The final Rating Percentage Index figures have been tabulated and they have big implications for Kentucky high school football as the playoffs begin Thursday.
In case you missed it, the Kentucky High School Athletics Association has instituted the use of an RPI rankings system to be used to break district ties in the first round and, more importantly, seed the field after the second round of this year’s playoffs.
The other new wrinkle this year is that the first two rounds of the playoffs are officially district championships, a format that hasn’t been used since 2007. So all of this week’s first-round opponents and next week’s second-round opponents are teams that have seen each other in the regular season.
So, who’s No. 1 overall in the final KHSAA RPI?
It’s Class A’s Kentucky Country Day.
If that doesn’t make sense to you given that the Bearcats would probably have a difficult time handling Class 6A’s Male (who’s ranked No. 7 overall in the RPI), you’re probably not alone, but it’s due to how the KHSAA’s RPI system gives more weight to games in which smaller schools beat bigger schools.
Throwing out that bias, looking at RPI class-by-class is less jarring and reveals its true implications.
Here are the top-10 final RPI rankings for each class. These rankings are locked in for the playoffs and will no longer change week to week. Every team in each class has an RPI ranking beyond these contenders:
|1||Kentucky Country Day||3||10-0||0.814|
|3||Louisville Holy Cross||2||8-2||0.699|
|6||Newport Central Catholic||4||8-2||0.674|
|1||Bell County||5||10- 0||0.704|
|2||Paducah Tilghman||1||7- 3||0.665|
The downside of the new playoff system is that there are a number of top teams who live within the same district. So, there’s no avoiding potential Round 2 knockouts of top teams like No. 2 Frederick Douglass having to play No. 3 Scott County in Class 5A, No. 1 Lexington Christian tied to No. 3 Somerset and No. 2 Mayfield tied to No. 4 Caldwell County in Class 2A, and No. 1 Boyle County tied to No. 5 Lexington Catholic in Class 4A.
It’s a format the Kentucky Football Coaches Association spoke out against when it was announced earlier this year, citing internal polling that showed 90 percent of its 106 members opposed.
“When all this stuff happened, I told our guys if you want to win big, you’ve got to beat them all anyways,” said Franklin County Coach Eddie James, whose Class 4A No. 3 Flyers finished the regular season 10-0 in District 4 where he must contend with No. 10 Shelby County, No. 12 Central and faces a No. 16 Waggener this week. “It’s a little tougher since you play them in the regular season and you don’t want to show everything that you have when you know the rematch is definitely coming. In the past it could come, but, now, you know it’s coming.”
Here’s where RPI kicks in and the following example can be extrapolated to every class.
In Class A’s District 3, Kentucky Country Day, as the No. 1 RPI team if it survived to round three, would host the lowest-ranked team coming out of Districts 1, 2 or 4 for its “regional” matchup.
On the “other side of the state, If No. 2 Pikeville survives its District 7 clashes, it would host the lowest-ranked remaining team from Districts 5, 6, or 8.
The second- and third-highest rated teams left among Districts 1-4 and, respectively, District 5-8 would also play each other that week to set up the state semifinals.
These District 1-4 and 5-8 splits of the regional round are to help reduce travel so that a District 1 team doesn’t have to go to a District 8 site at this stage.
At the state semifinals round, where your district is located no longer matters. The top remaining seed would face the lowest seed regardless of the distance required to travel and the second-highest seed would face the third seed, with the higher seeds hosting.
The RPI playoffs aim to make sure the two “best” teams remaining would play each other in the finals — a guarantee that has never been possible before under the KHSAA’s previous system where sometime a quarterfinal or semifinal could be argued as the biggest game of the playoffs. That argument likely won’t go away, regardless.
But will we see matchups like No. 1 Kentucky Country Day vs. No. 2 Pikeville and No. 1 Lexington Christian vs. No. 2 Mayfield or even No. 1 Male vs. No. 2 North Hardin at Kroger Field next month?
Those are, indeed, possible, now. And time will tell.