November 2, 2010

Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to and follow him on Twitter.

Yes, it's that time again. When RivalsHigh gets ready for the playoffs by rankings all 50 states by overall quality and depth. And fans cheer or complain, depending on their respective ranking.

Remember, like last year, this is based on the quality of team play (not individual talent) in the state.

The success of the top teams in the state is a key factor, but it is just one measure. The depth of talent - and the talent level in all divisions - also is considered. It's why Florida earns the coveted title of best state in the country this season.

Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas is the state's leader (at No. 2 overall) and that's great. Better yet is the presence of four other schools (Armwood, Dwyer, Dr. Phillips and Miami Central) in the Top 25 and 13 total in the Top 100. That's tough to beat.

It's the reason why Florida rates a slight edge over California (which has three in Top 25 but seven in the first 34). And the reason why Ohio (four in the first 26) edges Texas (only two in the Top 25 and just four in the Top 50).

The biggest jumpers were North Carolina (up 10 spots to No. 10) and Alabama (up 10 to No. 13) and Missouri (up nine to No. 19).

The biggest droppers were Michigan (down 12 to No. 21), Tennessee (down 12 to No. 25), Pennsylvania (down 10 to No. 17) and Minnesota (down 10 to No. 32).

With that, a look at our complete ranking of all 50 states:

TIER ONE: The best of the best for high school football around the country.
1. Florida: The Sunshine state has the market cornered in 2010 with elite prospects and high quality high school football teams. Top to bottom, the state has teams that can compete in any state and any classification in America. It is no shock to have Florida No. 1 nationally. How good is it? Plant, the preseason No. 1 team, with three major Division I recruits has been a big disappointment but the state still takes the top spot. (Last Year: 2)
2. California: It is a very good year in California this season as teams from SoCal to Sacto are making their presence felt in the RivalsHigh 100. California is usually one of the top talent producing states but that can be attributed to sheer volume. This year, it is coupled with a crop of very good high school football teams. NorCal being better than last season and not just Grant and De La Salle gives California the boost in stock. (LY: 4)
3. Ohio: Maintaining its position in the Top 3 may need to stop being a surprise and instead become the norm. Ohio has fewer teams than Texas or California but can certainly hang with the big three and does so for the second straight season. In fact, it may be more like Florida than Texas or California, not relying on volume, instead overall quality. The Division I state title will be the hardest state tournament to win in 2010, Divisions III, IV and V also have several very good teams. (LY: 3)
4: Texas: An elite season in Texas it is not. And to say that the Top 15 teams in Texas would be better than the Top 15 in the three states ahead of it would not be true for the first time in a long time. The state is still among the best nationally and takes the cake for the most passion, but even if 5A was just one tournament and not two, it is unlikely to be more difficult to win that Ohio Division I. The year of the running back in the Lone Star state - sorry Malcom Brown, Aaron Green, Herschel Sims, and Brandon Willams - fell a little flat on the team level. (LY: 1)
TIER TWO: A solid group of states. Long in tradition with quality depth as well as high level players.
5: South Carolina: We had South Carolina circled at the beginning of the season for a breakout year and the Palmetto State did not disappoint. Some casual fans will dismiss the state based solely on the performance of the flag-bearer, Byrnes. Fans in the know see that the Upstate region is stacked with very good teams like Dorman, Northwestern and Greenwood among others and good players like No. 1 overall recruit Jadeveon Clowney and QB wonder Justin Worley. (LY: 8)
6: Louisiana: Class 5A is a little down while 4A and 2A are competitive as ever, keeping Louisiana as a very complete state for high school football. Next year could be a little down as a lot of elite players will be leaving the high school ranks. This year, though, can still be celebrated. More teams are taking the steps to national relevance like Franklinton, Salmen and Dutchtown. That will continue to build quality depth. (LY: 5)
7: Mississippi: The same thing we said last year remains true: Mississippi is an underappreciated state nationally for high school football (even at No. 7). This may be the best season for Class 6A (and the RivalsHigh No. 1 team, South Panola is still dominating it) as well as a very good season in 5A and 4A. Quality depth like West Point, Wayne County and Southaven not being in the state Top 10 is among the biggest factors when talking about quality depth in state rankings and Mississippi has it. (LY: 10)
8: Georgia: This may be a generous spot for a very proud football state. Both of the state's top classes are down, which can do nothing but hurt the overall perception. However, the middle classes are much stronger than usual - Class AAA Peach County may be the best team in the state, while Class AA Cook knocked off AAAAA Colquitt County as well. It is tough when the perception of the state is being carried by AAA and AA teams. (LY: 6)
9: Virginia: The Tidewater area is tremendous (Phoebus and Oscar Smith) but there are also massive voids in quality football. The state is still among the 10 best this season, but may it have topped out at the No. 9 ranking overall. There are enough traditional states that are down that could pass Virginia in years to come. And unless there is a major movement in the Western side of the state, it is unlikely the state will ever get much higher. (LY: 11)
TIER THREE: The bulk of the country. These states have a good top group of teams and can climb higher.
10: North Carolina: A banner season for North Carolina football results in a Top 10 ranking. It isn't just Charlotte Independence football anymore. The top of each class - Butler and Mallard Creek in 4A, West Rowan in 3A and plenty of quality small schools - is comparable to the top of most any nationally. And its elite teams could play out of state. There is an influx of college talent this year as well as quality football players. One has to wonder if the arrival of Butch Davis at UNC spurred the movement? (LY: 20)
11: Illinois: Just outside of the Top 10 falls the Land of Lincoln. The state has been very predictable this season and while that does make the rankings easy, it also leads to immediate doubt. Does it have a couple of very high-level teams and then a lot of average ones, or is the quality depth growing and the top teams truly are elite? Looking for the good, we think Chicagoland is still strong with the state's No. 1 overall team in Wheaton Warrenville South. Add to that Simeon and the Catholic League powers and the outlying areas also want to improve. (LY: 12)
12: Arkansas: Even with the gorilla in the room that is the 80 points allowed by Shiloh Christian to Euless Trinity on Labor Day weekend, the depth and quality of football is improving. If the state can look itself in the mirror and eliminate two classes of football, it will only showcase the true ability of the teams in the state. Arkansas is putting a gap between itself and Oklahoma in high school football. (LY: 14)
13: Alabama: The state starts with Hoover but it does not end there. There are a lot of high-quality teams from tip to tail with Bob Jones to McGill-Toolen. The state that seemingly always has plenty of college prospects but only average team talent has made a step in the right direction this year. The top-end talent is a little down, but the overall quality is a little up. (LY: 23)
14: Arizona: A state that has been on the rise nationally climbs to a spot inside the Top 15. Much of the top-end talent is found within a 20 mile radius of Phoenix but that talent is not just individual players anymore. The state can climb higher with more teams being willing to head out of state to play. (LY: 17)
15: Indiana: This is not just a basketball state anymore. While hoops is still king, there are a lot of football teams that are playing at a higher level than ever before in Indiana. And while the state jumps eight spots this season, it could have leapt more. The oddly arranged playoffs (which saw its top teams go out early) hurt the state in the end. (LY: 23)
16: New Jersey: This is the second straight year outside of the Top 15 for New Jersey football and it was a bit of a surprise. The state has gained a few more quality teams with Bergen Catholic returning to elite status, but by and large the state disappointed with St. Peter's Prep and a couple of other usual suspects. The ranking has not changed but it was expected to improve from 2009. (LY: 16)
17: Pennsylvania: The struggles of Pennsylvania have been largely chronicled this season. The top-end teams are not there like usual. The middle-tier teams are also a little down. Many of the state's best players have been injured and missing a lot of time. The best dozen or so teams in the state could usually hold their own out of state. This season, it may be hard just determining which teams those would be. (LY: 7)
18: Utah: For a state that only has 99 teams playing 11-man football, a spot in the Top 20 nationally is impressive. It is easy math that the percentage of top-end teams like Bingham and Timpview is far greater than that of many other states. Utah is up three spots but it potentially could end up higher if more of its top teams went to Nevada, Colorado, Arizona or other nearby states to prove themselves. (LY: 21)
19: Missouri: A state that is largely measured on its best teams has a handful to choose from this year with both Rockhurst and Hazelwood Central being ranked and the Blue Springs area still holding strong. There are many pockets of the state that are better than normal. And while the prospects are not bursting from the seams, there is a solid level of quality players this season. (LY: 28)
20: Oklahoma: A state on decline. The gap between Jenks and Union with the rest of the state is widening. But those teams are not gaining on the rest of the region. In fact, there are likely more teams in Arkansas that are catching those two than are falling further behind. It would be good to see one of those two squads head out of state lines but that may not be good for Red Dirt perception. (LY: 15)
21: Michigan: Watch that first step, it's a doozey. Michigan was a feel good story in 2009 but has fallen out on tougher times in 2010. There are a handful of quality teams like East Grand Rapids, Canton, Lowell and Farmington Hills Harrison, but there are fewer elite teams and fewer elite players. Last season was a banner year and this may be a basement season. Usually a mid-teens placement can be expected. (LY: 9)
22: Maryland: At the kick of the season, this number would have been almost inconceivable. With a boatload of top-end players, the state was expected to have a spectacular season with teams such as Good Counsel, DeMatha and Gilman. Unfortunately, before the end of September, the grave was already dug and covered over for Maryland. (LY: 19)
23: Washington: It was expected to be a down season for the state and it has met expectations. The top teams are still Skyline, Bellevue and Bothell. Unfortunately all of those teams are not what they typically are. Next season all of those should be back, especially Skyline. (LY: 18)
24: Colorado: The assumption is that Colorado is Mullen and then everyone else. While that may be true, the "everyone else" - Regis Jesuit, Columbine and Chaparral - is not too bad. Colorado is a tough state to get teams in and out of to prove its merits nationally. A placement in the mid-20s is likely a regular spot. (LY: 26)
25: Tennessee: The expectations placed on Tennessee may not have been fair. Last year was a tremendous season for the state and included what may have been one of the best teams in state history: Memphis (Tenn.) University School. A drop off should have been easy to predict. The state has not fallen too far off the radar and the depth of quality teams in all three of the big three cities. Alcoa is king of Knoxville, Smryna leads the charge in the Nashville area and Ridgeway carries the banner in Memphis. Together, that shows marked improvement in the state. (LY: 13)
26: Kansas: It is just barely in the bottom half, but Kansas actually is having a very good season. There are a lot of very talented players in the state this year, and for the first time in a long time, Hutchinson may not be the best team in the state with Wichita Heights and Gardner-Edgerton giving chase. Overall quality is still not there, but some good high school football players are. (LY: 29)
27: Hawaii: A perfect fusion of speed and power in a concentrated area would be a fair description of Hawaii. There are a lot of Polynesian players on the island so the line play is improving. There are also a lot of athletes. The problem is there isn't enough of either to go around. St. Louis and Kahuku are very good teams this year. (LY: 32)
28: Oregon: There could be a case to be made for a higher placement for Oregon as there are a handful of very good teams like Sheldon, Aloha and Jesuit. But there are too many areas of the state that are lacking. High school football is not a border-to-border strength in Oregon. Instead, it is limited to a small region from Portland to slightly south of Eugene and only a limited number of miles east. (LY: 30)
TIER FOUR: A couple pockets of good teams and players but generally in the 25-40 range.
29: Nevada: Like many states in the 25-35 range, there are very good pockets of football and vast expanses of poor football. Get too far outside of Las Vegas and good football is hard to find. Really, any 11-man football could be hard to find. Bishop Gorman is a team that can, and has, played with any teams in the country. Look for the trend of the Gaels making a name for themselves to continue. (LY: 33)
30: Massachusetts: A plus season for the state moves it up the national scale. There are more than the normal number of quality football teams in the state this year. Including a nationally-ranked Everett team, the state boasts solid teams in St. John's, Xaverian Brothers and Brockton among others. Massachusetts usually carries the flag for New England and that is no different in 2010. (LY: 36)
31: Kentucky: Generally the best team in Kentucky is among the four or five best in Ohio. This year, the best team in the state, Louisville Trinity, may not be in the Top 10 in Ohio. There is also a major gap between Trinity and everyone else in the state. That kind of problem is glaring and reflective in this placement. (LY: 25)
32: Minnesota: The trend of flat seasons in the northern lakes region reaches Minnesota. The top teams like Eden Prairie and Wayzata could still be argued as being there, but the group of the top five is not as strong as it has been in recent years. The top quality players are also a little limited from years past. (LY: 22)
33: Iowa: A perception problem will always plague a state that still forbids its members from playing other states. While the competition within the state may be that of Missouri, Kansas or other areas, there will be no qualitative way for teams such as Iowa City High, Dowling or Bettendorf to prove it. (LY: 31)
34: Wisconsin: Falling into the 30s is a low blow for Wisconsin, but the state is simply too far down this year to justify a higher placement. In fact, it could be argued that a lower ranking may be fair. There is some benefit of the doubt due to some of the players in the state, but the lack of a Top 100 team is surprising. (LY: 27)
35: Nebraska: The state seems to be trending to nearly the exact same point as last year and a repeat of state champions in several classes would not be surprising. The main pockets of teams remain to be near Omaha - Millard South, North, West and Creighton Prep - but there does not seem to be many other areas growing to compete. Amazing, consider how good the state university has been for so long. (LY: 34)
36: New Mexico: Often dismissed as the area west of El Paso, there are a lot of quality teams peaking up inside the Land of Enchantment, most of which are in Albuquerque or the near surrounding area. While New Mexico still has an amazingly long journey to get to the same level as Arizona, it finally is conceivable that such an event could happen in the future. (LY: 40)
TIER FIVE: Barring a very special season not many elite level teams or players.
37: New York: Football in New York is having a tough time getting national respect. The overall level of play is spotty across the state but even the best teams in and around New York City likely could not hang with the best in New Jersey or even the best in Boston, giving the state its rank near the bottom. (LY: 37)
38: West Virginia: A product of being judged by the company you keep hurts West Virginia. The state can't compare to Pennsylvania or Maryland - even in years like this one, when both are down. That has an impact on the perception of a weaker state in the surrounding area. (LY: 35)
39: Connecticut: The difference between No. 39 and No. 47 is not much, so the next grouping of teams are likely interchangeable. Connecticut gets the top billing among the weaker areas because of its ability to produce quality football players. The teams are not elite but it isn't expected at this level. (LY: 39)
40: Alaska: While Alaska is not part of the contiguous 48, it is still playing better football than several other states. There are generally not teams that could compete nationally, but some could play with teams in Washington and fair well enough to be respectable. A few players will trickle down to play Division I football as well. (LY: 42)
41: Montana: It is a down year in Montana. The Helena area actually has some very big schools and some pretty good teams, but the outlying areas are desolate and do not provide many 11-man teams for competition. (LY: 38)
42: Idaho: Even with a nationally respected college football team inside its borders, the level of high school football is still low. If a similar trend - like the one that helped Utah and North Carolina grow with its college teams improving - develops in Idaho, it may be a state on the rise in the next decade. (LY: 41)
43: Maine: Every once in a while, there is a team in Maine that will pop up and be a positive surprise. The state is too remote to really recruit so there isn't much to talk about prospect wise and, honestly, hockey is still the No. 1 sport there. (LY: 43)
44: Delaware: The small state could be higher up the list if it were bigger and kept the same concentration of quality teams and players. The numbers are so small and that hurts the overall ranking. (LY: 44)
45: Wyoming: The Class 4A in Wyoming will have a quality final four in the state playoffs but not of the same level as its neighbors this year. (LY: 45)
46: North Dakota: Once you travel outside of Bismarck, there is not much to speak of high school football. There also may not be much to speak of inside city limits this season. (LY: 46)
47: New Hampshire: A state as small as New Hampshire having six classes of teams is just silliness. This is a state that could easily have just three classes and make for the top division to mean something relevant regionally. (LY: 48)
48: Vermont: Vermont has the fewest 11-man football teams of any state in the country. And most of them are not very good. It will be highly unlikely that Vermont is out of the basement anytime soon. (LY: 49)
49: Rhode Island: Like Delaware, there is actually some quality football being played in Rhode Island. There just isn't enough of it. It also isn't as concentrated as its New England brethren. (LY: 47)
50: South Dakota: Back-to-back seasons at the bottom is tough, but South Dakota is simply not playing quality football. It has more teams than Vermont, Rhode Island and Delaware, but its top squads would likely still lose to the others. (LY: 50)

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