First round playoffs, by the numbers:
5: Number of first-round bus trips longer than 385 miles. Turns out there is one such trip in each classification (Evanston at Gillette, Buffalo at Star Valley, Mountain View at Newcastle, Lingle at Cokeville, Hulett at Snake River).
2: Number of first-round bus trips shorter than 100 miles (Central at East, Kaycee at Midwest).
5: Number of first-round games that are rematches of quarterfinal games from last year (Buffalo at Star Valley, Lander at Powell, Shoshoni at Southeast, Lingle at Cokeville, Hulett at Snake River). Four of those five games are being played at the same location as last year’s quarterfinal game — only the Lander-Powell game is in a different place than last year.
3: Number of games pitting two programs that have never played each other before this week (Kemmerer/Big Horn, Wheatland/Lyman, Upton-Sundance/Burlington (see explanation below)).
9: Number of first-round games that are regular-season rematches. Every single team that won the regular-season game is hosting the rematch this week.
2: Number of road teams that won in the first round last year. Both were 3A teams (Buffalo, Powell).
9: Number of first-round road victories since 2008. Road teams are 9-71 since ’08 in the first round.
1: Number of road teams I am picking to win in the first round this year.
Some picks below, with a little justification to boot. Projected winners in bold:
Rock Springs at Natrona: Natrona won the regular-season game fairly easily. Expect the undefeated Mustangs to keep rolling. First playoff meeting since 1999.
Cheyenne Central at Cheyenne East: I do like it when intra-city rivals meet in the playoffs; gives them a nice little twist and, as cliche as it sounds, anything can happen. First playoff meeting since playing in the 5A title game in 2005.
Kelly Walsh at Sheridan: KW’s resurgence this year has been a boon for Trojan fans, but the trip to Sheridan is a tough one in the postseason; KW has lost quarterfinal games at Homer Scott Field two of the past three seasons (and if this pick holds up, three of the past four), although those two losses were by a combined nine points.
Evanston at Gillette: Looooong bus ride (450 miles). Angry Camel team coming off its first loss. Not a good mix. First playoff meeting since 2000.
Cody at Riverton: The Wolverines won the regular-season matchup back in September, and although both teams are better now than they were then, Riverton is still the prohibitive favorite. First playoff meeting since 2004, when both teams were in 5A.
Buffalo at Star Valley: Another looooooong bus ride (430 miles through the park). And the Braves’ defense has been among the stingiest in the state this year. They played this game last year, too, third-seeded Buffalo traveling to second-seeded Star Valley, and even though the Bison won that game last year, it was definitely played under some different circumstances.
Green River at Douglas: This might be the best game of the week — especially if it’s anything like the regular-season game, one the Bearcats won 20-14. Law of averages (well, that and a coin flip) has me going with the Wolves. First playoff meeting.
Lander at Powell: Powell’s got its eyes on more than just making the playoffs. Remember, the Panthers’ title run last year started with a win over the Tigers….
Kemmerer at Big Horn: The Rams proved last week that they have the goods to go all the way. First meeting ever between these two programs.
Glenrock at Lovell: How different would this season have been if Glenrock had beaten Big Horn back in Week 4, and not fallen 30-26? First playoff meeting since 2009.
Mountain View at Newcastle: Looooong bus ride (460 miles). But… this game might be closer than you think if Newcastle suffers from any sort of post-Big Horn frustration. First playoff meeting since 1999.
Wheatland at Lyman: The Eagles have not-so-quietly been one of the most efficient and consistent teams in the state this fall. First meeting between these two programs.
Class 1A 11-man
Rocky Mountain at Lusk: The Tigers had some tense moments last week but are still the team to beat from the East. Expect a game from the Griz, though. First meeting since 1997 1A-D1 title game.
Upton-Sundance at Burlington: The Patriots have been a feel-good story all season long, but the Huskies have been scary consistent. First official meeting; Burlington last (and only) played Upton in 1997 and has never played Sundance.
Shoshoni at Southeast: I have legit reasons to pick both teams in this one. Last year’s quarterfinal game, though — won 60-0 by Southeast in Yoder — has me leaning toward the Cyclones, though. Returning to a site of a beating like that only feels good if you’re there to avenge it.
Lingle at Cokeville: Loooooong bus ride (443 miles). Lingle had to make this exact same trip in last year’s playoff quarterfinals. Didn’t go so well.
Class 1A six-man
Hulett at Snake River: Not a loooooong bus ride, just long (390 miles). And then when you get off the bus, you have to play the Rattlers. Rematch of last year’s quarterfinal, a game LSR won handily.
Guernsey at Meeteetse: This might be your game of the week right here, not only in six-man but in any class. They played just a couple weeks ago and the Longhorns barely eked out a 36-30 victory in Guernsey. First playoff meeting.
Kaycee at Midwest: Repeat of last week’s season finale — same two teams, same place. The only difference is the last game was an afternoon game and this one’s a night game. These two teams are meeting in the playoffs for the third time in four years (missed each other last year).
Hanna at Dubois: Since ending Snake River’s winning streak back in September, the Rams have been the team to beat in six-man. No one’s even been close. First playoff meeting.
Last week: 24-6 (80 percent). This season: 225-41 (85 percent).
Your thoughts? The first round of the playoffs tends to be a pretty predictable week, but every year a couple teams turn yawners into thrillers. Any surprise teams in the postseason brackets this year — teams under the radar that shouldn’t be? Feel free to post some thoughts below as we start talking about the final stretch of the 2012 season.