Using stats to pick football’s champions

After nine weeks of grueling competition, we finally have our prep football playoff field set.
Tribland has a total of 12 playoff teams — three in Class C-2, two in D-1, five in D-2, and two playing in the six-man tournament.

Starting in C-2, representing Tribland are the usual suspects in St. Cecilia and Sutton. Joining them is Fillmore Central, which, with a record of 7-2, tallied its most wins since 2006 when the Panthers finished 8-2.

Despite falling to Sutton on Oct. 17, the Bluehawks’ wild card points have them seeded fourth while the Mustangs are sixth. Fillmore Central is the No. 10 seed.

STC will match up with No. 13 Southern (7-2), whose only two losses are to No. 9 Malcolm and No. 3 Freeman, both of which are 8-1. Sutton faces No. 11 Hartington Cedar Catholic (7-2). Again, HCC’s two losses are to playoff teams — No. 1 Battle Creek and No. 5 Aquinas Catholic. Fillmore Central will take on 8-1 Oakland-Craig, whose only loss is to Battle Creek.

The playoff field in C-2 was trimmed this year from 32 teams to just 16, meaning tougher competition in earlier rounds than in the previous 32-team format.

Should Sutton and Fillmore Central continue to win, the two will meet in the semifinals. Either team would only see St. Cecilia in the championship game, if it were to play out that way for those teams.

After a 0-3 start, Blue Hill won its final five games to capture the No. 6 seed in Class D-1. One of its losses was to No. 2-seeded Bruning-Davenport/Shickley, who enters the playoffs with a 7-1 record — the only loss was to the No. 1 seed in the East bracket, Friend.

The Eagles’ first-round game is against No. 15 Omaha Christian Academy (2-6), while the Bobcats will play No. 11 North Central (6-2). The only way we could see an all-Tribland D-1 matchup is if both teams advance to the title game.

Should Blue Hill advance to the second round, it will likely face No. 3 Hemingford (8-0), which will make for a tough second game.

Five Tribland teams enter the D-2 tournament, but, at most, three will advance, as the first round includes a pair of week 9 rematches.

No. 1 Exeter-Milligan (8-0) will play No. 16 Red Cloud (4-4), after the Timberwolves beat the Warriors 50-6, and No. 5 Giltner (6-2) faces No. 12 Lawrence-Nelson (5-3). The Hornets beat the Raiders 56-18 Thursday.

Kenesaw claimed the No. 3 seed in D-2 and will play No. 14 Meridian (4-4). The Blue Devils would only face another Tribland opponent in the semifinals. Kenesaw fell 52-26 to Exeter-Milligan but beat Lawrence-Nelson 62-22.

In six-man competition, Silver Lake (7-1) will face Riverside (7-1). Both teams’ only loss was to 8-0 Spalding Academy, which will be Wilcox-Hildreth’s (7-1) first-round opponent.
While looking at the brackets and some of the past results, I thought it would be fun to find the formula for becoming a state champion.

Disclaimer: This was meant only as a fun, non-biased observation of trends seen in previous state champions and applying to this year’s fields. All averages used are from regular seasons, going into the playoffs.

Sadly, there is not an easy way of finding historical numbers and games in six-man, so this formula applies only to Classes C-2, D-1 and D-2.

Let’s take a look at the C-2 bracket first.

Two-loss teams: No team has won the state title with more than one loss since 2005, and in the previous seven years, only one state champion wasn’t undefeated. So eliminating all teams with more than one loss removes seven teams, including Fillmore Central, from the picture.

Defense: Over the past seven years, the most points per game allowed by a state champion was 12.9. Only six teams follow this qualification, including Sutton and St. Cecilia.

Semifinals experience: All but one state champion the last seven years was in the semifinals the previous year. Using that fact, St. Cecilia, North Platte St. Patrick’s and Sutton are eliminated.

Finals experience: Once again, only one of the previous seven title winners was in their first championship game. Going with the odds, Malcolm is eliminated leaving Battle Creek and Aquinas Catholic.

Offense: Both pass the offensive eye test, averaging more points per game the lowest state champion over the previous seven years (Blue Hill scored just 27.9 points per game in its 2008 championship year).

Tiebreaker: Battle Creek appears to have the formula to win this year’s title after averaging more points for and against than Aquinas.

Hopefully you’ve got the hang of the formula. Here it is in Class D-1.

Two loss teams: No two-loss team has won the D-1 championship since 1997. Getting rid of all teams with more than one loss eliminates 22 of the 32 teams, including Blue Hill.

Defense: Over the past seven years, the most a team has given up is 15.9 points per game.

Only three teams in this year’s playoff field have given up less — Amherst, Hemingford and Creighton.

Semifinals experience: All three teams were in the semifinals last year, as Amherst was in D-2 last season.

Finals experience: Again, no team is eliminated as all three would not be making their first trip to the finals.

Offense: No state champion over the previous seven years has scored less than 50.8 points per game. This season, Amherst failed to do so, leaving Creighton and Hemingford.

Tiebreaker: Hemingford gave up an average of 3.5 more points this season than Creighton, but it also scored 15.6 more. State championship formula goes to Hemingford.
Class D-2

Two loss teams: Only seven of the 32 teams remain in Class D-2 after eliminating all those with two or more losses, which includes Giltner, Red Cloud and Lawrence-Nelson

Defense: Over the last seven years, the most points given up per game by a state champion was 15.5. This eliminates nobody, because all of the remaining seven have given up more.

Semifinals experience: After taking only the teams that were in the semifinals the previous season, just Exeter-Milligan and Stuart remain, which means Kenesaw was eliminated.

Finals experience: Both teams have been to the championship before, so this step eliminates neither.

Offense: The lowest points per game mark in the previous seven years was 43.3, which both teams surpassed this year.

Tiebreaker: Exeter-Milligan gave up 4.8 more points per game, but scored 9.7 more points per game this year than Stuart. The formula gives the Timberwolves back-to-back state titles.

Again, don’t read too much into this “state championship formula.” It was just a fun way of examining the brackets and guessing which team will be hoisting the trophy.

If you’re team didn’t have the winning formula, do not be troubled. There’s a reason the games aren’t played on paper.

To read more, see Wednesday's Hastings Tribune or the Tribune e-edition.>>


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