NUIC Final Power Rankings 2021
As we head to the first round of the playoffs to begin the best 5 weeks of the season, here are the final power rankings for both 11-man and 8-man.
Du-Pec Rivermen 8-1 | The Rivermen had a tough fight in a 22-0 win over Stockton last week to propel them to their first ever NUIC conference title. Coach Hoffman had a vision that the 2021 team could achieve this goal, and they were right there going a perfect 8-0. Now they enter the Class 3A playoff field as the 3 seed, and will draw Mendota team that has struggled down the stretch, losing 3 straight to end the regular season. The road gets tougher looking ahead, but the Rivermen are up for the challenge.
Forreston Cardinals 7-2 | There has been no greater rivalry in the NUIC over the past 8 years than the one that Forreston and Lena-Winslow have created. Combining to win 6 of the last 7 state titles in Class 1A, the Cardinals picked up another unlikely win over the highly touted Panthers in Lena. That win shuffled Forreston up the seedings, where they fall in at #3 to play host to conference foe Galena. Forreston won the last meeting 52-20 in week 5, and their previous playoff matchup came in the epic comeback win for the Cardinals in the 2014 semifinals, which propelled Forreston to their first state title.
Lena-Winslow Panthers 7-2 | It is never an easy thing to lose when you are the favorite, but it is even harder to lose when it is your rival. The Panthers let go of a 20-8 4th quarter lead in their 22-20 loss to Forreston last week, which has pinned both losses this season after having 4th quarter leads. The Panthers will enter round 1 with a familiar foe, Aurora Christian who comes in with a 6-3 record. The Panthers have decimated the Eagles in their previous 2 matchups, but this is a new season. We can't get caught looking ahead, but a conference meeting in the 2nd round would await the Panthers.
Fulton Steamers 7-2 | The Steamers enter the playoffs with the 7 seed, and realistically have the best draw out of the NUIC Class 1A contingent as they would only have to face off with one conference foe potentially, and they wouldn't meet until the quarterfinals. Since that big week 5 loss to Lena-Winslow, the Steamers have taken down Forreston and blasted the rest of their schedule. Entering the playoffs healthy could be huge for the Steamers success. They play host to Raby, who enters with a 6-3 record and last made the playoffs in Class 4A, in 2018.
Galena Pirates 5-4 | Needing a win to make the playoffs, the Pirates took care of business in a big way with a dominating 49-14 win over rival East Dubuque. One could say this is already round 2 for Galena, and with that should come some confidence. They enter the playoffs with the 14 seed, and arguably have the toughest draw in all of Class 1A, with Forreston in round 1 and the potential of Lena-Winslow in round 2. The Pirates have a lot to prove, and have weapons to make it to happen, but they need to rise up to the challenge to extend their season.
Polo Marcos 9-0 | The Marcos had their first tough meeting since week 1, and won convincingly over Aquin 38-20. While they have 2 COVID forfeit wins over some strong I8FA opponents, they enter the playoffs with the #1 seed and get to avoid all NUIC teams until the state finals, if they make it that far. They open up at home with West Prairie, who enters with a 4-5 record. Round 2 really becomes interesting as the best 8 teams look to make their way there with few round 1 games that have much interest.
Milledgeville Missiles 8-1 | If it weren't for the loss to Polo in week 1, many would have the Missiles as the best team in I8FA, and a lot of people are talking about the Missiles as they have picked up big late season wins over Orangeville and Aquin. They enter the playoffs with the 2 seed, where they will play host to Bushnell-Prairie City, who comes into postseason play with a 4-5 record. Not to look ahead, but the winner between Aquin and Amboy await the Missiles in round 2, so they can't avoid the NUIC for long.
Orangeville Broncos 8-1 | It has been 4 weeks since the Broncos took that big 56-26 loss to Milledgeville in week 6. After taking a week off, they look to enter the playoffs at home with the 3 seed where they will entertain the Hiawatha Hawks, who enter with a 4-5 record. Looking ahead, they would play the winner of St. Thomas More and Martinsville, where Orangeville played St. Thomas More in Champaign back in week 2, and came home a winner 26-18 in a hard fought game. The road gets a lot tougher, but the road to state is tough.
Aquin Bulldogs 6-3 | When the season first started the Bulldogs were a team with potential, but not a lot of regard when discussing top 10 teams in the state. A lot of that had to do with the amount of talent they lost this past spring, but the Dawgs do what they do, and they always have athletes they can utilize and build. Aquin's 3 losses on the year are all to the teams listed above, and they played with all 3 of them for most aspects of the game. Entering the playoffs healthy could be a big benefit for Aquin, but they have the hardest draw of all, playing nothing but NUIC foes if they can continue to win. It starts this week with Amboy, who enters the playoffs for the first time since 2014 with a 5-4 record.
Thank you for following along all year with our Power Rankings. I hope you have enjoyed the commentary, and we have seen a lot of these teams in the rankings all year long, and rightfully so. Now we head into the best part of the season, the march to state. I wish all of our teams the best of luck, and look forward to a great playoff season.