By MURPHY FAIR
Looking for a single word that best describes high school football in Tennessee this year? It just might be "mediocrity". Receiving such news from "the guru" of the game is probably a tough pill to swallow for most who read this column on a regular basis. But give me a chance to explain.
First, let me say that the word "mediocrity" in no way comes to mind when I'm talking about teams like Maryville, Henry County, Fulton, C.P.A., Knoxville Grace or Humboldt. Neither does it describe any of the other top five teams in last week's Associated Press prep polls for all six classes of Division I football.
I would put many of the 30 teams that occupy the top five spots in each of the state's six Division I classes in question up against other top five teams from many other states. Once you get past teams that were ranked one through five in last week's poll, you discover teams with impressive records that have squared off against teams that are struggling to maintain winning records.
Here are some cases in point:
In 6A, the eighth ranked team is Houston (Shelby County). The Mustangs were undefeated in their first six games this year. But their first six opponents have a combined won-loss record of 10-24. That's a winning percentage of less than .300.
In 5A, Oak Ridge is ranked sixth. The Wildcats were 4-1 after five contests. But their first five opponents were 8-19 (.296). One of Oak Ridge's opponents was winless after five games and another has just one win in five games. None had winning records at the season's mid-point.
The worst cases were in 2A (Silverdale Baptist Academy) and 1A (Gleason). Silverdale was ranked sixth with a 6-0 record. But the six teams the Seahawks had defeated in the first six weeks of their schedule had a combined won-loss record of 8-25 (.242). Gleason's first six came against teams whose records were 7-24 (.225).
It appears that strength of schedule has little or no effect on how high a team can be ranked. With that said, it's probably a good thing that overall records are not used as a means of selecting playoff teams. But wait a minute! Overall records ARE used as a means of selecting teams for the postseason. It looks like there's still some work to be done in determining how playoff teams are selected.
Murphy Fair has published Tennessee High School Football for 25 years. His statewide syndicated radio show (Murphy’s Matchups) can be heard locally Fridays just before kickoff on WBRY.).