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Computer predicts last game for undefeated teams

A total of 39 varsity football teams in Illinois have gone undefeated for the first eight weeks of a nine-week season, but since two games this weekend are match-ups between undefeated teams, only 37, at the most, have a chance to finish the regular season with a goose egg in the loss column.

Our computer has classified the 37 games according to team strength parameters we have been calculating for four years now, and we have separated the predictions into three separate categories for fun and entertainment purposes only: (1) teams that should remain undefeated, (2) teams in games that could be close, and (3) games we can't call either way.

Teams that should remain undefeated

TEAM Englewood and Noble Street Charter/Pritzker, both from Chicago, already played their ninth game of the season and won. These two teams are known, therefore, to have finished the 2010 season undefeated. For the record, our computer predicted a decisive victory for Pritzker, which won 46-0 against fellow Noble Street Charter School, Rowe-Clark at Hanson Stadium; and an uncertain victory for TEAM Englewood against North Lawndale Charter Wednesday. TEAM Englewood won the game 20-13 at Lane Stadium.

Lewistown, with a total winning point margin of 349, should defeat winless Rushville-Industry at home Friday night at 7. Lewistown has clobbered much stronger opponents this year. Furthermore, no team has scored more than 12 points against Lewistown, nor held them to under 32.

Our computer also says Rochester will have an easy time defeating Southeast Springfield, which is winless this season, in an away game Friday night at 7. Against a common opponent, Sacred Heart-Griffin, Rochester won a close one against the 7-1 Cyclones, 13-10, while Southeast Springfield gave up 48 points while being shut out the week before.

East St. Louis Senior, arguably one of the toughest varsity football teams in the state—and by some accounts, the nation—should defeat the 3-5 varsity team from Granite City. Granite City's three wins this season have all been in one-possession games, and East St. Louis dealt readily with 6-2 teams from Illinois like Belleville East and O'Fallon Township, as well as teams from Indiana and Florida in the first two weeks of the season.

Senn High School from Chicago plays Steinmetz, 1-8, and should win with ease Friday afternoon at 3:30 at Hanson Stadium.

Lemont plays the winless Hawks from Hillcrest Friday night at 7, and the Indians should emerge victorious. Both Lemont and Hillcrest have been in a few close games this season, but while Lemont has won those contests, Hillcrest has lost—each time.

Rockford Christian hosts Chicago Hope Academy and should defeat them. Our computer puts the margin of victory of this game at more than 40 points, probably on the strength of Rockford Christian's victory over 7-1 Aldon-Hebron, 33-20, and over North Shore Country Day School, whose win-loss record (4-4) is similar to that of Chicago Hope Academy (3-5), 64-2.

Pontiac meets Peoria in an away game Friday night at 7:30 and should win by an appreciable margin. Led by coach David Young and his staff, the Pontiac Indians simply haven't let anyone get close this season, including 5-3 Mahomet-Seymour, which lost 49-35, and 6-2 Bloomington Central Catholic, which lost 28-10. This shows that teams can score against Pontiac, but the Indians simply rise to the challenge.

Robeson plays Bogan High School, both from Chicago, at Stagg Stadium in a Thursday afternoon game at 3:15. When it's over, our computer predicts that Robeson will have an undefeated season in Chicago's Land of Lincoln Conference. Bogan is 2-6 on the season, and Robeson has won its games by an average of 29.75 points. This one might be a little bigger.

Simeon plays Brooks Thursday at 7 p.m., at Gately Stadium. This one should go Simeon's way, considering Brooks is 3-5 on the season and Simeon even defeated Mt. Carmel in a huge season opener at Soldier Field, 47-41.

Coach Ron Muhitch at Wheaton-Warrenville South knows how to make championship teams, having been to 7A and 8A finals and semifinals a lot in recent history. The Tigers won the 7A state title last year and face West Aurora on Friday night, 7:30, in an away game. Even in tough matches, like the nationally televised Week 2 match-up against the Hawks from Maine South, last year's 8A state champs, Wheaton-Warrenville South comes out on top, often in grand fashion, like their decisive 44-7 victory over Maine South.

Stark County, which has been to Champaign itself recently, should win against West Central (3-5). Enrollment at both schools is nearly identical (320 for Stark County, 327 for West Central), which our computer interprets as one indication of bench depth. But then, Stark County currently sits atop the 10-school Lincoln Trail Conference while West Central brings up the bottom of that conference. Game time is 7 p.m. Friday at Stark County.

Illini West should defeat Sherrard by a healthy margin in a home game to be played at Carthage Friday night at 7. Both teams play in the West Central Conference, although the computer took a second look at four of Sherrard's five losses, which came in very close games against conference opponents. Still, Illini West looks too strong to our computer to call this one any other way.

Alleman High School from Rock Island will travel to the house of the Kays at Kankakee Senior High School for a Friday night game at 7. Based on team strength, the computer thinks Alleman should win the game by between 20-25 points, but Alleman hasn't been tested too tough this season, playing in the six-school Western Big 6 Conference.

Deer Creek-Mackinaw plays St. Thomas More Friday night at 7 at an away game in Champaign. It's Deer Creek-Mackinaw's only non-conference opponent, but considering the Heart of Illinois Conference has 13 schools, it's surprising they even have time for this one. Deer Creek-Mackinaw should win against 4-4 St. Thomas More and finish the regular season undefeated.

Newman Central Catholic plays Bureau Valley at home Saturday afternoon at 1:00. The two teams are in the same conference, and Bureau Valley has lost this season to Kewanee (3-5), 32-12, and to Morrison (7-1), 46-0, a game played just a week ago. On the other hand, Newman decisively beat Kewanee, 54-19, two weeks ago and kept Morrison at bay, 16-6 back on Sept. 10. The computer predicts Newman will remain undefeated this season, but Bureau Valley has made a name for itself and will be in the same playoff class as Newman next week.

Richmond-Burton leads the Big Northern (East) Conference in sort of a runaway, and this week's opponent, North Boone, is in second place with a 4-4 record. Nonconference opponents are common on the schedule of these two teams, including Oregon, which Richmond-Burton defeated in Week 1, 34-8, and which decisively defeated North Boone on Sept. 17, 56-35. These differences in the strength of the two teams make a computer prediction of Richmond-Burton as the winner at home Friday night at 7 clear.

Finally, Crystal Lake South should beat McHenry at home Friday night at 7:15 to remain undefeated this season. It's a conference game, and the Gators from Crystal Lake South have held three conference opponents to 14 points while scoring either 28 or 48 points themselves in the last three weeks. McHenry, on the other hand, comes into the game 1-7, and even with an offense that seems to be able to get the ball into the end zone a few times per game, the defense just won't stand up against Crystal Lake South, our computer thinks.

Games that could be close

Villa Grove meets the Titans from the Tri-County Coop (7-1) at home Friday night at 7, in an intra-conference match-up in the Little Okaw Valley Conference. This will be an interesting game, since both teams sit atop the conference. Here, the computer is relying strictly on point-scoring potential and defensive strength to predict that Villa Grove will win the game by between 15-20 points. Against conference opponents, Villa Grove has won by an average of 37.5 points a game, while Tri-County has won by an average of 21.33 points a game. Both are undefeated in conference games, and records are impressive. However, the computer thinks Villa Grove can outscore Tri-County in this Week 9 game to remain undefeated this season.

Boylan is undefeated this season, as is their Week 9 opponent, Hononegah. Both teams are vying to put an undefeated season on the books, but one of these great teams will have to end the season with a loss. Boylan has recorded much more decisive victories this season, outscoring their opponents by 308 points, the sixth highest in Illinois this year, while Hononegah has had a more typical season, outscoring their opponents by a total of 158 points. The computer simply predicts Boylan to emerge with more points on the board after this contest is over.

Looking at the cross-town, intra-conference game between Plainfield South (8-0) and Plainfield North (6-2), we give a slight edge to the undefeated Cougars. The computer bases this mostly on the games against Oswego (4-4). While Plainfield South defeated Oswego 56-30 on Oct. 8, Plainfield North was in a nail-biter the week before, winning by less than a touchdown, 49-43. Both North and South are able to put points on the board, and the edge goes to Plainfield North if the game is close. However, South simply scores more points against common opponents (by a touchdown or so) and has a defense that keeps opponents out of the end zone.

Except for a 20-17 victory over 7-1 Marshall on Oct. 8, Casey-Westfield has simply been running away with games in the last seven weeks, while their opponent in the last week of the season Friday night at home, Cumberland (5-3), has faced close battles against those same opponents. In a Sept. 18 game against Marshall, for instance, played at Indiana State University, Cumberland nearly won, but couldn't come up with a few critical scores, losing the game 26-17. Still, this game could be close, considering Cumberland scored more points (69) in a shutout against Oblong than Casey-Westfield did (41) in their shutout of the 3-5 conference common opponent. Our computer, going with the odds, though, is calling this one for Casey-Westfield by about 13 points.

Next, Georgetown-Ridge Farm (4-4) has an enrollment advantage over undefeated Westville Friday night at 7. Plus, the game is at Georgetown-Ridge Farm. It's likely Bismarck-Henning (4-4) will win against Schlarman this weekend, meaning Georgetown-Ridge Farm has less to play for, since a playoff berth is not likely from their fifth-place finish in the Vermilion Valley Conference, even if they beat Westville, given other likely outcomes. Basically, Georgetown-Ridge Farm showed promise early in the season, but those decisive victories came against less-than-powerful opponents. Most likely—the computer says a 92 percent chance—Westville will win and remain undefeated this season, although the game could be close. If it's not, we have to conclude that the computer placed too much emphasis on Georgetown-Ridge Farm's wide victory margins early in the season.

Stillman Valley should defeat conference opponent Genoa-Kingston (6-2) Friday night at 7:00 at home. The computer is basing its prediction mostly on Stillman Valley's 42-14 victory over Winnebago last week, a team that defeated Genoa-Kingston just two weeks ago in a close match, 32-28.

Brown County travels to Palmyra to play the Greenfield-Northwestern Coop (5-3) in a Thursday night game at 7 p.m. The computer's a little less certain about this one, predicting a touchdown-size victory for Brown County.

The Vikings from Danville High School have run away from every opponent this year, with the exception of 6-2 Normal Community West, but Normal Community (7-1) on Friday night at home will be their toughest opponent. West shut out Normal Community, 17-0, on Oct. 1, while Danville beat West 28-20 the week before, which leads our computer to give a slight edge to Danville here, keeping them undefeated for the season and handing Normal Community a 7-2 record and an automatic berth in the playoffs.

Games we can't call either way

Our computer gives Marmion Academy an 89 percent chance against Montini (6-2) Friday night at 7 in an away game.

The Hilltoppers from Glenbard West have about an 85 percent chance of defeating Lyons Township (7-1) Saturday afternoon at 1:00 in Glen Ellyn.

Richwoods has about an 84 percent chance of defeating Galesburg (4-4) Friday night at 7:30 in Galesburg, our computer predicts.

Marion has about an 83 percent chance of defeating Herrin (5-3) Friday night at 7 in Herrin.

Our computer gives Auburn an 83 percent chance of defeating Pawnee (6-2) Friday at home at 7:00.

Wilmington plays Sandwich, both teams being undefeated after eight weeks, Friday night at 7:30 at Sandwich. The computer gives the Wilmington Wildcats an 80 percent chance of defeating the Indians from Sandwich. Although the two teams are not in the same conference, they have faced five common opponents this season. The computer sees this as a game between a slightly stronger offense from Wilmington—scored more points against Coal City, Peotone, Dwight, and Westmont than Sandwich, but not by much—and a slightly stronger defense—held Coal City, Manteno, and Dwight to fewer points, three of their five common opponents, though, again, not by much.

The computer gives a very slight edge to Johnston City over the coop team from Sesser-Valier (7-1) Friday night at 7:00 in Sesser. Sesser-Valier has about a 1 in 3 chance of winning, the computer predicts.

Stevenson also has about a two in three chance against Antioch (7-1), according to our computer, but some computer models call this game for Antioch. If we use our normal alpha statistic for making the prediction, though, which weighs correction factors a little differently, the intangibles, such as depth of the bench and championship history, definitely point to Stevenson. The student enrollment at the school is more than 4,400, compared to just 1,403 for Antioch. Even though the two teams seem to have about the same offensive and defensive strength against opponents they actually faced this season, we note that only three of Stevenson's opponents this season have records right now less than 5-3. Compare that to Antioch, who has played five teams this season with losing records.

With the exception of the two undefeated teams that are actually playing other undefeated teams this weekend, all of them should win their games, according to our computer, with the exception of St. Rita of Cascia. Rita faces Loyola Academy Friday night at 7:30 on their home astro turf, but Loyola actually has a better chance of winning, with our computer giving it about a 70 percent chance of knocking off the undefeated Mustangs and bringing both teams to an 8-1 season finish.

Finally, Carmel High School travels to Cincinnati for a game against Elder High School. Our computer doesn't know anything about Elder, so we will simply pull for Carmel to return victorious and close out the season with an undefeated record.

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By Paul Katula, Voxitatis Research Foundation