Conference championships and playoff spots are on the line as the regular season winds to a close, as well as playoff positioning as only two weeks remain until the postseason begins.
According to Travis Wilson of WisSports.net, we could see over 75% of the playoff field set after this weekend, as projected 4-5 and 3-4 teams will likely get in to the playoffs. But, for teams that want to earn their way in, over a hundred squads have that opportunity on Friday night.
It's unique to football in Wisconsin that not every team gets in, so 385 teams compete for 224 playoff spots. That's what makes October football even more exciting, as every game in the state the last two weeks of the year has some bearing on the playoffs, tiebreakers, and seeding.
This week, we'll be on hand for Sun Prairie's Homecoming against Middleton, as the Battle of the Cardinals is vital to where each team will be seeded in the Division 1 playoff field in a couple of weeks. Coverage starts at 6pm on The Big 1070 and continues through 11pm with Football Friday Night.
WEEK 8 Playoff Outlook (Teams that have guaranteed to finish at .500 or above in conference play)
Area Teams Clinched: Madison Memorial (Big 8, Division 1), Madison La Follette (Big 8, Division 1), Verona (Big 8, Division 1), Sun Prairie (Big 8, Division 1), Middleton (Big 8, Division 1), Waunakee (Badger North, Division 2), Milton (Badger South, Division 2), DeForest (Badger North, Division 2/3), Stoughton (Badger South, Division 2/3), Evansville (Rock Valley, Division 3/4), Mauston (South Central, Division 4), Edgerton (Rock Valley, Division 4), Lake Mills (Capitol North, Division 4), River Valley (SWC, Division 4/5), Platteville (SWC, Division 4/5), Horicon/Hustisford (Trailways Large, Division 5), Prairie du Chien (SWC, Division 5), Marshall (Capitol South, Division 5/6), Cambridge (Capitol South, Division 5/6), Lancaster (SWAL, Division 6), Markesan (Trailways Large, Division 6), Benton/Scales Mound/Shullsburg (Six Rivers, Division 6), Palmyra-Eagle (Trailways Large, Division 6), Mineral Point (SWAL, Division 6), Johnson Creek (Trailways Small, Division 6/7), Black Hawk/Warren (Six Rivers, Division 7), Wauzeka-Steuben/Seneca (Ridge & Valley, Division 7), De Soto (Ridge & Valley, Division 7), Ithaca (Ridge & Valley, Division 7), Highland (Ridge & Valley, Division 7).
Area Teams that can clinch with a win:, Reedsburg (Badger North, Division 3), Watertown (Badger South, Division 2), Belleville (Capitol South, Division 5/6), New Glarus/Monticello (Capitol South, Division 5/6)
Middleton (5-2) at Sun Prairie (5-2): The Big 1070 Game of the Week: With only two weeks to go in the regular season, it figures this rivalry game would be featured as one that could greatly impact the composition of the Division 1 playoffs, since eight Big 8 teams are projected to advance to the postseason. At the moment, there is a four-way tie for second place, and in the round-robin between the four teams, two games remain. Verona has already gone 2-1 against this group, leaving Sun Prairie (1-1), La Follette (1-1), and Middleton (0-1) to sort out the rest. It will likely come down to next week's Middleton-La Follette game to figure out the last piece of the puzzle, but this game stands as very important to lock in a home playoff game in Level 1. Middleton can win out and play its way to a possible 3 or 4 seed, while Sun Prairie could get wins the next two weeks over likely playoff teams and argue for as high as a 2-seed depending on what other teams join the pod courtesy of their win over Verona in Week 6. In this specific game, it'll be strength versus strength, although Sun Prairie's passing game has been productive this year behind solid line play and a gritty defense. Middleton will hammer between the tackles and play opportunistic defense, and the defense will get chances in this one with the ball in the air on a cold night.
D1 #5 Madison Memorial (7-0) at Janesville Parker (0-7): For the second straight year, the Madison Memorial Spartans could celebrate some Big 8 football history in Janesville, as a win over the Vikings would make Memorial the outright conference champions. Last year, the Spartans claimed a share of their 10th Big 8 title with a win over Janesville Craig in Week 9 at Monterey Stadium. Memorial is chasing their second perfect conference season and first since 1984.
Madison East (3-4) at Madison La Follette (5-2): For the Purgolders, a playoff spot is on the line in the Lussier Cup, as a fourth Big 8 win would be enough to get them into the playoffs. East will have to find room to throw in the cold air Friday night, and do it against an athletic and rangy La Follette defense that plays the pass well. La Follette saw a tight game in the second quarter devolve into a rout at the hands of Verona last Friday night, but the Lancers have a ton to play for as well, as winning out would probably guarantee a home playoff game for La Follette given their win over Sun Prairie already in the books.
Janesville Craig (1-6) at Madison West (3-4): Madison West is the other Big 8 team looking to crash the playoff party, and to do it, they'll have to beat Janesville Craig, a squad that's had some moments this year but has struggled to overcome the loss of a very talented 2019 class. The Regents will have their hands full against the option offense, but a shorter game could benefit the short-manned squad as well, especially in cold weather.
Beloit Memorial (1-6) at D1 #7 Verona (5-2): With Badgers recruit Jackson Acker on the shelf until the playoffs, Verona will have to rely on one of its seemingly endless array of other weapons to get the job done on offense. Haakon Anderson is averaging around 20 yards per touch, rushing twice for 107 yards and two scores in the win over La Follette last week. Verona's in good shape, barring an upset, to host one last game at Curtis Jones Field this year, in their final year at the venue before digging in to their new turf stadium in 2020.
D2 #6 DeForest (7-0, 5-0) at Beaver Dam (2-5, 2-3): Beaver Dam needs another win (this week over DeForest or next week over Sauk Prairie) to have a good shot at a playoff spot. For the Norskies, this is their final game before Week 9's looming showdown with Waunakee. Beaver Dam's shown an ability to move the football this season, while DeForest has been steamrolling teams, particularly on defense, in conference play.
Portage (2-5, 1-4) at D2 #1 Waunakee (7-0, 5-0): Portage needs to win out for a shot at the playoffs, but it'll be a tall order against perennial state championship contender Waunakee. The Warriors of Portage have enjoyed moments of success this year under first-year coach Shane Haak, and some of those players will be wrestling for him this winter. Waunakee has a showdown with DeForest looming next week.
Baraboo (1-6, 1-4) at D3 #9 Reedsburg (5-2, 3-2): Reedsburg has played the dark horse role all season long, which is fine with coach Brian Pottinger. The Beavers, by winning out, could probably lock in a home game in the D3 playoffs, or even a couple. Interestingly, this match-up last year was a de facto playoff game, with Baraboo winning to make the playoffs for the first time in nearly a generation. The state's oldest rivalry has plenty of playoff implications this week as well.
Mount Horeb/Barneveld (1-6, 1-4) at Sauk Prairie (4-3, 2-3): Sauk Prairie, like Reedsburg, will be a team to watch in Division 3 after losing to a pair of top D2 squads (Waunakee and DeForest) and by one score to Reedsburg as well. The Eagles can likely earn a playoff bid with a win here, but Mount Horeb/Barneveld also has the playoffs to play for over the final two weeks of the regular season.
Stoughton (5-2, 4-1) at Monroe (4-3, 3-2): Stoughton's still playing for a shot at a conference title, as Milton's loss to Monroe last week opened the door for the Vikings to get back into the conversation. The Vikings lost that overtime thriller as well as to Waunakee, which is nothing to be ashamed about. That same Monroe team is looking to clinch a playoff spot and perhaps jump into a conference title discussion themselves with another win this week.
Milton (6-1, 4-1) at Edgewood (1-6, 1-4): Because 3-4 teams can still make the playoffs this year, Edgewood is fighting for their postseason hopes this week against the co-leader of the conference, Milton. Milton is coming off of their first loss of the year, but can put themselves in a position to clinch at least a share of the Badger South next week with a win this week.
Watertown (5-2, 3-2) at Oregon (3-4, 2-3): Oregon can still get in at 3-4, but a win over Watertown this week increases those chances greatly. Watertown will have a chance to clinch a playoff spot, root for chaos and a shot at a conference title in the other games, and improve their standing for the playoff field. On a cold, windy night, Oregon's more balanced offense should see some good work on a home, grass field, but Watertown's spread offense is pretty tough regardless of the weather.
Fort Atkinson (0-7, 0-5) at Monona Grove (3-4, 3-2): Just when the Silver Eagles were counted out, the young, inexperienced group from Week 1 has won three of their past four games as the defense, replacing 11 starters from a year ago, has developed throughout the year, and now find themselves likely into the playoffs, and clinching with a win. In fact, if chaos reigns in the Stoughton and Milton games, Monona Grove could even be playing for a share of a conference title next week, although it's more likely that MG will be trying to improve its playoff seeding.
D3 #6 Evansville (7-0) at McFarland (4-3): McFarland can clinch a playoff spot with the upset, although they're likely in. On a turf field on a cold, windy night, it'll be interesting to see if the Blue Devils' passing attack can push through despite the elements. The same can be said for McFarland, although a fired-up home crowd and a top opponent in house makes this an interesting game. Evansville, if they can defeat the defending Rock Valley champs, will clinch a share of the league title one year after going 0-9.
Jefferson (4-3) at East Troy (4-3): The winning team clinches a playoff spot.
Lodi (6-1, 2-1) at D4 #7 Lake Mills (6-1, 3-0): The L-Cats will wrap up 123 years of home games at Campus Field (playoffs pending), and all that's at stake is a conference title and perhaps multiple home games in Lake Mills. Last year, Lodi ended Lake Mills' season earlier than the L-Cats wanted, so there's a bit of revenge factor here, but Lodi was recently ranked one spot behind Lake Mills until last week's loss and it sets up for one of the biggest games statewide this week. Lake Mills' offense scores seemingly at will, and junior quarterback Adam Moen is in contention for statewide player of the year. How he plays in adverse weather conditions will be key.
Marshall (2-5, 2-1) at Cambridge (6-1, 2-0): The winning team clinches a share of the Capitol South title and grabs a playoff spot, although both are almost certainly in with a guaranteed .500 conference record. Marshall has been an oft-cited example of playoff eligibility reform in the conference realignment discussions, having made the playoffs multiple times with just three wins in the regular season. Against very tough competition, they've held their own with a small but tough group of veteran two-way athletes. Cambridge will present a challenge in terms of team speed and depth, as the Blue Jays look to defend their conference championship on Friday night.