Analysis | Friday Night Drive

What we learned in Week 4: 2022 proves to be a tough season to remain unbeaten

After four weeks of the season, some clarity usually comes to the overall landscape in IHSA football.

Not so much this fall.

Just 74 teams have emerged from the first four weeks unscathed. Three conferences (Sangamo, West Suburban Silver and Mid-Suburban East) still have three undefeated teams in their midst.

Seventy-four is a much lower number than we’ve come to expect through just four weeks of the season, and it is causing a trend to develop.

Instead of smaller clusters of undefeated teams or one-loss teams gravitating toward the top conferences, larger clusters of teams are forming in the middle of conferences with two or more losses. Ultimately this is likely going to lead to a much smaller group of headliner teams with no losses or one loss at the top of postseason brackets and a much larger collection of squads that are hovering around the .500 mark.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest storylines of Week 3:

Deep waters in the CCL/ESCC

To no one’s surprise, the CCL/ESCC is demonstrating that there’s an awful lot of depth within the ranks of its 22-team membership.

Collectively, the league has gone 55-33 over the first four weeks of the season. But that percentage will slowly inch down over the rest of the season because its members will spend the next five weeks pounding on one another. Some very good teams are going to rack up losses because of some incredibly deep schedules.

What do Brother Rice, Marist, St. Rita, Benet, Montini, Providence, Nazareth and Fenwick all have in common thus far this season?

They all have at least two losses on the young season and uphill climbs to qualify for playoff spots that if they get, they will be extremely well prepared for.

Only Mount Carmel, Loyola, Joliet Catholic and Carmel have gone unscathed from the CCL/ESCC. Even the swath of teams that sit with just one loss can’t rest on those early-season laurels as some have schedules full of teams that either have the same record or even better.

Undefeated teams far from being in the clear

Of the 74 remaining undefeated teams, the challenges will still keep coming for most.

Fourty-seven teams in that group still have another (or in some cases two) undefeated teams left on their schedule. So mathematically, that number must drop at least five this week as five battles of undefeated teams are on the docket.

Weirdly, two members of the group, Champaign Centennial and Peoria, can stay on the list despite being in the same conference, the Big Twelve. With 11 teams in its membership, each team has two nonconference games on its schedule and doesn’t play all members. Centennial and Peoria aren’t scheduled to play.

For frame of reference, 24 teams finished the regular season undefeated last year. Thirteen of those 24 are still on the list of undefeated teams this year.

Power shift in the Mid-Suburban

Wheeling has won just six games over the previous four full regular seasons.

The Wildcats have bucked past trends so far this season, jumping out of the gates with a solid 3-1 record.

One would think that would put Wheeling in a good position as it enters Mid-Suburban East divisional play this week.

But in reality, there’s a lot more work that needs to be done. That 3-1 mark only ties them for fourth place in the six-team league as the division features three undefeated teams (Hersey, Elk Grove Village and Prospect) and the collective posted a 20-4 record over the nonconference portion of the schedule.

Buffalo Grove is the only team in the division to have posted two losses thus far. But the Bison currently have the strongest schedule strength in the state through four weeks.

For several seasons, the Mid-Suburban West appeared to be the stronger of the two divisions, but the East is certainly making its case over the early stretch of the campaign.