For the final few weeks of the regular season, we gave enormous time and energy trying to predict the football playoff brackets and now that most of them have been released, we have a good idea of what played a major role in seeding teams. As you know, this is the first year of a new system where one committee seeds all classes from 1A through 5A and outside data other than RPI can be used to place teams in the bracket.
All in all, we think the pairings for Classes 1A, 2A and 5A laid out well. What we learned is that the new Football Index which combined voting totals from MaxPreps, CHSAA, RPI and Packard was the main factor as seeds basically followed those results. Other than a few teams bumped up or down based on head-to-head results or to prevent league rematches in round one, the committee followed the rankings almost exactly 1-16 in 1A and 2A and 1-24 in Class 5A.
With that mind, we should have a good indication of how the committee will go when the 3A and 4A brackets are released this Sunday. One of the reasons behind having the same group seed all brackets is to develop consistency through all classes so the football index should again be the dominant factor.
For Class 1A, we feel the committee placed the top eight in the exact order. There was some discussion of placing Holyoke ahead of Strasburg but we think the Indians are deserving of the number one seed. They were ranked higher than the Dragons in most polls; plus they’ve reached the state final each of the last three years with two crowns. That gives them a bit more seeding cred at this point.
The rest of the top eight is perfect based on head to head results. Limon is #3 and lost to Strasburg and Holyoke but beat #4 Meeker; giving the Cowboys their only loss. Centauri jumped to five based on their win over Florence but the Huskies were ahead of CSCS since they beat the Lions in the regular season finale. Overall ratings allowed Highland to jump ahead of Hotchkiss for the eighth spot.
The back eight is also in good order. A bit surprised that Flatirons Academy moved ahead of Buena Vista but the football index had them in that order. Rye was also moved ahead of Rocky Ford since they beat the Meloneers early in the season (something we missed).
If there’s a concern with the 1A division it involves bracket balance. We’ve always liked the idea of splitting conference teams between the upper and bottom half when possible. It gives stronger leagues a chance to advance a few teams deep into the bracket. But with the final layout this year, the North Central has all four teams in the lower half and the top two teams from the Tri Peaks are also there. In the upper half, the top two teams from both the North and Western Slope are located together. Would like to see all of those conferences split up a bit more.
The same issue could be brought up in Class 2A but not to the extent of 1A. In the 2A bracket, Sterling and Platte Valley are 1-2 in the Patriot East and they’re together in the lower half. Ditto for Resurrection Christian and Eaton from the Patriot West. In the upper half, Rifle, Delta and Basalt ended up 1-2-3 in the Western Slope and they’re together on the same side of the bracket.
Another possible concern in Class 2A involves Faith Christian as the Eagles at number five may be considered a bit high. The Eagles have won eight straight since an opening loss to Resurrection Christian but they were a bit lower than five in most of the statewide rankings such as MaxPreps and Packard. But again the football index had them at five so the committee placed them there. It seems they were boosted by the final coaches vote.
Another surprise involved Lamar and Classical Academy at seven and eight. Classical Academy dropped down the list due to their last week loss to Woodland Park but they also beat Lamar during the regular season and won the Tri Peaks title ahead of the Savages. Since they were touching on the seed line, we feel the committee should have exchanged them with TCA moving to seventh and Lamar dropping to eighth.
The only other move in 2A flipped Bennett and Elizabeth to avoid a league rematch for the Tigers with Faith Christian.
In 5A, the index again dominated the seeding as the only alteration moved Pomona ahead of Columbine due to head-to-head results and a change between Lakewood and Castle View to avoid a league rematch in the opening round.
Our only thought involves the Metro 10 where we wish the committee would have taken a second team from the league and put them in the bracket at #23 or #24. The criteria guarantees only the conference champion a spot in the bracket with the committee having the option to pick a second team. When the Metro 10 was created prior to the 2018 season, the goal was to place struggling programs in one conference to help them generate some success and increase participation numbers. It has worked well for Smoky Hill as the Buffs are the two-time champions with a top 12 seed this year. Our thought is the committee could have extended that chance to a second team, such as runner-up Prairie View, with the idea of promoting another program. While the second place team is not likely to grab a win the exposure to the playoffs would have been good for the team, school and fan base and help generate more excitement for off-season programs and the coming seasons. If we don’t do more things like this on the big school level, the gap between the haves and have-nots will grow even wider. It’s part of the reason why we don’t support a “super division” of the top 10-12 teams. Transfers are already an issue in the big school ranks as the top kids seem to gravitate toward the most successful programs. In our opinion, putting those clubs in a top tier division will only increase that issue.
Now the eight man bracket did not fall under the direction of the football index and the pairings were determined by a different committee. To be honest, they had the most difficult job of the day as the eight man pairings were almost impossible to figure out. The committee could have gone in several directions but in the end, I think they rewarded winning over everything else. And even though our brackets didn’t match well with the final product, we’re okay with the decision.
We’ve long requested that teams that win conferences or early post-season tournaments be rewarded with higher seeds in the next round and the committee followed that idea. As a result, league champions such as Sanford, Fowler and Vail Christian were boosted ahead of Plains runner-up Dayspring Christian in the bracket. The only question involves Pikes Peak Christian and why the Eagles weren’t included in that group or why they weren’t at least bumped ahead of Mancos since the Bluejays ended up second in the Mountain.
Another tough job for the committee involved the prevention of league matchups in round one. The field was dominated by the Plains (4), Mountain (4) and Northwest (3) as those three leagues combined for 11 teams. Keeping them separated in round one caused some shuffling, especially in the back half of the bracket.
But with all those considerations in place, bracket balance was the victim this year. The final set of pairings places the top three teams from both the Plains and Northwest together in the upper half and the top two teams from the Ark Valley and top three from the Mountain together in the lower half.
Now while we’d like to see the league clubs split up quite a bit more, that task this year was nearly impossible while keeping the seeds and rankings intact. Trust us, we tried for several hours and the shuffling needed would have knocked league champions a bit farther down the list and league runner-ups probably higher in the bracket than deserved. All in all, we like what the eight man committee did as again they rewarded conference champions. The exception was Elbert as the Bulldogs dropped all the way to 16th due to a final week upset loss to South Park.
As always, we want your feedback. You can comment below, shoot us a text at 970.380.7737 or email us at [email protected] And please provide constructive comments on how we can improve the process. Saying RPI is terrible or the committee is dumb serves absolutely no purpose.
Thank you for you reading and enjoy the playoffs. It’s a great time of year!