Sure, 16 of 29 Division I football teams are going to make the playoffs, but you can argue that could be as much a curse for several schools as it might be a blessing to have a playoff game experience.
Sure, only 16 of 44 Division II football teams will make the postseason, and the discrepancy has several schools and coaches miffed. But that's a combination of schools' population, much-needed appeals for some schools out of Division I, a couple who appealed up into Div. II, and most of the Division II schools also have a better chance of, you know, actually winning games than most of Division I schools (whether they're better or not is a different subject).
This will all shake out in the next 10 weeks or so, but since the full schedules for everyone begin this week, look at these nine East Valley schedules, for example, and tell us who has it "easy."
Or, more appropriately, who has it the roughest:
Basha: Aug. 30 at Green Valley (Las Vegas); Sept. 6 at Centennial; Sept. 12 (Thur.) vs. Cesar Chavez; Sept. 20 vs. Pinnacle; Sept. 27 vs. Westview; Oct. 4 at Perry; Oct. 11 at Hamilton; Oct. 18 vs. Highland; Oct. 25 at Chandler; Nov. 1 vs. Gilbert
By season's end we'll find out what kind of team Green Valley is (if not on Friday night). Centennial is always loaded. Chavez has athletes. Pinnacle will be better than last year. Westview is kind of like Centennial without all the crazy athletes: Always a deep playoff team. Hamilton. Highland should be good if it can stay slightly more healthy than last year and score some points. Chandler is loaded. Gilbert should be improved.
Brophy: Aug. 30 vs. Desert Mountain; Sept. 6 at Hamilton; Sept. 12 (Thurs) vs. Centennial; Sept. 20 vs. Red Mountain; Sept. 27 at Desert Ridge; Oct. 4 vs. Corona del Sol; Oct. 11 at Mountain Pointe; Oct. 18 at Chaparral; Oct. 25 vs. Dobson; Nov. 1 at Desert Vista
This could top them all. The first five weeks are b-r-u-t-a-l, and even if you think Red Mountain is a bit down, you'll either be proven wrong if the Lions are not (and they're usually a playoff team), or it still doesn't matter because the Lions are a playoff-caliber team annually. Plus Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista are in the mix by being in the same section. Corona del Sol and Dobson are two games the Broncos will be favorites, but if there's a team that makes the playoffs at 3-7, 4-6 or 5-5, it'll be the Broncos.
Chandler: Aug. 29 vs. Centennial; Sept. 6 at Buena; Sept. 14 at Bellflower St. Johns Bosco (Calif.) (at Mission Viejo H.S.); Sept. 20 vs. Mountain Pointe; Sept. 27 at Cesar Chavez; Oct. 4 vs. Hamilton; Oct. 11 at Gilbert; Oct. 18 vs. Perry; Oct. 25 vs. Basha; Nov. 1 at Highland
Part of this depends on how good St. Johns Bosco winds up being in California. Odds are it will be. So enjoy that September (outside Buena which the Wolves should roll, and they'll need to for player preservation sake for what lies ahead). The kicker here is the final two games against Basha and then Highland. Those could create huge swings in the power rankings each of those weeks.
Gilbert: Aug. 30 vs. Mesquite; Sept. 6 at Desert Ridge; Sept. 12 at Campo Verde; Sept. 20 vs. Skyline; Sept. 27 vs. Dobson; Oct. 4 at Highland; Oct. 11 vs. Chandler; Oct. 18 vs. Hamilton; Oct. 25 at Perry; Nov. 1 at Basha
The opener against Mesquite (now a Div. II school) is hardly a gimmee, then brutal Desert Ridge (with or without QB Tarek Morrison) and Campo Verde is many people's "sleeper" in Div. II this year. In Skyline and Dobson are games the Tigers will be favored, but Highland/Chandler/Hamilton/Perry/Basha? Uh, no thanks. That could be a 1-4 or even 0-5 finish to the season, and the Tigers might still barely flinch in the power rankings.
Hamilton: Aug. 31 at Chula Vista Eastlake (Calif.); Sept. 6 vs. Brophy; Sept. 13 vs. Pinnacle; Sept. 20 at Liberty (Nev.); Sept. 27 at Mountain Pointe; Oct. 4 at Chandler; Oct. 11 vs. Basha; Oct. 18 at Gilbert; Oct. 25 vs. Highland; Nov. 1 at Perry
It might be hard to see that difficult a schedule for a team which most people believe will lose once at the most, but that doesn't make the schedule easy (relatively speaking). Besides Eastlake, having re-constructed-Brophy early might work the way the Huskies need. The final few weeks will be easier than the middle (Highland figures to be the best challenge), but that middle spot of Mountain Pointe/Chandler/Basha is going to be about as difficult a mini-stretch as anyone.
Mountain Pointe: Aug. 23 at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas); Aug. 30 vs. Phoenix North; Sept. 6 at Cesar Chavez; Sept. 12 at Maryvale; Sept. 20 at Chandler; Sept. 27 vs. Hamilton; Oct. 4 at Desert Vista; Oct. 11 vs. Brophy; Oct. 18 vs. Corona del Sol
The Pride already aced the first test by beating a really good Bishop Gorman team. Even though BG didn't appear as dominant as other instances against Arizona schools, and their schedule means they could lose 2-3 games this season, we still think by the end of the year they could win another Nevada state championship. It should be fairly smooth sailing for the next few weeks for Mountain Pointe. Then, similar to Hamilton, the Pride's month-long run of Chandler/Hamilton/Desert Vista/Brophy (and Brophy late in the season when the Broncos are more grown up) is as rough as it gets. Everyone's (rightfully) circling the Sept. 27 game against Hamilton, but before all the eggs go in that basket, remember what Hamilton did to Mtn. Pointe in last year's title game after the Huskies lost to MP early in the regular season.
Red Mountain: Aug. 30 at Pinnacle; Sept. 6 at Westlake (Calif.); Sept. 12 (Thur.) vs. Westview; Sept. 20 at Brophy; Sept. 27 vs. Chaparral; Oct. 4 at Desert Mountain; Oct. 11 vs. Mesa; Oct. 18 vs. Desert Ridge; Oct. 25 at Mountain View; Nov. 1 at Skyline
Again, the relative unknown of Westlake (Calif.) is a factor here. That said, there's little chance Westlake is a pushover, and if true, the Lions could give Brophy a run for its money in arduousness (we might have just invented a new word). Perhaps it would be fitting because Brophy coach Scooter Molander and Red Mountain coach Ron Wisniewski are friends, and, like some other schools, they had terrible time trying to adequately fill their respective team's schedules. Pinnacle is good. Westview is good. Brophy will get better with each week. Chaparral is really good, as is Desert Mountain. Desert Ridge is really good. Mountain View is going to be good (and beat Red Mountain last year). The cache factor of Hamilton/Basha/Chandler isn't here, but it's rare to have a schedule of this many high-quality opponents without those marquee schools.
Runner up: Red Mountain
Honorable Mention: Everyone else
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.