Last Jacksonville State win over a Big Six opponent: UCF in 2002. Onward.
Finally, after 16 weeks, we’ve made it. This weekend, the TSSAA high school football championships take place in Cookeville. I want to thank everyone who has read, shared, discussed, or noted in some fashion the work I’ve done with these this season. It was a huge leap of faith to assume anyone would be interested in a 342-team analytical preview of Tennessee high school football; it was an even bigger leap of faith to assume anyone would read a Week 7 preview of 100+ games. And yet: we made it. Thank you, everyone, for your support. I don’t know what this will look like in 2020 yet, but I’m hoping it’ll be even better.
There are nine games this week; there were 12 last week. The projections went 8-4 (66.7%) in said games, right along with the expectation. The playoff record is currently 168-42 (80%); the overall record is 1586-389 (80.3%). That’s a good year, and it somehow bested the King of Picks, Donovan Stewart, which I am fairly proud of. (However, Donovan has forgotten more about high school football than I will ever know, so listen to him more than me.)
In order of date and time, the games are listed below, with a short preview for each. All times listed are Central, so games start at 12 PM ET/11 AM CT, 4 PM ET/3 PM CT, and 8 PM ET/7 PM CT each day.
Thursday, December 5, 11 AM CT
- (W #3) University School of Jackson 22 vs. (W #2) Davidson Academy 21
Odds of USJ making final: 25.8%
Odds of Davidson Academy making final: 55.8%
Combined odds of this being eventual title game: 14.4%; third-most likely title game
These two schools have taken fun routes to get here. USJ demolished its first two Playoff opponents before drawing Nashville Christian in the semifinal round, a team they lost to 28-27 in the regular season. USJ jumped out to an early lead and never relented, getting into the title game with a 28-7 win. Davidson’s season can be divided neatly into Pre-Nashville Christian and Post-Nashville Christian. A home loss to Franklin Road in Week 1 parlayed itself into a tough road loss to Nashville Christian in Week 3 for an 0-2 start. Davidson is undefeated since, with their latest accomplishment being a relatively easy 27-10 win over Friendship in the semifinals. The system very slightly favors USJ, but Davidson beat USJ 21-12 in the regular season at home.
Thursday, December 5, 3 PM CT
- (W #1) Evangelical Christian 22 vs. (M #1) Christ Presbyterian Academy 20
Odds of Evangelical making final: 69.8%
Odds of CPA making final: 49.4%
Combined odds: 34.5%; most likely title game
No real surprise here as these have been the two best teams in II-AA for most of the season. Evangelical beat everyone but Houston on their schedule and only had serious struggles with Lausanne (21-14 win, regular season) and Battle Ground Academy (quarterfinal round) in the process. CPA, however, took the most challenging route possible to get here for their title defense. Losers of their first four games, it wasn’t until Region play started that they got rolling. When they did, it was over quickly: four Region games plus three Playoff games have resulted in a total margin of 229-63 in their seven wins. CPA lost to Evangelical 30-6 in Week 1, but a lot has changed for CPA since then.
Thursday, December 5, 7 PM CT
- (W #3) Montgomery Bell Academy 20 vs. (E #1) McCallie 22
Odds of MBA making final: 13.7%
Odds of McCallie making final: 58.1%
Combined odds: 8%; not in top five of most likely title games
MBA getting here feels like a surprise. None of their four losses this season were by more than eight points, but several of their wins – by scores of 17-14, 15-7, 10-7, 12-7 – were just as close. And yet: here they are. McCallie, meanwhile, has shaken off a two-loss streak to end the season and has looked the part of a title contender in their two Playoff games. It’s not quite the McCallie/Baylor showdown once promised, but this should be one of the three best title games of the weekend.
Friday, December 6, 11 AM CT
- (R7 #1) Lake Co. 32 vs. (R2 #1) Greenback 28
Odds of Lake Co. making final: 48.9%
Odds of Greenback making final: 24.7%
Combined odds: 12.1%; fourth-most likely title game
It shouldn’t be stunning that either of these teams are here; there were a clear top four teams in 1A this season, and both of these teams belonged to the pack. However, it was a bit surprising to see these two edge out their opponents in the fashion that they did. Lake County hasn’t been touched by anyone since Week 2 against Crockett County, but I expected Huntingdon to be a tougher opponent than they were; Lake won 30-20. Greenback continued their remarkable turnaround from an 0-2 start into a 12-0 run, beating the South Pittsburg team that battled Huntingdon for the #1 spot for the entire season in my ratings. Both teams score lots of points, and I’m hopeful that we get a shootout to start Friday.
Friday, December 6, 3 PM CT
- (R5 #1) Pearl-Cohn 20 vs. (R2 #1) Alcoa 24
Odds of Pearl-Cohn making final: 76%
Odds of Alcoa making final: 76.1%
Combined odds: 57.8%; most likely title game
Here’s another one the system nailed with ease. These were the two best teams in 3A from wire-to-wire, with the only battle being between which team ranked atop my weekly 3A poll. The system initially favored P-C by a tiny amount to start the playoffs, but Alcoa’s been more impressive in dispatching their overwhelmed opponents. P-C’s had a couple of strugglefests, and for that reason, it projects Alcoa to win its fifth straight 3A title. It’s the only remaining title streak above one right now.
Friday, December 6, 7 PM CT
- (R5 #3) Summit 23 vs. (R2 #2) Central 25
Odds of Summit making final: 3.6%
Odds of Central making final: 1.3%
Combined odds: 0.04%; not in top five, top ten, or top 20 most likely title games
This is the stunner of the year. Both schools enter the game 12-2, but Summit got demolished by Shelbyville late in the season and finished third in their own Region. Meanwhile, Central also got demolished by South-Doyle and lost their final game to Gibbs. This was after some lackluster outings against Fulton (13-12 win) and Hardin Valley (16-7) in a title defense that didn’t meet my expectations. Summit had to win three road games to get here. Central just had to win one, but it was a rematch with South-Doyle that they escaped with a 20-16 win. This wasn’t a final anyone saw coming, even if you were much higher on Central than I was. The nice thing about high school athletics is that it often provides us unexpected events that make little-to-no sense, yet are worth celebrating. Let’s enjoy the weirdness of either of these schools winning.
Saturday, December 7, 11 AM CT
- (R7 #1) Peabody 25 vs. (R2 #1) Meigs Co. 23
Odds of Peabody making final: 74.8%
Odds of Meigs Co. making final: 49.5%
Combined odds: 37%; most likely title game
No real surprise here, as, again, these were the two best teams in 2A for most of the season. Last year’s champion Peabody could reasonably not be here, though: after a season full of blowouts, they very nearly took a home loss in the quarterfinals to Fairley as a massive favorite…before Fairley’s quarterback threw an interception and fumbled a snap on a kneeldown in the final three minutes. Meigs suffered one loss all season, a 27-16 toughie to South Pittsburg, and mostly blew out the rest. It had to fight for a full 48 against Trousdale County last week, the third-best team in 2A, but managed to get here. Peabody obviously won last season and in 2014, but Meigs has never won; this is their first title game appearance since 1995. History may be in the making.
Saturday, December 7, 3 PM CT
- (R5 #1) Springfield 11 vs. (R1 #1) Elizabethton 35
Odds of Springfield making final: 4.4%
Odds of Elizabethton making final: 29.7%
Combined odds: 1.3%; not in top ten most likely title games
Elizabethton was the expected winner of the top half of the Class and comes out as the clear best team in 4A; when you beat Greeneville and demolish Nolensville, you’ve clearly earned that right. Springfield feels like such a random title game entrant, having gone 7-3 in the regular season with the fourth-best point differential in its own Region. And yet: they are massively clutch in close games. Springfield went 5-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less this season, including back-to-back overtime wins over Hardin Co. and Haywood to get here. They have a little bit of the Team of Destiny vibe, certainly. But Elizabethton feels clearly better, as would’ve any of the Big Three from East Tennessee.
Saturday, December 7, 7 PM CT
- (R6 #2) Ravenwood 25 at (R2 #1) Maryville 26
Odds of Ravenwood making final: 35.2%
Odds of Maryville making final: 42%
Combined odds: 14.8%; most likely title game
I’ve been hoping for this one ever since the system pinpointed Ravenwood as the best team in Regions 5-8 in this class in August. They struggled at times, certainly, but two resounding demolitions of Brentwood (34-6) and Houston (42-21) make them a clear, formidable foe for the almighty Maryville. The Rebels have been tested at times this year, but have passed every challenge: 17-3 over Alcoa, 35-24 over a surprisingly tough Farragut team, 12-0 over Oakland in the semifinal. Ravenwood’s path has been tougher, but I still give the very slight edge to Maryville.
Best of luck to all teams this week, and thank you to the fans of all 342 teams covered this year for a great season.
Hello! We’re in the next-to-last week of these projections. Analysis is limited, as I’m out of town at family Thanksgiving. Last week’s picks went 21-9 (70%), or one below the expected record of 22-8. Overall playoff record is now 160-38 (80.8%), which is solid and fine. Here are the games. (Remember, private schools are off this week.)
- (R3 #1) South Pittsburg 31 at (R2 #1) Greenback 26
- (R7 #1) Lake Co. 30 at (R6 #1) Huntingdon 33
- (R4 #2) Trousdale Co. 21 at (R2 #1) Meigs Co. 23
- (R7 #1) Peabody 32 at (R6 #3) Riverside 10
- (R3 #1) Loudon 17 at (R2 #1) Alcoa 30
- (R7 #3) Covington 16 at (R5 #1) Pearl-Cohn 29
- (R4 #2) Nolensville 17 at (R1 #1) Elizabethton 28
- (R7 #1) Haywood 29 at (R5 #1) Springfield 23
- (R3 #2) Knoxville West 26 at (R2 #2) Central 21 (7:00 PM ET, WVLT-TV)
- (R7 #2) Dyer Co. 24 at (R5 #3) Summit 30
- (R3 #1) Oakland 23 at (R2 #1) Maryville 34
- (R7 #1) Houston 24 at (R6 #2) Ravenwood 31
No new playoff odds on Twitter this week – I ended up being way too busy to get them done in image form, but they do exist. Regardless, you can…pretty easily figure out the projected title games. Next week’s title game analysis, obviously, will be much more robust, as I will not be traveling to three cities in two days.
Best of luck to all teams this week!
Quarterfinals time! Last week’s Round of 16 projections went 48-12 (80%), bringing the playoff total to 139-29 (82.7%) and the season total to 1557-376 (80.6%). That’s the eighth week of the last nine where the projections have nailed 80% or more of the games played. Pretty good, if you ask me.
I posted the updated TSSAA playoff odds on Twitter on Tuesday. For class-wide analysis, head there, as these are mostly just game picks. In order, here are the projected 2019 BlueCross Bowl matchups:
- 1A: South Pittsburg vs. Huntingdon
- 2A: Meigs Co. vs. Peabody
- 3A: Alcoa vs. Pearl-Cohn
- 4A: Greeneville vs. Haywood
- 5A: Powell vs. Shelbyville Central
- 6A: Maryville vs. Ravenwood
- II-A: Nashville Christian vs. Friendship Christian
- II-AA: Evangelical Christian vs. Christ Presbyterian Academy
- II-AAA: Memphis University vs. McCallie
Also, before we get any further, a quick discussion on the following topic: The Four Most Surprising Entrants in the 2019 TSSAA Quarterfinals, from least- to most-surprising.
- Giles Co. (15.7% to make quarterfinals) in 3A. Giles County is in 3A-5, the toughest region of 3A, so perhaps they were a little undervalued. They pulled off a mild upset of Fairview in the first round and then a real upset of Stratford in the second to get here. The odds of them advancing past Pearl-Cohn are…slim, sure, but this is still a surprising achievement.
- Riverside (6.5%) in 2A. If you like basketball comparisons, this offered the same likelihood before the playoffs started as UCF making the Sweet Sixteen in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. And yet: here they are. Riverside stunned Lewis County in the first round and then pulled off another, milder upset of Waverly Central. This was a 5-5 team with an expected record of 6-4 based on point differential, so they were a little better than you’d initially think, but still.
- Gordonsville (3.7%) in 1A. This doesn’t have as much to do with Gordonsville as it did Gordonsville’s second-round opponent, Whitwell, pulling off the biggest upset of the playoffs of Monterey. Gordonsville did beat Copper Basin as a seven-point underdog, but they were favored to beat their second-round opponent. Had they played Monterey, they likely wouldn’t be here.
- DeKalb County (1%) in 4A. The stunner of stunners; this would’ve been like Iona defeating North Carolina in the first round last season. DeKalb were big-time dogs to first round opponent Tullahoma; they won, 45-34. They were 19-point underdogs to second-round opponent Marshall County; after trailing 24-14 five minutes left, DeKalb scored twice in the final 4:37 to win, 28-24. This week, they draw Nolensville at home, again as a double-digit underdog. No one would be surprised if they pulled another stunner, right?
The games! Every game, unless I’m told otherwise, starts at 7 PM local time. Some games may be on TV; as best as I can, I’ve tried to reflect that. Otherwise, the projection provides all the information you really need. At the tail end of the post, there will be some additional analysis of each class. What games have the most at stake? What’s the highest-quality matchup out there? First, here’s the predictions.
- (R2 #2) Oliver Springs 17 at (R2 #1) Greenback 31
- (R4 #3) Gordonsville 7 at (R3 #1) South Pittsburg 47
- (R6 #1) Huntingdon 36 at (R5 #1) Huntland 16 (Thursday)
- (R7 #2) West Carroll 14 at (R7 #1) Lake Co. 45
- (R2 #2) Oneida 13 at (R2 #1) Meigs Co. 31
- (R4 #2) Trousdale Co. 24 at (R4 #1) Watertown 20
- (R6 #3) Riverside 11 at (R5 #1) Forrest 26
- (R8 #1) Fairley 15 at (R7 #1) Peabody 33
- (R2 #2) Austin-East 9 at (R2 #1) Alcoa 40
- (R3 #2) Red Bank 20 at (R3 #1) Loudon 25
- (R5 #4) Giles Co. 7 at (R5 #1) Pearl-Cohn 38
- (R8 #1) Wooddale 19 at (R7 #3) Covington 28
- (R1 #2) Greeneville 25.88 at (R1 #1) Elizabethton 25.92
- (R4 #2) Nolensville 28 at (R3 #2) DeKalb Co. 17
- (R6 #1) Hardin Co. 24 at (R5 #1) Springfield 18
- (R7 #2) Crockett Co. 24 at (R7 #1) Haywood 35
- (R2 #2) Central 22 at (R2 #1) South-Doyle 28
- (R3 #2) Knoxville West 20 at (R3 #1) Powell 27 (7:00 PM ET, WVLT-TV)
- (R5 #3) Summit 23 at (R5 #2) Shelbyville Central 25
- (R7 #2) Dyer Co. 24 at (R7 #1) Henry Co. 29
- (R2 #1) Maryville 27 at (R1 #1) Dobyns-Bennett 20
- (R3 #2) Blackman 20 at (R3 #1) Oakland 37
- (R6 #2) Ravenwood 27 at (R6 #1) Brentwood 19 (7:00 PM CT, WUXP-TV)
- (R8 #1) Whitehaven 19 at (R7 #1) Houston 24
- (W #2) Davidson Academy 22.8 at (E #1) Friendship Christian 23.3
- (W #3) University School of Jackson 18 at (W #1) Nashville Christian 29
- (M #4) Lipscomb Academy 18 at (M #1) Christ Presbyterian Academy 26
- (W #2) Lausanne Collegiate 13 at (W #1) Evangelical Christian 33
- (E #3) Ensworth 23 at (E #1) McCallie 29
- (W #3) Montgomery Bell Academy 18 at (W #1) Memphis University 20
30 games in all, with the private school finalists being decided this week. Very exciting times! Here’s the best game by class, with their class-wide ranking next to their name.
- 1A: (R6 #1) #2 Huntingdon at (R5 #1) #8 Huntland
- 2A: (R4 #2) #2 Trousdale Co. at (R4 #1) #4 Watertown
- 3A: (R3 #2) #5 Red Bank at (R3 #1) #3 Loudon
- 4A: (R1 #2) #1 Greeneville at (R1 #1) #2 Elizabethton
- 5A: (R3 #2) #2 Knoxville West at (R3 #1) #1 Powell
- 6A: (R2 #1) #1 Maryville at (R1 #1) #6 Dobyns-Bennett
- II-A: (W #2) #2 Davidson Academy at (E #1) #4 Friendship Christian
- II-AA: (M #4) #3 Lipscomb Academy at (M #1) #2 Christ Presbyterian Academy
- II-AAA: (E #3) #3 Ensworth at (E #1) #1 McCallie
- The 4A and 5A titles feel like they’ll be decided this week. In both classes, the #1 and #2 teams in my ratings play each other, though the 5A winner will likely have to play #3 South-Doyle on the road next week. Either way, we’re about to see a title favorite or #2 contender get knocked out in both classes. Such is the fun of this current system.
- There will be several upsets. I think my 80%+ streak ends this week. Favorites are expected to go just 22-8, or around 73%, which would be the worst week since Week 1. 16 of the 30 games are projected to finish with a single-digit margin, and I only count four 30+ point blowouts. It’s a tight, tough week, and a lot is up for grabs.
- A lot of title favorites have really hard games. I already discussed 4A and 5A, so let’s discuss the rest. Ravenwood, the temporary favorite in 6A, has to beat Brentwood on the road (69.8% odds of happening). Maryville has a tough game with Dobyns-Bennett (66.3%). Nashville Christian has to beat USJ (75.8%) to make the title game. McCallie, the best team in Tennessee this season, has just a 62.2% shot of beating Ensworth and making the II-AAA title game. It’s a thin margin, and someone is going to go home very sad on Friday night.
- Notable streaks or droughts on the line this week, in no order:
- Maryville has made the state semifinals 19 years in a row, their last quarterfinals loss being to Knoxville Central in 1999.
- The winner of Nolensville/DeKalb County will be making the state semifinals for the first time in school history.
- Fairley, West Carroll, and Wooddale have never made the state semifinals.
- Dyer County hasn’t made the state semifinals since 1976.
- Hardin County hasn’t made the state semifinals since 1998.
- Huntland hasn’t made the state semifinals since 1998.
- Houston hasn’t made the state semifinals since 2001.
- Oneida hasn’t made the state semifinals since 2008.
Best of luck to all teams still in the playoffs!