Of good draws, bad draws and strike-affected draws
I've been studying the playoff football brackets for so long, I'm thinking of changing the name of this column to Bloodshot Eyes on Five.
This week we look deeper into DuPage County's potential heading into this wonderful stretch of the season.
1. Best draw:
I like many, but none in Class 8A. We'll get to that in a minute.
There are tremendous opportunities for DuPage County's Class 7A teams, even with No. 1 Mt. Carmel and No. 2 Nazareth locking down opposite sides of the bracket.
No. 5 Willowbrook saw its last three seasons ended in the quarterfinals by East St. Louis, Prairie Ridge and Batavia, but a state powerhouse doesn't reside in the Warriors' part of the bracket this year. Make it through the first two rounds and a possible quarterfinal game against No. 4 Hersey or No. 13 Andrew seems reasonable while seeking that elusive trip to the semifinals and beyond.
In the bracket just below, No. 22 Wheaton Warrenville South is in a decent spot -- assuming the Tigers survive a trip to Machesney Park this weekend. Again, good teams but no powerhouses.
As the No. 6 seed in Class 5A, Montini has a path that could get the Broncos back to the title game. And Class 4A looks nice for IC Catholic Prep and St. Francis.
It's early, but some brackets seem less scary than others.
2. Worst draws:
There's nowhere to hide in Class 8A.
Marist making the playoffs with last week's win over Loyola changed everything, including dropping Glenbard North from Class 8A to 7A. It also shifted the 8A pairings as Loyola -- the defending champion that's been in the title game four years running -- fell to the 18th seed.
Glenbard West and Lincoln-Way East finished in a tie for No. 2, forcing a computer to randomly split them. The Hilltoppers were the "winning" pick, placing them in the same bracket as Loyola.
So if the Hilltoppers beat Downers Grove South in the opening round, they'll play the winner between six-time state champion Maine South, a team they'd have to beat for a second time this season, and the Ramblers.
That's beyond brutal for an unbeaten No. 2 seed in a second-round game.
Hinsdale Central has no sympathy, not as a No. 12 seed facing Bolingbrook in the first round. The Raiders' seeding fell after last week's overtime loss to Andrew, but they've got talent to burn.
Expectations are super high for No. 11 Neuqua Valley but a potential second-round game against No. 6 Homewood-Flossmoor and a quarterfinal game against No. 3 Lincoln-Way East is ridiculous.
We could go on and on about bad draws, but I'm trying to stay in a good mood.
It's business as usual for IC Catholic Prep and St. Francis as they await word on whether they'll be playing this weekend or getting first-round forfeit victories.
The Chicago Public Schools teacher strike must be settled by early Wednesday for 19 affected playoff football teams to have time get in three required practices coming off a layoff of 10 missed school days. IC Catholic is scheduled to play Sullivan and the Spartans face Clark on Saturday.
The Knights and Spartans scraped together game film on their opponents as they've gone through a normal practice week. The sooner the situation is settled, though, the better.
4. Power drop:
Two of DuPage County's power conferences -- the West Suburban Silver and the DuPage Valley -- were down this year.
The Silver sends three teams to the playoffs in Glenbard West, Hinsdale Central and Downers Grove North. A trio of 4-5 teams narrowly missed making this an epic season for the league.
Only Neuqua Valley and first-year member DeKalb qualified from the DVC. Preseason favorite Naperville Central (4-5) was doomed by a brutal schedule and Waubonsie Valley won its last two games to reach 4-5.
Expect a bounce back from both leagues next season.
5. Stat time:
Among conferences with DuPage County teams, the leader in playoff qualifiers might be a surprise.
In its first year of existence, the Illinois Central Eight Conference sends five teams to the postseason. The list includes Lisle, which heads to the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 2005 and 2006.