Class A is less predictable. Heading into Week 6 there are still eight undefeated teams in the state's small-school division. There are eight more with just one loss - including defending state champion Wahama and perennial power Wheeling Central, both 4-1 - and several teams like Magnolia (2-3) and Bishop Donahue (3-2) whose schedules in the first half of the season have provided what are believed to be playoff-caliber teams with tough-luck losses.
Magnolia, for instance, lost games to Linsly, Williamstown and Wheeling Central by a combined 15 points. The Blue Eagles' second-half schedule is significantly more forgiving.
Class A teams with a 4-0 record will be given the benefit of the doubt in this exercise, but it's a tenuous one. We can put top-ranked Madonna, Williamstown, St. Marys, East Hardy, Notre Dame, Valley (Fayette) and Clay-Battelle into the equivalent of "standby" at the playoff airport.
Most of them will get in, but the disparity in scheduling among Class A teams makes it more difficult to anticipate how the top 16 will shake out.
A team such as Notre Dame, which is currently ranked sixth, can go south in a hurry, if history is any indicator (and it is). The Irish have wins over winless Class AA Grafton, Cameron, Valley (Wetzel) and Bishop Donahue in their pocket. Running back Santino Cava is one of Class A's top rushers. Yet, games remain against Class AA Philip Barbour and three road trips are on the horizon against Madonna, Clay-Battelle and Tucker County (4-1) and Notre Dame has never been blessed with much depth. Attrition will become a factor.
Where a 5-5 record often gets a Class AA team with a tough schedule into the playoffs, Class A teams that finish 6-4 are just as often left out of the field, and it's plausible that Notre Dame could end its season on a four-game losing streak.
For obvious reasons the playoff field gets easier to project as the week's click by. Games with immense playoff implications are lined up for Friday, including University (4-1) at Greenbrier East (3-2), John Marshall (3-1) at Musselman (3-2), Parkersburg (2-2) at South Charleston (3-2), Winfield (2-2) at Spring Valley (3-2), Keyser (3-2) at Hampshire (3-1), Robert C. Byrd (3-2) at Nicholas County (3-2), Ritchie County (4-1) at Ravenswood (2-2), Wyoming East (4-1) at River View (3-1), Doddridge County (4-1) at Parkersburg Catholic (4-1) and Man (3-1) at Fayetteville (3-2). While the teams mentioned earlier have placed themselves in commanding positions in the playoff hunt, these games will go a long way in adding to - and refining - those lists.
In most cases the previous list of games aren't the biggest-ticket items of the weekend. Those games would include Capital at Huntington, Fairmont Senior at Bridgeport, Williamstown at St. Marys and Meadow Bridge at Valley (Fayette), which will themselves be critical in terms of playoff seeding. Nevertheless, it serves as the roster of contests that will likely have the greatest impact on the playoff race as it continues to clear.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.tay...@dailymail.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.