Miami Northwestern will look to defend its state championship supremacy from a different classification during the 2019 season. [PHOTO - Joshua Wilson/FHSF]

With fall practices well underway around the state and kickoff nearing for the first regular-season games of the 2019 season, here are four storylines that are going to be important around the state.

1. Reclassification will lead to new state champions

This off-season’s reclassification shook the football landscape up in Florida in all areas from Pensacola to Key West. With that three champions from 2018 will be defending their state championships from new classifications thus guaranteeing at least three new state champions when they are crowned in December.

Two of the teams moved down in classification – with Miami Northwestern going from Class 6A to Class 5A, while Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale) going from Class 5A to Class 4A – while Raines (Jacksonville) moving up from Class 4A to Class 5A.

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While each of those three teams are considered to at least have a chance to win a state championship once again in their respective classifications this season, there is no guarantee of doing that – nor is it guaranteed that any of the other five teams won state championships last year that got to stay put in their class will win it again this year.

2. The road to where?

Depending on your classification depends on where you are heading to play a state championship game this season. For the first time since 2007 will the state championship not be located in Orlando at what was known as the Citrus Bowl, now Camping World Stadium. Instead, you will be headed to either one of two destinations to watch a state championship game.

If you are in Classes 1A-3A you are heading to Tallahassee the first weekend of December, while Classes 4A-8A are heading to Daytona Beach.

Classes 1A-3A will play their state championships games at the new renovated Gene Cox Stadium in Tallahassee which seats roughly 6,500 fans, more than enough seats based upon the average attendance numbers over the last few years. Teams will still get the full experience of the game being shown live on the jumbotron and playing on field turf as the stadium has recently been given those upgrades over the last couple of years.

2019 FHSAA Football State Championship Schedule
Tallahassee
Thursday, December 5 – Class 2A, 7 p.m.
Friday, December 6 – Class 3A, 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 7 – Class 1A, 7 p.m.

Daytona Beach
Wednesday, December 11 – Class 4A, 7 p.m.
Thursday, December 12 – Class 6A, 7 p.m.
Friday, December 13 – Class 8A, 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 14 – Class 5A, Noon
Saturday, December 14 – Class 7A, 7 p.m.

For Classes 4A-8A they will play their state championship games over the second full week and weekend of December at what is now known as Daytona Stadium in Daytona Beach. This is another facility that has undergone recent renovations with new field turf and other stadium enhancements over the last couple of years. The stadium, which is now in under management by DME Marketing in a long-term lease from the City of Daytona Beach, has invested in significant upgrades of the stadium. The stadium seats 10,000 fans, along with field turf for the playing surface along with a jumbotron for live highlights.

3. RPI, RPI, RPI

The FHSAA’s new Rating Percentage Index (RPI) formula has been the talk amongst everyone across the state this off-season.

First, let’s review the formula as the FHSAA has laid out via what was called for from the Football Advisory Committee. Remember there are three parts to the formula.

First, your own team’s winning percentage counts for 35% of the formula, while your opponents’ winning percentage also accounts for 35% of the formula for 70% of the formula. The other 30% of the formula comes from your opponents’ opponents winning percentage.

The formula:

RPI = (0.35 X WP) + (0.35 X OWP) + (0.30 X OOWP)

With that said, the RPI has significantly influenced a lot of schedules for this season with very many interesting matchups being scheduled across the state every week this season. This has put the spotlight on games that would not traditionally have been scheduled if this were under the old system of district champions and runner-up team advancing to the playoffs without any thought given to other games on the schedule.

As it has been for the past two years under the old points system, teams in Classes 5A-8A will see each of the four regions advance a district champion to the playoffs which will then be seeded one through four using the final RPI averages, while seeds five through eight will be seeded with the next four highest RPI averages from teams that did not win their district. For classes 1A-4A, the top six teams from each of the four regions will be seeded one through six based upon the six highest RPI.

The first RPI rankings of the 2019 season will be released by the FHSAA starting on Tuesday, October 8 heading following Week 7 games with the FHSAA planning to release official playoff pairings no later than Sunday, November 3 for the first round of the playoffs.

For more information on the RPI formula, click here.

4. 40-second play clock

Starting this season every game played in the state of Florida and elsewhere in the country will be using a 40-second play clock as adapted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) to make games more efficient in time management as well as provide more consistency between downs.

According to the NFHS in their official release back in February on this change, the play clock changes will result in many different scenarios changing from the 25-second play clock to a 40-second play clock. As such, the ball will need to be snapped within 40 seconds after the end of the previous play and will not be dependent upon the subjective signal from the officials.

The FHSAA states in their 2019 football information handout distributed to coaches and athletic directors around the states “in the case where play is continuing with no stoppage or interruption, the offense will have 40 seconds from the end of the previous play to snap the ball. If play has been stopped (timeout or penalty), the offense will have 25 – seconds from the time the umpire sets the ball and the referee starts the ready for play following the administration of the timeout or penalty.

As a result of these changes, you should see games move rather quickly every Friday night.

For more information on the 40-second play clock, you can view this information on page seven of this handout from the FHSAA by clicking here.