Despite all of the variables in the IHSA football state playoff system, it is a fairly predictable model regarding how the fields typically look from year to year.
Certainly, there are breakthroughs from year to year. Teams emerge from relative obscurity to fight their way into the playoff field, while other programs that simply seem to make playoff appearances on a year-to-year basis slide back a bit and miss the field.
But overall, the number is remarkably stable. In fact, over the past decade, the turnover rate (teams that make the playoffs year in and year out) hovers above 80% in every single year.
Using a three-year win model, you often can get an accurate representation of how the playoff field might be constructed on a year-to-year basis.
Obviously, there are quirks in the system that could cause these landscapes to change, but more often than not these brackets should look similar to the ones that are rolled out next postseason.
Once again, the enrollment bubbles are interesting to take note of. Obviously, the most noticeable change is that last year's Class 5A state champion finds itself sliding back into the Class 4A mix. Just like the conversation we'll likely have about East St. Louis riding the bubble between 5A and 6A, we'll have it about Rochester between 4A and 5A. The projection currently has Rochester as the third largest Class 4A school.
One other note about this draw: one school (Marine) was placed in the draw despite not meeting the constraints of the three-year win model. The Bulldogs are there because they are the closest team in their Chicago Public League division to meeting the standard.
Now on to the projected Class 4A bracket, which by rule, is divided into a pair of 16-team north and south brackets.
• Rochester: While we don't know for sure if Rochester will find itself in Class 4A or Class 5A, no discussion of this class can be conducted without a thorough representation of the Rockets. And the cupboard is far from bare for last year's 5A champions.
• IC Catholic: The success formula pushed the Knights into Class 4A, but it feels like they have been a staple deep in the playoff mix in this class for years. It's a program that has pumped out great players in recent years, but it is also one where success seems to be breeding success.
• Richmond-Burton: The Rockets broke through for the school's second state title last year, doing so in impressive fashion. It might be hard to repeat, but regardless, you'll have a hard time finding too many more consistently strong program at this level.
ON THE RISE
• Wheaton St. Francis: Just three seasons ago the Spartans were coming off back-to-back 1-8 campaigns, but now momentum clearly appears to be on this program's side.
• Paris: The Tigers were 0-9 in 2015, but have quickly scaled the mountain to become a regular-season powerhouse.
• Murphysboro: The Red Devils surged into the Class 4A title game to the surprise of many, but the program has made consistent strides in recent years and has become a program to look out for in southern Illinois.
THE WILD CARDS
• Johnsburg: The Skyhawks have taken a bit of a step back after being one of the dominant programs in this classification during the latter half of the last decade. Programs with a pedigree like that don't often stay dormant for too long.
• Peoria Notre Dame: The Irish play a difficult schedule during the year and if their enrollment allows (they are on the high side of 4A teams and could easily slide back to 5A), they would be a dangerous program to deal with in 4A.
• Effingham: The Flaming Hearts have opened eyes over the last two years with strong regular seasons. It hasn't netted great postseason success as of yet, but they look to be capable of continuing to knock on the door.
TEAMS ON THE VERGE
(Teams that appear the closest to breaking into the projection that are not currently in)
• Marian Central: The Hurricanes have had a hard time maneuvering a very difficult schedule in recent seasons, but the merger of the CCL/ESCC downshifted the schedule a little bit. If they can just find a way to get in the dance, the caliber of that slate will help them be prepared.
• Manteno: The Panthers have gone up-and-down over the past few years, but there's a window of opportunity for them in the Illinois Central Eight.
• Carterville: It's hard to imagine a scenario where this program continues to see itself on the outside looking in.
THE FULL BRACKET
• (16) Marine at (1) IC Catholic
• (9) Stillman Valley at (8) Urban Prep/Bronzeville
• (13) Wheaton St. Francis at (4) Genoa-Kingston
• (12) Marengo at (5) Bishop McNamara
• (15) Kewanee at (2) Richmond-Burton
• (10) Agricultural Science at (7) Johnsburg
• (14) Raby at (3) Coal City
• (11) Chicago Sullivan at (6) Dixon
• (16) Salem at (1) Rochester
• (9) Murphysboro at (8) Mount Zion
• (13) Olney East Richland at (4) Paris
• (12) Pontiac at (5) Columbia
• (15) Breese Central at (2) Effingham
• (10) Illinois Valley Central at (7) Herrin
• (14) Benton at (3) Taylorville
• (11) Peoria Notre Dame at (6) Prairie Central
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