Class 3A Blog: Predictions, predictions, predictions…

The first round of the Class 3A bracket seems somewhat predictable in some areas and absolute toss-ups in others. That’s what happens when you have a deeply talented classification. So let’s let the computer run it.

First, here’s Loren Maxwell’s explanation of his system:

‘The projections are a combination of the current Maxwell ratings and actual scoring patterns. For example, in football, scores of 0, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are significantly more likely than scores such as 1, 2, 4, 5, and 11, and a score of 28 is much more likely than a score of 29. Aside from the team information, shown below is each game’s rating, the probability of the favorite winning, the median score for each team, and the median margin of victory for the favorite. The game rating is the rating required to win 50% of all games in an infinite round robin competition against the expected rating of the loser of the game in proportion to how often each team would win. This rating favors games with highly rated and closely matched opponents. The median score for each team is the score that team would achieve both less than and more than at least 50% of the time if the game was infinitely repeated. For example, if a team’s median score is 20, then at least 50% of the time the team would score 20 points or less and at least 50% of the time the team would score 20 points or more. The median margin of victory is the difference between each team’s median score and thus the margin that the favorite would achieve both less than and more than at least 50% of the time if the game was infinitely repeated.’

With that in mind, there is one game in the first round that even the Maxwell projections had trouble with: Hart County vs. Ringgold.

According to the computer, that matchup is one of the most well-defined toss-up games in the first round across all classifications*. Maxwell’s ratings project the median score at 21 for both teams, leaving a median margin of 0 and a percentage of 50.2.

Hart County enters the game with two losses – to No. 1 Monroe Area (35-21) and No. 5 Oconee County 35-13. The Bulldogs’ most-productive player on offense is J.L. Lackey, who has rushed for 1,220 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Ringgold is coming off the best season since 2013, when it finished 11-3 and advanced to the semifinals, the deepest playoff run in program history. Ringgold, which two seasons ago was 0-10, has only made it to the playoffs eight times in program history.

Other first round games to watch:

GAC (4-6) at Cherokee Bluff (10-0): The game was previewed in the GHSFD/AJC’s Top-10 Games of the First Round. It’s worth noting that this game could end GAC’s streak of 10 consecutive victories in first-round games. Cherokee Bluff had its first 10-0 regular season and second region title in school history (2018). The Bears after advancing past the first round last season before losing to Carver-Atlanta (23-21). Bottom line, the deepest postseason run in school history begins with a victory against GAC.

Morgan County (4-6) at Peach County (6-3): The mighty fall fast. Since 2005, there has been only one postseason blemish on Peach County’s record -- a first-round exit in 2014 after losing to Appling County 14-7. That followed a 10-0 regular season. Aside from that, Peach won state titles in 2005, 2006 and 2009 and advanced to the state championship game in 2011, 2017 and 2018, with quarterfinal exits in the past two seasons. This is the first time Peach County has truly felt first-round pressure in a long time.

Morgan County is 4-6 after going 1-3 in the pre-region and 3-3 through Region 4-3A. The Bulldogs beat Harlem 39-29 to end the regular season. After losing in the first round in the past five seasons, Morgan County wants a second-round game.

* - Across the eight classes, three other games qualify as a computer toss-up with a higher percentage away from 50/50: Class A Public -- Wilcox County vs. Charlton County has a median margin of 0 also, but a percentage of 51.3. In Class A Private, Athens Christian vs. St. Francis also has a median margin of 0, but a percentage of 54.2. Class 7A South Forsyth vs. North Gwinnett has a median margin of zero, but a percentage of 53.2.

Class 3A First Round Schedule (Nov. 12)

-- Predicted winners are in bold.

R1#3 Long County at R3#2 Southeast Bulloch

R7#4 White County at R5#1 Cedar Grove

R6#3 Adairsville at R8#2 Oconee County

R4#4 Harlem at R2#1 Crisp County

R3#3 Johnson-Savannah at R1#2 Appling County

R5#4 Greater Atlanta Christian at R7#1 Cherokee Bluff

R8#3 Hart County at R6#2 Ringgold

R2#4 Jackson at R4#1 Thomson

R2#3 Mary Persons at R4#2 Burke County

R8#4 Stephens County at R6#1 Rockmart

R7#3 North Hall at R5#2 Carver-Atlanta

R1#4 Brantley County at R3#1 Liberty County

R4#3 Morgan County at R2#2 Peach County

R6#4 North Murray at R8#1 Monroe Area

R5#3 Sandy Creek at R7#2 Dawson County

R3#4 Windsor Forest at R1#1 Pierce County