In all, 19 of the 30 games on the schedule this week have an effect on playoff seeding.
Of Wyoming’s five football classifications, though, only one class has a schedule where every game matters to playoff seeding — Class 4A.
Like usual, Class 4A has two distinct strata: the top teams, and the not-so-top teams. But one game, Central’s 32-19 victory against Natrona last week, suddenly increased the ranks of the top tier by one — and Rock Springs is right there, too, being consistently competitive against top teams.
When we look at this week’s 4A schedule, that’s the dividing line. The top tier teams are trying to figure out seeds one through six, while the not-so-top tier is trying to figure out the last two teams in.
There are 32 different scenarios with these games — leading to a ton of potentially different playoff brackets. The only thing certain is that Thunder Basin will be the top seed.
After that? Chaos, but neatly aligned chaos split directly between seeds Nos. 6 and 7.
Sheridan could be seed 2 or 3; Cheyenne East could finish anywhere from 2 to 5; Cheyenne Central could finish third, fourth or fifth; Natrona could be third, sixth or anywhere in between; Rock Springs will be on the road in the first round but could be either fifth or sixth.
Games between Cheyenne East and Sheridan and between Natrona and Rock Springs will help sort the top tier.
Then we get our straddle games: Cheyenne Central facing Cheyenne South and Thunder Basin facing Laramie.
Most likely, Central and Thunder Basin win those games. But if they don’t, that’s when the scenarios on the bottom tier get, um, weird.
If Kelly Walsh beats Gillette and South and Laramie simultaneously pull two of the biggest upsets in 4A history, then we’ll finish with a four-way tie for the final two playoff spots.
The anarchist in me wants to see this happen.
Remember how the WHSAA put into place the scoring differential tiebreaker this year — an effort to curb the use of coin flips to decide playoff seeding? It doesn’t apply to four-way ties. Dimes and thumbs are how four-way ties are broken in cases like this where one team hasn’t beaten, or lost, to all of the other three.
But that’s the least likely of the 32 scenarios.
Even a three-way tie would require a monumental upset by either South or Laramie. (Although… any chance Thunder Basin rests its starters and gives up an undefeated season to avoid risking injuries to key guys before the playoffs? Probably not, but it’s a thought.)
That leaves one key game to discuss: Kelly Walsh hosting Gillette. The Camels have the advantage with the better record, but KW has home field and urgency… because the three-way tie that’s most likely is KW, Laramie and South tying for the eighth and final playoff spot, all with 1-8 records.
And in that situation… Laramie is in, with Laramie +6, KW +5 and South -11.
In a weird way, scoring differential has created more clarity entering the final week. Now, KW knows it has to win to be in.
In a 4A week where every game matters, that kind of certainty is rare.
Other Week 8 games? Well, 14 of them have playoff implications. Here’s a quick look at some of them:
Don’t overlook the Lander-Worland game in the 3A East. The Tigers have been rolling, but the Warriors have been resurgent and are still in the mix for a conference championship themselves — and this game is in Washakie County. By the same token, Riverton at Douglas in the 3A East could also be one of the best games in the state this week, and just as much is on the line there. …
One of the games I’ve been waiting for all season finally happens Friday with Thermopolis traveling to Burns. The winner gains home field for the first round of the 2A playoffs, and to be honest both teams have proven themselves both capable and worthy of that honor. Really interested to see how it goes. …
The 1A 11-man East championship will either be a Big Horn runaway or a three-way tie; if Southeast can somehow give the Rams their first loss of the season, in Yoder, then the 1A title chase goes from predictable to chaotic. …
The best game on the six-man schedule is the regional rivalry between Burlington and Riverside in Basin — a game we won’t see next year or into the foreseeable future as the Rebels make the jump to nine-man. Last week’s Lingle-Guernsey game was played under similar circumstances. It’ll be sad to see some of those rivalries go, but new ones will emerge — like Riverside-Greybull, which will be rekindled as a conference game next year. …
On to some picks for Week 8, the final week of the regular season and the end to the careers of about a third of Wyoming’s high school football seniors:
Big Piney at Lyman
Cheyenne East at Sheridan
Cheyenne South at Cheyenne Central
Gillette at Kelly Walsh
Rock Springs at Natrona
Thunder Basin at Laramie
Cody at Green River
Evanston at Star Valley
Lander at Worland
Powell at Jackson
Rawlins at Torrington
Riverton at Douglas
Buffalo at Newcastle
Glenrock at Moorcroft
Greybull at Mountain View
Kemmerer at Lovell
Thermopolis at Burns
Wheatland at Pinedale
Class 1A 11-man
Big Horn at Southeast
Shoshoni vs. Upton-Sundance (at Casper)
Pine Bluffs at Lusk
Wind River at Cokeville
Wright at Tongue River
Class 1A six-man
Burlington at Riverside
Dubois at Snake River
Hanna at Guernsey-Sunrise
NSI at Kaycee
St. Stephens at Farson
Class 1A six-man
Lingle at Hulett
Encampment’s game Wednesday was canceled; Meeteetse has an open week; in a pair of forfeits, Rocky Mountain defeated Wyoming Indian and Saratoga beat Midwest.
For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, go here. Click on “Week 8” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule.
Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:
Last week: 29-3 (91 percent). This season: 195-48 (80 percent).
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