November 15, 2009

The Greatest State Debate

MORE: RivalsHigh Top 100 football rankings: November 16 update

Dallas Jackson is the high school sports expert for Send him a question or comment at and follow him at

It's well established that Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas is the nation's top high school football team. It has been the past two seasons. But is Florida the top overall state for high school football?

Now that's something worthy of a debate.

With the playoffs under way all around the nation, RivalsHigh decided it was the perfect time to host its own tournament to crown the best state for high school football in the country.

Call it the Greatest State Debate.

Where to begin? (((Note: Links to all the results are at the bottom)))

Step One: Seeding the tournament

We thought a 12-state tournament, where the top four teams get first-round byes, works best. Here's how we picked the field. We used this week's rankings as our guide and gave each state the inverse number of points of the ranking for each of its ranked teams. In English this means No. 1 Aquinas was worth 100 points to Florida, No. 5 Byrnes was worth 96 points to South Carolina and No. 100 Webb City was worth one point to Missouri.

Here's how they finished:

  • 1) Texas (746)
  • 2) Florida (621)
  • 3) California (569)
  • 4) Georgia (410)
  • 5) Louisiana (260)
  • 6) Pennsylvania (256)
  • 7) Ohio (221)
  • 8) Michigan (196)
  • 9) Maryland (165)
  • 10) Mississippi (159)
  • 11) Virginia (155)
  • 12) South Carolina (152)

    Just missed: Arizona (147), Oklahoma (121), Tennessee (116), Washington (100) and New Jersey (99).

    Please note: this competition gives a strong edge to depth. Just take a look at the Garden State. New Jersey has Don Bosco Prep, the No. 2 overall team in the RivalsHigh Top 100. But in an unusually down year, the state has no other schools in the rankings - meaning all 99 of its points came from just one school.

    Step Two: The rules of the games

    We came up with two sets of categories: One based on raw numbers, the other on subjective analysis. Points will be awarded for the winning team.

    Category I: Raw numbers (Winning side gets a field goal)

  • Most teams in the Top 25: There has to be a reward for having some truly great teams. If the state's have the same number in the group, the state with the highest-ranked team will get the field goal. If neither has a ranked team, no points will be awarded.

  • Most teams in the Top 100: Quantity counts as much as quality. Depth helps. The state with more teams wins. Should the teams tie, the state with the most teams in the Top 50 will get the points.

  • Top recruits: How many players does the state have in the Rivals 250? Ties will be broken by number of players in the Rivals 100.

    Category II: Analysis (Winning side gets a touchdown)

  • Depth of quality. Having good teams in your largest class is one thing, but how is the football that is played in the lower divisions?

  • Out-of-state schedule. This is a key indicator. We'll look at the state's record. But more than that, their willingness to take on the best.

  • History/intangibles. Call it the 'it' factor. Call it a gut feeling. Comparing states that don't' go head-to-head is hard, so we'll bring in all the outside information and influences we can with a special eye on past performances.

    Step Three: The schedule

    Tuesday (Nov. 17): First round

    No. 5 Louisiana beats No. 12 South Carolina

    No. 6 Pennsylvania tops No. 11 Virginia

    No. 7 Ohio trounces No. 10 Mississippi

    No. 8 Michigan dominates No. 9 Maryland

    Wednesday (Nov. 18): Quarterfinals

    No. 5 Louisiana tops No. 4 Georgia

    No. 3 California beats No. 6 Pennsylvania

    No. 2 Florida pounds No. 7 Ohio

    No. 1 Texas overwhelms No. 8 Michigan

    Thursday (Nov. 19): Semifinals

    No. 1 Texas blanks No. 5 Louisiana

    No. 2 Florida topples No. 3 California

    Friday (Nov. 20): Title Game

    Find out who wins.

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