Friday, August 30, 2013

The rankings are finally in...

...from the three news services I follow and You Know Who is at the top of everyone's list. And who can blame them? With the winningest coach in Illinois history and Division I talent on both sides of the ball Mount Carmel would probably be my choice too. (What I find interesting is that the Caravan may end up in 7A this year.)

But, still, a fair question to ask is: How exactly were these rankings compiled?

Were they done the lazy way, based on how each team finished last year? Or were they done the impossible hard way, based on how they're expected to finish this year? Do they have a crystal ball? Because just because someone is good at the beginning of the season doesn't mean they'll be good at the end. Kids mature a lot at this age, (some) teams learn from their mistakes and everyone has to deal with injuries.

And then there's the whole strength of schedule issue. Some conferences are a lot harder than others. (Okay, cough, cough -- the DVC and the Catholic League Blue -- cough, cough.) What about that? And what about the various classes? Can a 5A team like Montini really compete with an 8A squad like Maine South? We'll find out tonight. (And, by the way, I just read that Glenbard North and Maine South might join Mount Carmel in 7A this year too. What? That ought to shake things up a bit.)

But it all begs the question: What makes a top team anyway? Is it individual talent, or superior coaching, or just an overall culture that provides the "infrastructure" for a good team, i. e., a plethora of good athletes year in and year out that allows a program to "reload"?

And, for that matter, what good are rankings? Do they exist just to give fodder to bloggers in bathrobes who write posts about them at 6:00 in the morning before work?

Before I take a stab at some of those questions, let's have a look at the preseason rankings, shall we? (For brevity's sake I included only the top ten.)

Chicago Tribune: 

1. Mount Carmel
2. Glenbard West
3. Glenbard North
4. Stevenson
5. Loyola
6. Maine South
7. Montini
8. Lincoln-Way East
9. Lake Zurich
10. Downers Grove North


1. Mount Carmel
2. Stevenson
3. Lake Zurich
4. Loyola
5. Glenbard North
6. Wheaton North
7. Glenbard West
8. Downers Grove North
9. Montini
10. Lincoln-Way East


1. Mount Carmel
2. Glenbard West
3. Lincoln-Way East
4. Crete-Monee
5. Montini
6. Glenbard North
7. East St. Louis
8. Neuqua Valley
9. Wheaton North
10. Lake Zurich

Now, I know what you're thinking: Color-coded -- wow! It's actually to make it easier to compare. For example, you'll notice that all three news services have Mount Carmel, Glenbard West, Glenbard North, Montini, Lincoln-Way East and Lake Zurich in their top ten.

But while Loyola is ranked No. 5 and No. 4 in the Trib and Sun-Times, respectively, the Ramblers come in at only No. 17 on MaxPreps. Maine South, at No. 6 in the Trib, is only No. 15 in the Sun-Times and -- are you ready for this? -- No. 37 in MaxPreps. Downers Grove North, which appears on both Chicago newspaper top tens, comes in at only No. 48 on MaxPreps! And where is Stevenson on MaxPreps? No. 18.

Oh, well, I could go on and on. For example, Crete-Monee at No. 4 on MaxPreps with a new head coach and without Laquon Treadwell? And Neuqua Valley at No. 8 without Joey Rhattigan and Dylan Andrew? Really?

And where's Benet on MaxPreps? No. 16. Marist is at 19, Cary-Grove 21, St. Rita 25, Lyons 27, Hinsdale Central 28, Richards 32, Bolingbrook 34, Waubonsie Valley 41, Naperville Central 49 and Batavia 68 -- just ahead of Williamsville (who?).

So where am I going with all this?

In 2012 I made the classic general's mistake of fighting the last war. Rather than trying to figure out who was really good I followed the teams that had big years in 2011. This year I've tried to approach it more intelligently (I hope); I've been focusing on only those programs with Division I prospects. Is that smarter? We'll find out. I certainly think it's better at the start of the season. But I'm sure by Week Six or Seven I'll be following the undefeated teams and attending the great rivalries.

But, either way, I've decided to post my own rankings this year, with only one caveat: BOWG's rankings will be derived only from teams I've actually seen play. Will this be limiting? Absolutely. But will it be more honest? I think so. How can I judge a team I've never even seen? 

In any case, I'm going to give it a shot. After Week One I should have my first ranking, which will consist of the eight teams I plan on seeing this weekend: Batavia, Glenbard North, Mount Carmel, St. Patrick, De La Salle, Phillips, Marist and St. Rita. (Not a bad start.) And, as always, I'll try to see as many of the best teams as I can. Will I miss some? Sure. After all, my mantra is still "The Best Game Between The Best Teams." And remember, I don't get paid to do this. I follow high school football because I love it.

Now let's get this season underway, darn it!

P. S. As for all those questions above that I said I'd get to, well, we've got all season to answer them. 

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