The BCS released its initial rankings on Sunday, ordering the top college football teams in their quest for a national title. Based on a series of calculations, Alabama, LSU and Oklahoma now control their own destiny, while Boise State, per the norm, remains on the outside looking in. It's a confusing and controversial system, prompting as much debate as clarity in an effort to crown a champion.
No such formula exists in the high school game, a fact both good and bad. Teams aren't manipulated by a system that favors certain conferences, as Trinity, from traditionally weak Kentucky, stands a legitimate shot at the title. But there's no true process for determining a champion. National prep playoffs are absent, making selecting the country's best team entirely a judgment call. Don Bosco, for example, will never play Armwood. Gaffney will never play Our Lady of Good Counsel.
Despite the lack of an established process, tiers of contenders have begun to emerge. Only a handful of teams maintain realistic chances at a championship, something I'll break down extensively next week. For this week, however -- with the BCS in mind -- here's a look at the Top 10 noting each team's strength of schedule, point differential and keys to success to this point.
Previous rank: 1
Last game: 38-7 over St. Edward (Ohio)
Next game: Oct. 21 at Passaic County Tech (N.J.)
Opponent record: 20-12
Point differential: 163-52
Beware the Don Bosco ground game. Thanks to the emergence of Jabrill Peppers, Elijah Shumate and John Wilkins, the Ironmen may finally have an offense to match their physically imposing defense, a unit that limited Mission Viejo (Calif.), Manatee (Fla.) and St. Edward -- all preseason Top 50 teams -- to a combined 30 points. The proof is in the numbers: The trio recorded 17 touchdowns through last week, scoring at least twice in each of the team's five games.
With nine rushing touchdowns on the year (three against St. Edward), Peppers has been particularly effective. He should continue to thrive: Passaic County Tech, Paramus Catholic and Clifton -- the Ironmen's next three opponents -- lost to Bosco 63-0, 49-0 and 48-13, respectively, in 2010.
Previous rank: 2
Last game: 49-0 at Male (Ky.)
Next game: Oct. 28 vs. Moeller (Cincinnati)
Opponent record: 37-28
Point differential: 368-69
Recruiters take note: target Trinity feature back Dalyn Dawkins. The 5-9 junior has been a sparkplug in the backfield, racing for 948 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He shined again in Friday's mauling of Male: 19 carries, 109 yards and four touchdowns.
Despite his impressive performance, Trinity actually lost ground this week. Moeller's surprising loss to Indianapolis Cathedral hurts its title prospects, derailing a matchup of potential unbeatens that could've strengthened the 'Rocks resume. To best Bosco, coach Bob Beatty and Co. now likely need to maintain their 37-point average margin of victory throughout the state 6A playoffs.
It's a tall task, to be certain. But it's not impossible. And at the beginning of August, who would've dreamed Trinity would still be in the championship discussion?
Previous rank: 3
Last game: 80-0 win over Strawberry Crest (Fla.)
Next game: Oct. 21 vs. Hillsborough (Fla.)
Opponent record: 19-27
Point differential: 317-30
Entering Friday's contest with Strawberry Crest, the Hawks were 6-0 and outscored opponents 237-30. The Chargers, their opponent, were 0-5 and had been outscored 229-19. The game played out all too predictably: Armwood 80, Strawberry Crest 0.
The result extends Armwood's defensive scoreless streak to 24 quarters, cementing its reputation as nation's top unit. It also draws attention to several standouts, including linebackers Eric Striker, who returned a fumble 50 yards for a score, and Keionne Baines, who averages a team-leading 12.8 tackles per game.
The Hawks' most dangerous weapon, however, may be do-it-all junior Alvin Bailey. The 6-1, 170-pounder contributed four touchdowns (two return, two receiving) in the win, showcasing the dynamic skill set that has D-I scouts drooling.
Previous rank: 4
Last game: 72-13 win at Rock Hill (S.C.)
Next game: Oct. 21 vs. Lancaster (S.C.)
Opponent record: 35-29
Point differential: 426-74
The more Joey Copeland plays, the more he draws comparisons to dual-threat quarterbacks Cam Newton and Denard Robinson. The senior signal-caller has been prolific in 2011, accounting for at least three touchdowns in each of Gaffney's eight games. Against Rock Hill, he racked up 292 passing yards, 89 rushing yards and five total touchdowns in the first half alone.
Scarier yet, Copeland and the Indians are improving. In the past three games (at Greenville, at Clover, at Rock Hill), Gaffney won a combined 200-16. Copeland collected 1,090 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Previous rank: 6
Last game: 35-0 win at Bishop McNamara (Md.)
Next game: Oct. 21 vs. St. John's (Md.)
Opponent record: 24-21
Point differential: 238-83
There are one-sided rivalries, and then there is the recent history between Our Lady of Good Counsel and Bishop McNamara. Here are the results from their last six meetings, none of which reflect favorably on the Mustangs.
The Falcons have a similar relationship with next week's foe, St. John's. Dating back to 2008, they're 3-0 with an average margin of victory of 24.7.
Previous rank: 7
Last game: 55-0 win at Spring Valley (Nev.)
Next game: Oct. 21 vs. Arbor View (Nev.)
Opponent record: 37-28
Point differential: 458-83
Major props to coach Tony Sanchez, AD Sally Nieman and the entire Bishop Gorman athletic department. After next week's opponent, Western (Nev.), canceled the remainder of its season for involvement in a hazing incident, the Gaels' administration took to the offensive, scheduling a showdown with 7-1 Arbor View (Nev.). The matchup provides a rare late season treat, pitting two of the state's top tailbacks in Shaquille Powell and Donnie Gaskin.
Gorman possesses little chance at a national title, especially given that Armwood (who defeated the Gaels on Aug. 26) remains undefeated. But Sanchez and Co. have been arguably the nation's most complete team since the loss, demolishing their competition at an unprecedented rate. With a win at Arbor View and a Nevada 4A title, the Gaels seem destined for a top five national finish.
Previous rank: 10
Last game: 52-0 win at Mayde Creek (Texas)
Next game: Oct. 21 at Memorial (Texas)
Opponent record: 26-23
Point differential: 305-30
Quarterback Brooks Haack committed to Louisiana-Lafayette last Saturday, selecting the Sun Belt squad over Baylor, Houston and SMU, among others. Five days later, he demonstrated exactly what he'll bring to the Ragin' Cajuns. Haack went 10-of-10 with three touchdowns against Mayde Creek, and has now thrown 22 touchdowns and zero interceptions on the year. Simply put, his accuracy has been amazing.
Following another dominating showing and a shaky outing from Allen, the Tigers have established themselves as the top team in Texas. Staying there won't be easy. Two of Katy's final three opponents -- Memorial and Cinco Ranch -- are 5-2 or better and surrender less than 17 points per game.
Previous rank: 13
Last game: 42-6 win over Boyd Anderson (Fla.)
Next game: Oct. 21 at Everglades (Fla.)
Opponent record: 21-16
Point differential: 215-41
Last week, I wrote that Miramar could crack the Top 10 with a win over Boyd Anderson, previously 5-0. I'm a man of my word. Following a 42-6 victory on the heels of their stunning upset at St. Thomas Aquinas, the Pats sit comfortably in the eighth slot. The Raiders, on the other hand, drop from the Top 10 just two weeks after serving as national frontrunners.
Of course, Aquinas' injury concerns are taken into consideration, as defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. (hand) is out for six weeks and four-star Jelani Hamilton (knee) is out for the season. But Miramar deserves its due. Not only did the Pats beat Boyd Anderson, but they did so decisively, holding the Cobras to negative three rushing yards.
Previous rank: 9
Last game: 71-0 win at Clarkston (Ga.)
Next game: Oct. 21 vs. Greater Atlanta Christian (Ga.)
Opponent record: 23-24
Point differential: 389-34
As the above opponent record indicates, Buford has pummeled a series of pasties this year. The Wolves strength of schedule has been lacking, and it's why the team remains in the bottom half of the Top 10 despite a string of lopsided triumphs. In keeping with the BCS comparison, Buford is the non-AQ contender: undefeated but untested.
That could finally change next week. Greater Atlanta Christian -- still an underdog -- is 7-0 and beat Clarkston 62-8 last Friday. The game should provide a glimpse of Dillon Lee, Paris Head and C.J. Moore's true national standing.
Previous rank: 11
Last game: 66-13 win at Tyler Lee (Texas)
Next game: Oct. 21 vs. Horn (Texas)
Opponent record: 24-27
Point differential: 348-66
On Sept. 11, 2010, DeSoto and Miramar engaged in an out-of-state classic, with the Eagles edging the Patriots 42-41. It may have been a sign of things to come. Like Miramar, DeSoto has also stormed to a perfect start, and enters the Top 10 following a 66-13 victory over Tyler Lee.
Keep an eye on 5-9 running back Devin Rushing. He rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns on Friday, and is the centerpiece of the Eagles' high-flying attack. He committed to Air Force in June.
Next five: St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale), Allen (Allen, Texas), Mallard Creek (Charlotte), Trinity (Euless, Texas), Warren Central (Indianapolis)
• Pittsburgh may have landed its next LeSean McCoy. Rushel Shell, the new all-time WPIAL rushing king, committed to the Panthers over Alabama on Friday, providing the ACC-bound squad with their back of the future. The decision deepens comparisons with Tony Dorsett, another historic Hopewell (Pa.) star who attended Pitt in 1973.
• Johnathan Gray delivered another eye-popping performance. He rushed for another 243 yards and six touchdowns, leading Aledo to a 73-30 win. His impact off the field is just as incredible.
• DeJuan Smith-Whittaker completed his long, incredible journey. Not only did the Livonia-Clarenceville (Mich.) linebacker return to action after recovering from marginal cell lymphoma three weeks ago, but he led the team in tackles with 12. His story is truly inspirational.
• Indianapolis Cathedral (Ind.) ended Archbishop Moeller's quest for perfection. Drake Myers' drilled a 40-yard field goal as time expired, sealing the Fighting Irish's 26-24 upset. Call it a trap game: In the coming two weeks, Moeller plays at St. Edward (6-2) and Trinity (8-0).
• Welcome back, Warren Central. The Warriors break back into the Top 15 after a convincing 54-21 victory against Center Grove (Ind.). At 9-0, they're a national championship longshot, but could well earn a Top 10 ranking by season's end.
• St. Thomas Aquinas and Allen fall from the Top 10. Both the Raiders and Eagles won last weekend, but left ample cause for concern in the process. Aquinas lost its top two pass rushers to significant injuries, and Allen struggled against its third straight inferior opponent, eking Plano West (Texas) 40-28. Both can bounce back, but need to make statements in upcoming matchups with Nova (Fla.) and Marcus (Texas), respectively.
• Cleveland's (Tenn.) Chad Voytik and Hueytown's (Ala.) Jameis Winston were honored this weekend. The senior quarterbacks were the first players selected for the U.S. Under-19 National Team, and a group that will play in the International Bowl on National Signing Day. Steve Specht, St. Xavier's (Ohio) frontman, is the head coach.