Analysis | Friday Night Drive

2022 season preview: Steve Soucie’s preseason playoff projection

Members of the Byron football team hoist the Class 3A trophy after defeating Tolono, 35-7, at Huskie Stadium on Friday Nov. 26, 2021 in DeKalb.

There’s always a certain amount of variability from year to year in constructing the 256-team playoff field.

The question: how much variability will there be? In past seasons, you could usually count on approximately 85% of the teams who qualified the previous season to make a return trip back to the postseason dance.

That equation changed last season, due to the fact that we didn’t have playoffs for two consecutive years to cull the data from. The missed playoff season in 2020, meant data had to be collected for the 2019 and 2021 seasons to determine how much turnover happened in the field.

The number dropped a bit, but the majority of the consistency held as 79% of the teams that qualified in 2021 also qualified in 2019.

Let’s use Class 8A field from last year as an example. Twenty-five of the 32 teams that qualified in 8A in 2019 returned to the field in 2021. (There was one more team that qualified in 2019 in 2021′s 8A field but it was in a different classification).

What was the difference? For the previous five seasons, a minimum of 28 teams returned to the 8A field from the previous season, reaching a peak of 31 of 32 in one season.

This exercise is useful for getting an idea of where the class lines might break as well. But more significantly it serves as an identifier for what teams are most likely to be finding themselves on the higher seed lines.

Over the past three years of full seasons, here are the most successful programs via win totals:

TeamWinsClassification
Byron393A
Lena-Winslow371A
Richmond-Burton374A
Cary-Grove376A
St. Teresa352A
IC Catholic353A (playing up)
Rochester354A/5A
Lincoln-Way East358A
Williamsville343A
Nazareth335A
East St. Louis336A (playing up)
Chicago Mount Carmel337A
Nashville322A
Joliet Catholic324A
Warren328A

By using this data, one can begin to build the brackets. Although it is far from a completely precise tool, it can safely be used as a guidepost to how the brackets might very well look come late October.

The brackets included here include no data from the yet-to-come 2022 season. It is only built on the foundation of past success of each of the 493 playoff-eligible schools heading into the season.

Don’t worry, though, 2022 hypotheticals will start fast and furious almost immediately after the first football is kicked off on August 25. (Yes, that’s a Thursday.)