With just a few weeks remaining till the start of the high school football playoffs (brackets will be released on Halloween), attention is starting to turn towards the CIF Southern Section’s new playoff format. The method of selecting divisions for football teams has changed a few times over the last several years, and has changed dramatically for this year, leaving high school coaches across Southern California checking in with everyone looking for concrete info about what division they’ll be in.
Unlike every previous year in CIF-SS history, teams don’t know what divisions they’ll be in, because that divisioning process will happen at the end of the regular season, and will be based on how teams performed this year. The goal is to have a more balanced and exciting playoffs that are constructed based on how teams look in 2021, not in the years or decades prior. It’s a noble goal, but one that’s also caused some anxiety–typically coaches would be starting to put an eye on potential divisional opponents at this point in the season.
The other big X-factor in how things will be done this year is that CalPreps.com’s power rankings will be used to determine divisions–the website has long ranked every team in the state (and in the Southern Section), and those rankings will be used to determine where teams fall this year.
Currently, for example, Long Beach Poly is ranked No. 39 in the CalPreps CIF-SS rankings. Presuming an eight-team Division 1, and a 16-team Division 2 bracket, that would make the Jackrabbits the No. 15 team in Division 3, with a first-round game on the road against No. 2 Apple Valley. Other potential opponents if the current Division 3 bracket were to be seeded out would include Santa Barbara’s Bishop Diego, Glendora, and Simi Valley.
Whether the Jackrabbits belong in Division 3 or not is a question for pundits, not the CalPreps rankings, which proudly use computer formulas and not history to generate their numbers.
“The most important thing to understand about how our computer power ratings system works is that it is 100% objective,” says the CalPreps website’s explanation of its system. “The size of the schools, their division, the league they’re in, how good the school or league are historically, their geographic location, how well liked the school is, how good the league is in other sports–none of these things are programmed into the system. None of them are there to bias it the way that they inevitably bias humans saddled with the daunting task of trying to figure who belongs in post-season play. Rather, they are just a bunch of teams with a bunch of results. Cold, hard, and unfeeling, yes…but as accurate, objective and fair as is possible.”
Teams are likely to move up and down a fair amount in the next three weeks, and Poly could end up as low as Division 4–and aren’t likely to be higher than Division 3 because they don’t have any highly-rated opponents left on the schedule.
Other teams’ potential placements:
-Millikan is currently ranked No. 84 in the Southern Section, and could end up in Division 7. The Rams have all but clinched second-place in the Moore League and are almost certainly a lock for the playoffs. A Division 7 slot would give them a real shot at a CIF-SS championship since, like Poly, the Rams’ talent would seem to be a cut higher than that placement.
-Every other team except Cabrillo is currently still alive for the postseason, with Lakewood currently in the driver’s seat for third-place and the Moore League’s last playoff spot. But Jordan, Wilson, and Compton are all still alive as well. There is even a scenario where all four teams end up tied at 3-3 and an envelope draw determines which one of them advances to the playoffs.
Based on their current rankings, Jordan could end up as low as Division 13, and Lakewood/Compton/Wilson could end up as low as Division 14. With a game on the schedule against Poly for Jordan, Lakewood, and Compton those three teams are likely to rise through the rankings regardless of outcome, because their strength of schedule will improve.
In other words: it’s too early to really try to figure out where anyone will be.
–St. Anthony is looking like a playoff team out of the Del Rey League, and is in the mix for a Division 8/9 spot at the current moment.