Hosting the Prep Power Index (https://www.kansaspregame.com/content/prep-power-index) at KansasPregame.com this season was a fun experiment. For nearly 20 years Salina Journal sportswriter Tim Hostetter's formula attempted to measure the strength of every KSHSAA approved football team in Kansas while also assessing each team's strength of schedule.
The formula - which Hostetter massaged over the years to get to its current version - uses a variety of factors to determine each team's rating, including wins and losses, scoring, classification of opponents, and more.
After a full year of updating the PPI weekly our belief is the formula is quite accurate, but two factors limit the formula's ability to achieve an ever higher level accuracy - a strength of league assessment and a component for late season improvement.
St. James Academy and Bishop Miege provide two examples of teams who, over the course of the season, likely weren't ranked high enough because the formula is unable to recognize that losses to outstanding EKL teams are not bad losses, while Atchison was given a high ranking because the formula is unable to assess that teams from the KC-AL are not as strong.
Similarly, Maize, heading into today's 5A title game, is ranked behind a Kapaun team it just beat, and a Wichita Northwest team that lost to Kapaun twice, largely because of a bad Week 4 loss to an Ark City team that finished with just three losses. Maize has clearly improved since that Week 4 loss, but the formula may not recognize that improvement. The lack of a Week 1 game also seemingly penalized Derby for much of the season, though they were the clear number one team in 6A.
Ultimately, after today's winners are crowned, the formula will likely be a very accurate representation of the strength of each team, and their schedules, but, I'm hopeful some tweaks can be made to the PPI to make it even more accurate over the course of the season.
Just for fun, here are my picks for the state title games:
6A - Derby, 42 - Blue Valley Northwest, 35
The near-miss win over Maize in Week 7 was a wake-up call for the Derby defense. Northwest is battle-tested because of their EKL schedule, and Clint Rider is one of the great young coaches in the state, but Derby's state game experience is an undeniable intangible.
5A - Mill Valley, 35 - Maize, 28
Like Derby, Mill Valley's been there, done that when it comes to winning state championships and that experience has to be considered, but Maize's offensive line and Avery Johnson will make this a game.
4A - St. James Academy, 35 - Andover Central 28
I discounted SJA all season, primarily because of the graduation of LaJames White, but Tyler Claiborne is one of the best receivers the state of Kansas has ever seen and the EKL schedule will have them prepared. Andover Central's offensive line and defensive front won't make things easy, but the Thunder are likely headed toward a repeat.
3A - Andale, 34 - Frontenac, 18
Frontenac's win over Holton last week, after losing badly to them in the playoffs a year ago, was one of the most impressive performances of the year, but Andale overpowered a Southeast of Saline team that I believe was the second best in the classification, and it's hard to imagine a scenario where that doesn't happen again today.
2A - Rossville, 42 - Beloit, 20
Beloit coach Brad Gober changed offensive schemes heading into this season recognizing the size and strength of his offensive line would give the Trojans an edge, but with three key injuries in the backfield and an explosive and experienced opponent in Rossville, the Trojans have their hands full today.
1A - Olpe, 20 - Inman, 18
In what should be the best matchup of the day, Olpe returns to the title game after graduating little from last year's squad. Inman is versatile and explosive, but Olpe gets the edge in this defensive matchup.
8-Man I - Little River, 38 - Meade, 20
Little River coach Kevin Ayers may be the best coach in the state of Kansas. After graduation gutted the offensive skill corps of last year's state champion it appeared Ayers' team would take a step back, but a big offensive line and outstanding junior running back Braxton Lafferty have them right back where they belong. Meade is the story of the 8-Man West, but Little River's experience and coaching flexibility are the difference in this one.
8-Man II - Axtell, 62 - Wheatland-Grinnell, 22
I doubted Axtell, even heading into the Thunder Ridge match-up, but they've made a believer out of me, and while this will be closer than the Eagles' blowout win over the Thunderhawks in Week 1, Axtell is still the heavy favorite.