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Powers of playoff projection/The Red Line

October 21, 2010
By Brandon Veale - DMG Sports Editor

Sir Winston Churchill once called democracy "the worst form of government except all those forms that have been tried from time to time."

Likewise, the system in place for the MHSAA football playoffs is the worst form of deciding this - except for all of the other ones.

Since the Selection Sunday show on FSN Detroit is just a few days away, I present a little primer to explain exactly what you're looking for going into this weekend's games in hopes of having as few surprises as possible.

The system, instituted in 1999, works like this: Any team that wins six games (or five in a schedule of eight games or less) qualifies into the playoffs automatically. Calumet and Lake Linden-Hubbell are in.

The rest of the field of 256 teams is filled by teams in each class (A, B, C, D) with the highest playoff point average (a system that basically measures 'strength of victory').

Once the 256 are established, they're ordered from top to bottom by enrollment and chopped into eight equal divisions, each of which has a 32-team tournament with districts decided by geography and seeded by playoff points.

Fact Box

No Tech hockey this week, but let's take a quick look at the rest of the WCHA, much of which kicks off league play this weekend:

Wisconsin at Denver

The Pioneers struggled mightily last weekend at home against defending national champion Boston College, while UW had a much easier time with Alabama-Huntsville. With so many new players in major roles on both sides, this one's going to very tough to pick.

The Verdict: DU 4-3 Friday, UW 5-3 Saturday

Colorado College at Minnesota State

Not an impressive trip to Houghton for the Mavericks, who got just one point. CC, which split against Alaska teams last weekend, also swept the season series. Going with the rare road sweep here.

The Verdict: CC sweeps 6-4, 5-2

Alaska Anchorage at Minnesota Duluth

UMD opens league play with a surprisingly tough out. UAA is 5-1-2 in its last eight against the Bulldogs. The Seawolves lost a pair of one-goal games in their home state last weekend, but the Bulldogs just won't let them steal a win in this series.

The Verdict: UMD sweeps 4-3, 4-1

St. Cloud State at Minnesota

Neither team had a good weekend, with Minnesota getting swept at home and SCSU getting just a tie in two home games with Miami. The Gophers try and make up for last weekend, but the Huskies get points out of the series, too

The Verdict: UMn 3-2 Friday, SCSU 6-4 Saturday

North Dakota at Maine

Exciting inter-regional matchup out in Orono. The Sioux, will have started the season with three road trips and a combined 7,410 miles of travel, get off to a good start before those miles catch up with them.

The Verdict: UND 5-4 Friday, Maine 6-3 Saturday

Nebraska-Omaha at Michigan

No, UNO didn't go running back to the CCHA, this one is non-conference and between two top-10 clubs. Betting against the Mavs bit me on the behind last week, but Michigan's pretty tough to beat at Yost.

The Verdict: Michigan sweeps, 5-3, 3-1.

Last Week: 8-4-2

For the Season: 8-4-2 (64.3 percent)

There are flaws, certainly. Because you get basically no credit for a loss, the risk of picking up games against good and/or distant teams often outweighs the potential benefit of picking up a patsy, which is a big reason why 7-0 Ishpeming didn't have a game last Friday.

Divisions that are determined the day before the tournament is bracketed strike me as kind of silly.

However, we no longer have the egregious omissions like the undefeated Hancock teams that didn't make the cut in 1983 and '84, nor the silliness that was Class DD teams with 3-6 records making the playoffs in the mid-90s simply for lack of teams in the fixed group.

Of course, it's madness for sportswriter types like us, who really like to forecast things ahead of time, but now must deal with a system that includes an infinite number of variables.

Seemingly cut-and-dried questions like "Will LL-H have a home game Saturday?" are subject to results in places like Colon, Fulton and oh, yes, Baraga.

Sunday, it will all be made clear. Until then, here are a few things to look for:

A win Friday against Marquette is vital for Calumet to have a home playoff game next week, which would almost certainly be against Iron Mountain. However, because 8-0 Suttons Bay is already a good bet for this district and 8-0 Elk Rapids is straddling the Division 5/6 cut line, there is a possibility by which Calumet could win, go 8-1 with its only loss being against the best team in the U.P this year, and still have to play an undefeated team downstate in round one.

The easiest way for Lake Linden-Hubbell to get a home game would probably just be to beat Forest Park (though even that's not 100 percent a lock), but if the Trojans win Friday, as long as both Baraga and Ontonagon make it, there will be football at Warner Field Saturday. If one of them doesn't, North Dickinson would be slotted into Region 1, District 1 and the Lakes would be there next weekend.

Ontonagon's wins over Northland Pines, Wis., (Class B for Michigan counting purposes) and Class C schools like Ironwood and L'Anse have helped in the playoff point department, and many projections I've seen on the Internet have the Gladiators in regardless of their result Friday in Baraga. If the Glads win, Baraga's chances of making it in are projected to be 50/50 at best and heavily dependent on a series of results elsewhere.

Hancock is not officially eliminated, but because of its cooperative agreement, it would be fighting for a 5-4 wild card spot with Class B teams. Compared to what it's up against, the mathematical chance is infinitesimal at best.

Brandon Veale can be reached at



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