By Chris Chaney
With only one week remaining on the regular-season schedules of all Ohio high school football teams, four area squads are in contention to capture a postseason berth dependent upon the Week 10 outcomes.
Williamsburg, Western Brown, New Richmond and Glen Este are all still mathematically alive for a playoff spot, according to projections compiled by Steve Shuck, the commissioner of the Greater Miami Conference and creator of Shuck’s Projections, an independent newsletter that forecasts Southwest Ohio’s playoff possibilities.
Shuck, who has been compiling his projections for 18 years, began his work with the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s computer rankings as the assistant athletic director at Princeton in an effort to prognosticate the school’s possibility of making the postseason.
Originally keeping track of the points systems of Division I teams by hand, Shuck has been using a program that predicts the playoff chances of area schools using research he has collected, making game predictions and putting the appropriate point evaluations into the complex formula that creates the average used to determine the top teams in each division.
“I do this because people care about it,” Shuck said. “It’s not official — I say that in everything I do — I’m just a Harbin ratings person. People call me an expert, but I don’t know if that’s the case. I’m just one crazy enough to mess with them.”
The OHSAA shook up the divisional breakdown ahead of the 2013 season, creating a new playoff picture for many schools around the state. Area teams range from Division I (Milford) to Division VI (Williamsburg) with about 108 teams in each division from II through VII (Division I has the 72 largest schools in the state broken down into two regions with the top 16 from each advancing to the playoffs).
Each division (II-VII) is broken down into four regions with the top eight teams in each region receiving a playoff bid.
The final official computer rankings will be released on Nov. 3 with playoff seedings based upon how teams finish in the rankings.
Shuck’s objective is to use information he has gathered about the teams, who they are playing, who they have played combined with predictions of the outcome of the upcoming games to project how the computer rankings will look when they are officially released each Tuesday.
The goal of his projections is to give coaches, fans and players alike a reasonable idea of what needs to happen for each team to reach the postseason.
The formula used to create the computer rankings measures two levels of points added together to create a team’s average. The first level of points is directly tied to a team’s wins and the divisional membership of the teams that they have beaten. The second level points are calculated from the first level of points earned by the teams that the initial team has beaten along with a divisor that is related to the amount of games each team plays (see sidebar).
The first and second level points are added together to give a team an average number that dictates where they sit in the rankings.
In the interest of local teams, Western Brown sits the highest. Playing in Division III, Region 10, going into the final week of the season, the Broncos are in fifth place.
“They’re not mathematically in, 100-percent, but in my opinion, they are,” Shuck said. “The circumstances would be so unusual for them to not get in that I don’t think it’s an issue.”
Shuck said that the final week’s game against Norwood is “worth a good deal” to the Broncos, but with his projections, he believes that even with a loss, they shouldn’t drop lower than the six seed. A win guarantees their spot in the playoffs and their seed can rise dependent upon how teams they have already beaten do on Friday, Nov. 1.
A few spots lower in DIII, Region 10, New Richmond is in a bit more of a helpless situation. Currently, the Lions are in the No. 7 slot, but with the projections that Shuck is predicting, they would be on the outside looking in come next week.
“I’m afraid they’re going to be out,” Shuck said. “There’s 10 teams still alive in that region and they’re probably 10th and the furthest away. They can’t move much because Bethel-Tate doesn’t give them much of anything (in terms of first level points).
“The only way they have a shot is for Springfield Kenton Ridge to lose to Tecumseh, which is not impossible and for Celina to lose to Elida. Those two games would cause those two teams (Kenton Ridge and Celina) who are currently projected at eight and nine to a number that would be lower than New Richmond could reach with their win.”
New Richmond’s number (their average that dictates their ranking) will not be greatly increased by beating Bethel-Tate because while they would add 4.5 points to their first level points, their second level number would not be greatly increased because of Bethel’s lone win.
“(New Richmond) has beaten four teams who, one of which has not won a game and the other three have won one game,” Shuck explained. “Out of those four beaten opponents, they only get three wins (for their second level points). To stay in the hunt most of the time, you need the teams you beat to win three or four games.
“The second level points make up the large majority of your qualifying number and you really need that to be three times as much as the (first level points).”
Shuck said in order for that to change, New Richmond would have to schedule and beat some nonconference opponents who will win other games. In this year’s case, a win over Western Brown would have virtually guaranteed the Lions a berth.
In Division II, Region 6, Glen Este is in a similar boat as New Richmond. Currently in ninth place, the Trojans need to win their game at Winton Woods and have Vandialia Butler, Kings and Withrow all lose to secure a spot.
An unlikely scenario could move the Trojans up to the fifth seed if everything goes perfectly for them, but with only one team ahead of them playing a team with a winning record, Glen Este’s playoff chances are slim.
Finally, in Division VI, Region 22, Williamsburg dropped from the No. 1 overall seed to No. 3 by virtue of their 35-33 loss to Norwood. Their Week 10 opponent Goshen, can play the role of spoiler, but only in terms of affecting the Wildcats’ seeding, in Shuck’s opinion.
“I’ve bumped up Burg a bit this week,” Shuck said. “I originally had them losing to both Norwood and Goshen, but the more I looked at comparative scores, I picked them to win this week. If I’m right on all these teams — and heaven knows I’m not — I have them finishing third, whereas I had them finishing sixth two weeks ago or so.
“They’re like Western Brown in that if they win, they’re in comfortably, but do I think they’re in without it? Yes, I do.”
Shuck said that the team that could jump into the top eight from the outside would be Minster and even with a loss, he projects them to finish with an average around 11.9000, which Williamsburg should be ahead of, by Shuck’s projections, by around one point.
With a lot to still shake out over the last week of the season, be sure to keep up with all that’s happening around the area by following @ClerSunSports on Twitter.