Despite all of the variables in the IHSA football state playoff system, it is a fairly predictable model regarding how the fields typically look from year to year.
Certainly, there are breakthroughs from year to year. Teams emerge from relative obscurity to fight their way into the playoff field, while other programs that simply seem to make playoff appearances on a year-to-year basis slide back a bit and miss the field.
But overall, the number is remarkably stable. In fact, over the past decade, the turnover rate (teams that make the playoffs year in and year out) hovers above 80% in every single year.
Using a three-year win model, you often can get an accurate representation of how the playoff field might be constructed on a year-to-year basis.
Obviously, there are quirks in the system that could cause these landscapes to change, but more often than not these brackets should look similar to the ones that are rolled out next postseason.
The geography of Class 2A presents some interesting challenges. There isn't a clear north/south bracket break. In fact, the schools on the dividing line are quite close to one another. Three schools in the Quincy area are probably truer fits in the north bracket by the letter of the law, but the IHSA sometimes deviates from that strict line when there's a better geographic blend. And that's what I've done with this projection.
Now on to the projected Class 2A bracket, which by rule, is divided into a pair of 16-team north and south brackets.
• Maroa-Forsyth: There are few programs that can match the postseason pedigree of the Trojans over the past few seasons. It isn't typically a question if whether or not they will make the field, but whether or not they will be on a top-seed line.
• Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley: The Falcons finally had their lengthy regular season winning streak snapped with a loss to Fieldcrest last season, but this a program that has established a blueprint that likely won't deteriorate quickly.
• Sterling Newman Central Catholic: The Comets made a change at the head coaching position last season, but the transition seemed pretty smooth. Still absolutely a program worthy of listing with the best of 2A.
ON THE RISE
• Nashville: The Hornets have continued to pile up wins and points and are establishing themselves as a dangerous postseason threat.
• Clifton Central: A perennial postseason qualifier, the Comets did some damage last year with a pretty young core. With more experience under their belts, the sky could be the limit for this bunch.
• Fieldcrest: The Knights are another very sturdy program in 2A making a strong move last season, one they hope they will be a trend rather than a one-off.
THE WILD CARDS
• Quincy Notre Dame: This is an incredibly dangerous team should it survive the rigors of a schedule that features multiple teams with substantially larger enrollments during the regular season.
• Auburn: The Trojans are always dangerous come the postseason as the Sangamo Conference does as good a job of any preparing its qualifiers for the playoffs.
• Watseka: Quietly the Warriors have established themselves as one of the better teams in the Sangamon Valley. Now playing with a significantly lower enrollment after removing cooperative agreements, sliding into 1A is a possibility.
TEAMS ON THE VERGE
(Teams that appear the closest to breaking into the projection that are not currently in)
• Marshall: Have slipped a bit in the past few seasons, but there's still enough pedigree to believe that this program could get itself back into the top group of Little Illini Conference teams.
• Belleville Althoff: Schedule is always going to be a hurdle for the Crusaders, but if they can find a way to get through a tough slate and into the field, they have shown an ability to be dangerous.
• Durand-Pecatonica: Major surge last season after years of struggles, which obviously doesn't help it in a three-year win model.
THE FULL BRACKET
• (16) Savanna West Carroll at (1) Newman Central Catholic
• (9) Tri-Valley at (8) Lanark Eastland
• (13) St. Edward at (4) Knoxville
• (12) Mercer County at (5) Orion
• (15) Rockford Christian at (2) Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley
• (10) Rockridge at (7) Orr
• (14) Chicago Christian at (3) Clifton Central
• (11) Watseka at (6) Fieldcrest
• (16) Villa Grove at (1) Maroa-Forsyth
• (9) Breese Mater Dei at (8) Sesser-Valier
• (13) Quincy Notre Dame at (4) Bismarck-Henning
• (12) Auburn at (5) Nashville
• (15) Nokomis at (2) St. Teresa
• (10) Chester at (7) Eldorado
• (14) Shelbyville at (3) Pana
• (11) West Hancock at (6) Illini West