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Technically, only one of the 20 area high school football teams (Lake Zurich) has qualified for postseason play so far this fall.

Conversely, on paper, just six of the 20 are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

But that’s strictly a bookkeeping issue.

Six weeks in, and it’s already pretty clear which teams are headed to the playoffs, which teams aren’t, and which teams are — as of now — sitting on the precarious maybe yes/maybe no bubble.

To review, there are 32 teams in each of eight classes for the playoffs, with teams assigned to class bsed on enrollment. The largest 32 qualifying schools are in Class 8A, the smallest 32 are in 1A, and everybody else falls in between there somewhere.

To assure a playoff spot, a team needs to go 6-3, 7-2, 8-1 or 9-0. After those teams get in, a few 5-4 teams get in based on strength of schedule. That is, the tiebreaker to separate 5-4 teams is the number of wins of a team’s opponents during the season.

With that as the foundation, here’s where our 20 teams stand heading into Friday. Teams will be divided into three groups, based on projected end-of-season win totals. There will be the “ins,” the “outs” and the “maybes.”

In

Lake Zurich, Grayslake North, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Lakes, Warren, Stevenson.

Out

Carmel, Zion-Benton, Grant, Round Lake, Deerfield, Mundelein, Waukegan, North Chicago, Libertyville, Vernon Hills.

Maybe

Grayslake Central — With a loss to Grayslake North and wins over Woodstock and Woodstock North, the Rams will finish 5-4 and be one of those “maybe” teams. But, the news in terms of strength of schedule could be very good for Grayslake.

Projecting likely wins and losses for its nine opponents the rest of the way, and it appears that at the end of the season, the Rams’ nine opponents will have a total of 40 victories.

Last year, every 5-4 team that had its opponents win 39 total games got into the postseason. Two years ago, it took 41 total wins from foes to assure a playoff spot. Some of the 40s got in and some didn’t. But that’s the ONLY year a 5-4 team with a “40” strength of schedule didn’t get in.

So, if you’re a Ram fan, get on the bandwagon. And if you’re on it already, don’t hop off if things don’t go your way against Grayslake North.

Antioch (currently 2-4) — Obviously, the Sequoits have to run the table to finish 5-4. That means beating Wauconda on Friday, and following that up with wins over Grant and Vernon Hills.

If they do that, the Sequoits are a playoff team. By conservative estimate, their opponents’ win total at the end of the season will be at least 42. And it could be higher, as this assumes Glenbard South (6-0) and Lake Zurich (6-0) each losing once.

No 5-4 team in the history of the football players has missed the postseason with a 5-4 mark since the current eight-class format came into play.

Wauconda (currently 4-2) — This is an interesting situation in that the Bulldogs have no chance of making the playoffs with a 5-4 record as they have a weak non-conference schedule (Orr is 0-6, Woodstock North is 1-5 and Zion-Benton is 1-5). The Bulldogs must win two of its final three games — Antioch on Friday, followed by Zion-Benton and Grant.

That’s certainly doable except that Antioch is playing for its playoff life on Friday night, and Zion-Benton is a big school that’s played tough competition all season (Stevenson, Lake Forest, etc.). So, both those games are iffy, and Grant is always a tough opponent.

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