With the latest “Game of the Century” officially in the rearview mirror, it’s time to assess which teams still have a strong chance of capturing the 2018 USA TODAY Super 25 national title.
The answer? Not too many, and the ones who do still have a brutal road ahead, starting with the newly anointed No. 1 squad. St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.):
THE CLUBHOUSE LEADERS
1) St. John Bosco: The Braves beat the previous No. 1, defending champion and their biggest rival all in one swoop. If they win out, it will be virtually impossible for anyone to leapfrog them in the rankings. HOWEVER, a loss against another tough SoCal foe or in the state playoffs (Mater Dei rematch anyone?) would undercut their current position. It just shows that as great as they’ve played, Bosco’s national title hopes still rest on a knife’s edge.
4) Allen (Texas) High School: The Eagles path forward is simple, yet daunting: Don’t lose, and wait for the Braves to slip up. Yes, IMG Academy may technically look like they’re in front of them in the cue, but the Ascenders’ loss offsets that … particularly when you consider the strength of schedule that Allen will be forcing its way through, particularly once it reaches the Area round of the state playoffs. A state final against one of the Austin powers — Lake Travis or Westlake — in which the Eagles claim a decisive win would likely be enough to hold off any other challengers … except St. John Bosco, of course.
5) Saint John’s High School (Washington, D.C.): Don’t sleep on the Cadets, not even for a second. They are deep, they have exceptional wins on their record — the 5 OT victory against Miami Central looks bigger and bigger each week — Friday’s win against perennial Maryland power Our Lady of Good Counsel was massive (and sizable) and two more wins against WCAC rivals DeMatha Catholic School (Hyattsville, Md.) and Gonzaga College Prep (Washington, D.C.) would put them in an enviable position … provided they win they also follow through with an eventual WCAC championship against whoever they’re matched up with in the conference title game.
8) De La Salle High School (Concord, Calif.): Hear us out: If the CIF Open Division Bowl ends up pitting an undefeated St. John Bosco and undefeated De La Salle, how could someone (read: we here at USA TODAY) possibly not vault the Spartans to the top of the rankings if they blow out the Braves? Sure, it doesn’t seem likely, but anyone who ever writes off the myth and majesty of De La Salle, not to mention its playmakers, deserves what they get (chaos!).
3) IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.): See above. That loss to Mater Dei isn’t quite as strong now, too, so the Ascenders would likely need St. John Bosco and Allen to lose while winning out … and that still might not be enough to hold off Saint John’s or De La Salle, depending on the circumstances.
9) Centennial-Corona High School (Calif.): The playoffs will eventually deliver a matchup with St. John Bosco or Mater Dei … or both. If the Huskies can win those games, then capture a CIF Open Division Bowl title (maybe against De La Salle?), they would have a very strong case. Those are serious hurdles, but it’s possible.
THE ALSO-RANS (THEY NEED SOME HELP)
6) Miami Central High School (Fla.): The loss to Saint John’s came in 5 OT, and how their title odds might look stronger if they had ended up on the winning side of that. No matter. That was a narrow road loss against one of the other national contenders, and outside of that the Rockets have done no wrong. If they can run the table in the regular season and playoffs, and if the losses break their way — starting with Saint John’s, but including the likes of Bosco, De La Salle, Centennial-Corona and Allen — they could suddenly find themselves in the title driver’s seat.
11) Warren Central High School (Indianapolis, Ind.): See Miami Central, above, except without the strength of schedule … but also without a loss. Trying to decide a national champion between an undefeated Warren Central, one-loss Miami Central and one loss California or Texas state champion would be a massive headache for USA TODAY High School Sports central office.
14) University Lab High School (Baton Rouge, La.): It would be a shock if they lost, considering how they’re demolishing opponents in state right now. The issue is the relative lack of strong opponents, but if they’re one of, or the only undefeated team remaining, they would have to be considered.
LONG ODDS, BIG RETURNS (IT WOULD QUALIFY AS A MAJOR SHOCK, BUT CAN’T COMPLETELY RULE IT OUT)
13) Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Calif.) School: You’ve seen this script above already, Oaks Christian just seems to have less likely odds than most of the others to run the table AND also be placed in an Open Bowl setting that would give them the signature win and strength of schedule to vault up into a national title position.
17) Rome (Ga.) High School and 18) Colquitt County (Ga.) High School: Pick the Georgia team you prefer here. The equation is simple: They run the table and abject chaos breaks out above. This isn’t on Rome or Colquitt County; both are great teams and have earned their spots, they just don’t have quite the signature wins that could jump in front of the teams above them.
20) Duncanville (Texas) High School: This is like University Lab or Warren Central, except coming from one of the nation’s signature prep football states. The Panthers are absolutely steamrolling every team in their path, but it will take an entirely different level to capture the UIL Class 6A title, which would require finishing on top of Allen and then either one of the tough powers from Austin or Houston. If they do it, they’ll deserve to be in the conversation, even if it would still feel like a push.
NO WAY BACK
Lake Travis (Austin, Texas) and Westlake (Austin, Texas): Both entered the season with a path to a potential title with undefeated campaigns and a victory against an Allen or similar contender in the state final. After Westlake routed Lake Travis following an early season upset loss, those chances have officially said sayonara.
2) Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.): Harsh? Sure, but hear us out. This isn’t just about the blowout loss to St. John Bosco. It’s also about the forfeit they suffered after using an ineligible player in Week 1. It’s one thing to overlook that forfeit when the team is otherwise reeling off an undefeated campaign. It’s harder to overlook now, and there’s no way a two-loss team captures the title.
12) St. Joseph’s (Philadelphia, Penn.): This doesn’t feel fair, but it’s just the bottom line: The competition just isn’t strong enough. Any loss would be a truly disappointing setback, and even winning across the board likely wouldn’t be enough to vault them all the way to the top.
15) Saint Louis (Honolulu Hawaii): See St. Joseph’s, above, and transplant from Philadelphia to a truly idyllic island setting. Also, add in some leis and floral shirts for flavor, and a nice apology note for when they finish at the end of the top-10 despite a terrific season.