There are a couple of common threads that run through each of the Top 10 teams in the Friday Night Drive conference rankings.
First and foremost, many of these top conferences possess a program that are widely considered among the best in the state. But what separates them from the rest of the group is that there usually isn't just one team. In some cases, it's nearly all of them.
Secondly, many of these conferences have teams that are doing postseason damage in different classifications. A league that has multiple teams making deep runs in postseason brackets in different classifications is afforded an opportunity to rack up a bunch of points in our rankings formula
Here are the Top 10 conferences in the Friday Night Drive conference rankings.
10. Sangamo (Decade rating: 86.1): The Sangamo is a dynamic conference that stacks up well with anyone in football. The only reason this league isn't even higher is its locked conference status, which limits the number of regular season wins the league can achieve. But the Sangamo often shines in the postseason in multiple classifications, and when you have powerhouse programs like Maroa-Forsyth and Williamsville leading the way, it's hard to deny the strength of this conference.
9. CCL/ESCC White (Decade rating: 86.25): Although this decade hasn't been as dominant for Joliet Catholic as some of them in the past may have been, the success ratio is more than enough to keep any league the Hilltoppers are in relevant to a top conference discussion. Fenwick and Marmion have both had some isolated success stories as well. A four-team league can score pretty well with one stalwart leading the way, but it also can be easily hurt if one or two of the teams aren't pulling their share of the rope.
8. DuKane (Decade rating: 87.255): There's a few ways that a team can help achieve a high rating in this system and the DuKane checks several of them off to reach this status. Batavia provides a consistent stronghold to lead the way for the league, and there are multiple teams that have extremely good pedigrees just behind them. The biggest thing here is there's only one team in the entire conference that received a below average ranking.
7. Heart of Illinois Large (Decade rating: 93.384): There are several absolute monsters in this conference. When you have multiple teams with high success ratios in a league that has just six teams, high scores are routinely generated season by season. The conference has only posted a below average league score once in the decade, and have posted Top 5 league scores in the state in four of the last five seasons.
6. Central State Eight (Decade rating: 94): There are only 11 programs in the state that have posted individual teams scores of 20 in this scoring system, two of them (Rochester and Sacred Heart-Griffin) reside in the Central State Eight. Isolated strong performances from Chatham Glenwood help the conference offset some of the hits the overall grade takes from some programs that have had trouble getting much going in a league that has multiple massive threats racking up most of the wins in a closed conference.
5. Metro Blue (Decade rating: 94.571): IC Catholic has been an absolute beast over the recent part of this decade and it provides a huge building block for this conference's impressive rating. But two other programs, Bishop McNamara and Aurora Christian, also have very strong resumes; although most of Aurora Christian's damage was done in the first part of the decade. It all still counts, though, as does the fact that the conference also doesn't have any true weak links.
4. CCL/ESCC Orange (Decade rating: 103.25): Over the last six seasons, few teams have caused as much havoc as Nazareth has in multiple classes. That effort alone helps bring this league's score up to lofty heights. But an under appreciated Benet program also provides its fair share of contributions to the cause, while St. Laurence also has put together some solid counting years.
3. SouthWest Suburban Blue (Decade rating 103.4): With two state championships in the last three seasons, its hard to ignore what Lincoln-Way East brings to the table in this process. But an alarmingly consistent Homewood-Flossmoor program can't be ignored either and Bolingbrook's track record of rising up in the postseason adds another wrinkle to an all-around strong league.
2. CCL/ESCC Green (Decade rating: 136.75): Montini's last few years haven't stacked up well against what the Broncos did earlier in the decade, but that's an almost impossible standard to expect anyone to stand up to. But even the "weak" years are pretty good and lays down a huge base that is accentuated by two other programs that typically average double-digit season scores as individuals with St. Rita and Providence. Niles Notre Dame is far from the weak link either and has been a solid performer over the past few years.
1. CCL/ESCC Blue (Decade rating: 171): Only three individual conference seasons have produced scores of over 20 in this scoring system. All three of them, including a system best score of 26.25 in 2018, were recorded by the CCL/ESCC Blue. There's only one season, where the league scored an individual season below 10 (which is the benchmark of an outstanding season for a league) and that was a 9 (2014).
Loyola is the leader of the pack in this league score-wise, but Mount Carmel also rolls a monster number out there as well. Marist is absolutely no slouch in the scoring system especially with its recent surge over the past few seasons. A few years ago, Brother Rice may have been thought of as a "weak link" and even with its recent two-year string of great success still lags behind the other three in this league. But by the standards of everyone, the Crusaders are still considered to be well above average.
There's only one season in the last decade where at least one team from this grouping didn't reach the state semifinals. That kind of postseason dominance is exactly why this league finishes at the top of the pile.