Playoff picture coming into focus

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It won’t become crystal clear till the Illinois High School Association officially releases the brackets on Saturday night, but the football playoff picture is looking a lot less fuzzy.

As bracketologist Steve Soucie of The (Kankakee) Daily Journal pored over the Week 8 results and looked ahead to the Week 9 games, he came up with a few conclusions:

* The cutoff for playoff points (the number of wins by a teams’ opponents) for qualifiers for the 256-team field looks to be 38. All teams with 39 or more points should get in, with a few at 38 reaching the postseason and a few missing out on the next tiebreaker of wins by defeated opponents. Among the teams that could be staying home from the postseason if they finish 5-4 are Reavis, Vocational and Wauconda.

* Class 8A may be able to be seeded in two 16-team brackets (north and south). The south wouldn’t require seeding in eight-team quads if the two Metro East qualifiers (O’Fallon and Edwardsville) draw each other in a 16-team scenario.

* Defending 8A champ Mount Carmel seems bound for 7A for the first time since 2005.

“I have them at 223 [of 256], two off the line,” Soucie said. “They’re pretty safe. … I think you can say with almost [complete] certainty, Mount Carmel is going to be a 7A team. There’s a number of teams in the 8A field that are pretty locked in.”

That’s especially true because there are a couple of large-school bubble teams that could play their way into the 8A field with wins this week, moving the Caravan farther away from the 8A-7A cutoff. New Trier (4-4) will be in the field with a win at Evanston (5-3), while Hinsdale Central should qualify with a home win over Downers Grove North (5-3). Both games are Friday.

Seeds, which determine home games between the first round and the semifinals, also are in the balance this week. Overall record is the top criteria for seeding, followed by playoff points.

Soucie’s top four seeds in the 8A north bracket are Loyola (8-0), Barrington (7-1), Glenbard North (7-1) and Oak Park-River Forest (7-1), while his top four in the 8A south are Bolingbrook (8-0), Edwardsville (8-0), Homewood-Flossmoor (7-1) and Neuqua Valley (7-1).

In 7A, Lake Zurich (8-0) can clinch the top seed in the north — as well as the North Suburban Lake title — with a win at Stevenson (6-2) on Friday. Interestingly, the only other 8-0 team in the projected 7A field is Young, which can wrap up a perfect regular season and the Public League Chicago Big Shoulders title — with a win over Taft (7-1) Thursday at Lane.

One of the toughest mid-sized brackets could be 5A north, which could be topped by a pair of 9-0 teams: four-time defending 5A champ Montini and Sycamore. Joliet Catholic (7-1) and Lincoln-Way West (7-1) also could land in the north, depending on where the dividing line winds up.

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