Friday, August 24, 2012

Now that the rankings are...

...all in, let's have a look at them, shall we?

Since the Chicago Tribune only ranks the top 20, we'll limit our comparison to that number. (The Sun-Times ranks the top 25 and MaxPreps seems to rank the entire state.) Also, while the Chicago papers only rank the schools in the metropolitan area, MaxPreps ranks teams from all of Illinois; so it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. But so what? Here goes.

First, Max Preps:

1. Joliet Catholic
2. Bolingbrook
3. Prairie Ridge
4. Loyola
5. Montini
6. Naperville Central
7. Glenbard West
8. Wheaton North
9. Rockford Boylan
10. Lake Zurich
11. Wheaton Warrenville South
12. Lincoln-Way East
13. Glenbard North
14. Aurora Christian
15. Batavia
16. Maine South
17. Palatine
18. Peoria Richwoods
19. East St. Louis
20. Mount Carmel

Next, the Sun-Times:

1. Maine South
2. Bolingbrook
3. Glenbard West
4. Wheaton Warrenville South
5. Mount Carmel
6. Loyola
7. Montini
8. Joliet Catholic
9. Glenbard North
10. Simeon
11. St. Rita
12. Stevenson
13. Marist
14. Wheaton North
15. Lincoln-Way East
16. Hinsdale Central
17. Palatine
18. Crete-Monee
19. Elk Grove
20. Lemont

And, finally, the Trib:

1. Bolingbrook
2. Maine South
3. Wheaton Warrenville South
4. Mount Carmel
5. Loyola
6. Glenbard West
7. St. Rita
8. Marist
9. Montini
10. Joliet Catholic
11. Glenbard North
12. Lincoln-Way East
13. Wheaton North
14. Simeon
15. Stevenson
16. Crete-Monee
17. Palatine
18. Naperville Central
19. Lemont
20. Crystal Lake South

Here's my take. First of all, rankings -- particularly at the beginning of the season, before anyone's even played a game -- are meaningless. But they're still fun to talk about. So here are a few of my thoughts.

Twelve teams made all three rankings (I've even color-coded them for your convenience; where else are you going to get that kind of service?): Joliet Catholic, Bolingbrook, Loyola, Montini, Glenbard West, Wheaton North, Wheaton Warrenville South, Lincoln-Way East, Glenbard North, Maine South, Palatine and Mount Carmel.

If senior quarterback (and Illinois recruit) Aaron Bailey stays healthy and has as good a season as last year (over 2,000 yards rushing!), there's no reason to think that Bolingbrook can't repeat as state 8A champs. (Okay, there's one: the Raiders lost some key players -- Antonio Morrison, Austin Van Meter and Tevin Teamer -- from last year's defense.)

And Maine South, who exited the playoffs early last year, could come roaring back and challenge the Raiders for the state title. With Northwestern-bound senior Matt Alviti at quarterback, the Hawks -- coached by Dave Inserra -- will be back in the hunt this season. Last year, everyone expected a rematch with Loyola and was disappointed when South was upended in the second round by Stevenson. But that was a fluke; the Hawks should go much deeper in the postseason this year. (With one caveat: do the Hawks have a running back that can take some pressure off Alviti?)

My number 3 team is Joliet Catholic, based almost entirely on senior running back (and USC-bound) Ty Isaac. He could very well be the best player in the state this season, and if the Hilltoppers can show up on defense they could be formidable.

Loyola will probably not be as good as last year's 8A runner-up team (2011 was supposed to be their year), but the Wilmette squad may surprise. Peter Pujals will do just fine as Malcolm Weaver's replacement at quarterback, and head coach John Holecek will have his Ramblers ready. (Last year, if Loyola had played Bolingbrook ten times, methinks, they would have split 5-5 -- Weaver just had an off night.) The Ramblers could start the season, 0-2, however, with games against Simeon at home tomorrow and Dallas Jesuit in Dublin, Ireland, next week. (The Texas powerhouse has four seniors committed to Big 12 programs.)

MaxPreps has one of my favorite teams, Prairie Ridge, ranked number 3, and while I wrote a post chastising the Sun-Times for ranking the Wolves number 21, I don't think they're that good. (The Crystal Lake squad may have simply lost too many players from last year's 6A championship team.) I'd rank PR lower, around 9 or 10.

Naperville Central is another team that graduated a lot of seniors last year, including quarterback Ian Lewandowski and running back Matt Randolph. Sure, Coach Mike Stine will field a good team, but I'll reserve judgement on the Redhawks for the time being.

Other teams that you just know will be in the hunt come November will be Rockford Boylan (undefeated 7A champs and ranked number 1 overall by MaxPreps last year); Glenbard WestWheaton Warrenville South (Coach Ron Muhitch is always competitive); Wheaton North (perhaps my dark horse); and Lincoln-Way East (the Griffins, despite graduating Blake Winkler and Jason Robertson, will make the playoffs -- they always do. Last year's early upset at the hands of Wheaton Warrenville South was another fluke.)

Two teams that I'm not so sure about this year are Montini and Mount Carmel (both questionable at the QB position). The Broncos graduated a lot of starters last year (including wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp and quarterback John Rhode) and could fall to Palatine tonight. And the Caravan, well, I'm not convinced they'll ever be the power they once were (prove me a liar, Coach Frank Lenti). But Carmel does have a "favorable" schedule this year -- only four teams that had winning records last year.

Oh, and one last thing: Hey Stevenson, get some more parking, will you?

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