The confusing world of OSAA football power rankings
Rating Oregon’s prep football teams isn’t as simple as it seems
For the record, this isn’t my favorite topic in the world of Oregon prep football. But like it or not, rating of teams is a necessary evil these days. The so-called OSAA power rankings are a complicated way of determining the top schools in preparation for the state championship post season. I fielded a question about the rankings this past week, so figured now would be a good time to explain how it all works—sort of.
Note: the rankings take on increased importance this year with the new split of playoff games between a championship and consolation (Columbia Cup) bracket—meaning the difference between being 16th and 17th out of the top 32 teams is the difference between playing for the state title and earning a shot at the newly created “cup” just instituted this season.
First, a warning—power rankings are very fickle, and to examine them just three games into the season means absolutely… nothing. The ratings will jump up and down, depending on the teams played, and the outcome from the games. There are times where a win actually will reduce a team’s ranking.
Here are the power rankings for the teams from Special District One through three games:
3) South Salem
11) South Medford
21) Grants Pass
24) North Salem
32) North Medford
43) West Salem
The teams at the top of the rankings (1, 3, 11) are all unbeaten, which makes sense. But North Salem is also unbeaten at 3-0, yet they are rated much lower at 24th—and even stranger, they are ranked below a team (Roseburg) that they shut out last week. So how can that be the case?
It all comes down to the strength of a team’s schedule. North Salem’s first two games of the year involved relatively weak teams from the Portland Metro area. Their lack of competitiveness actually hurts North’s power ranking as a result. Wins against tougher opponents, like the teams above them in the conference, will help improve their standing on the list. Playing more games should help their position, provided they keep winning.
At the same time, lesser teams in Special District One (or any other conference) can also hurt an opposing team’s power rating, and move them down the list even with a victory. For example, West Salem is at 0-3 and is low on the rankings list. Playing West will hurt the opposition, win or lose. There is some irony in this situation because West has traditionally been a very strong team. This year, as a young and inexperienced school, the Titans have taken their lumps. As a result, (and I repeat myself) teams beating the Titans will also see their overall rating drop.
Teams that play tougher opposition stand to be higher ranked than other teams—provided they win. That was exactly the thought behind West Linn and Sheldon playing each other so early in the season. They may see each other again in the championship bracket as a result.
Another Special District One oddity: two of the best teams out of Salem-Keizer face the possibility of dropping out of the championship bracket. Why? It is because through the randomness of scheduling, neither North Salem or South Salem will play top-ranked Sheldon during the regular season. That means they can potentially finish tied with the Irish in the District standings, yet finish much lower in the ratings because they never played the Irish at all.
Now, if none of this made any sense to you, I am not sure I can make the information or examples any clearer. The bottom line is, the more difficult schedules give teams a better chance of being ranked higher. Easy schedules can leave teams out of the running for a state title. The best situation for any team is to have a challenging schedule, and to win most or all of the games on the way to the post season.
My best piece of advice: try to ignore power rankings until the very end of the season. Your brain will feel better and the rankings will work themselves out.