Football playoff review: Ranking the 5A sectional champs

By now, you've heard all you need to hear about Warren Central-Carmel. The teams played yet another instant classic, and Carmel was able to pull it out in the final minutes. That makes the Greyhounds the clear favorites in Class 5A, but what about the rest of the field? Let's take a quick look at the remaining squads and their chances of winning the 5A title. Note: These are snapshot rankings of the teams remaining in Class 5A, not to be confused with the POWERADE state rankings.

1. Carmel (11-1)

After defeating Warren Central, 34-30, on Friday night, the Greyhounds have cleared the biggest hurdle standing between them and a state championship. There are quality teams left in the way, including this weekend's opponent Ben Davis — but Carmel will be the better team in every matchup from here on out. That wasn't necessarily the case against Warren Central. I consider Carmel to be the best team standing, meaning their A-game will beat anyone else's A-game. Now that senior QB Brandon Denning has proven he can get it done through the air, the Hounds don't appear to have a weakness.

2. Penn (12-0)

The Kingsmen running game is a monster, but don't make the mistake of thinking Penn is one-dimensional. The quarterback tandem of senior Chad Gindelberger and sophomore Zach Oakley is extremely effective, and their contrasting styles could give Carmel serious trouble if the teams wind up meeting for the state championship.

3. Ben Davis (10-2)

The Giants lost to Carmel, 20-10, on Oct. 14, but since then they've beaten Zionsville, Brownsburg and Avon, in order. Those are three pretty good teams. Unfortunately, I think Carmel has elevated its game since the October meeting and expect a more lopsided score on Friday. So consider Ben Davis good, but not quite good enough this season.

4. Hamilton SE (11-1)

Some might discount Hamilton SE's chances a bit after senior QB Jake Jones suffered a broken leg on Friday, but I think the Royals are still in good shape with junior Ross Risley under center. Risley may not be able to hook up with senior WR Gary Harris as consistently as Jones, so running backs Ryan Ripp and Jamitreus Crockham will have to step up.

5. Crown Point (9-3)

Another team with an injury fill-in at quarterback, and like Hamilton SE, I still think Crown Point can be effective with sophomore QB Jake Jatis orchestrating the offense. Tristan Peterson, the Bulldogs' sophomore running back (himself an injury replacement), ran for 194 yards and four touchdowns last week.

6. Center Grove (8-4)

Senior Spencer Weeks has run for 1,202 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season, but in the past two weeks he's run for 62 and 76 yards on just 3.6 yards per carry. Can the Trojans fire up the running game again in time to advance this week?

7. FW Snider (8-4)

No disrespect to Snider's five consecutive sectional titles, but I would pick the six teams above them in a head-to-head matchup. Senior running back John Nelson is capable of taking over a game, however, so the Panthers can't be taken lightly.

8. Bedford NL (9-3)

Bedford NL stunned Castle last week, but I'm not sure the Stars will be able to keep it going. The Bedford NL defense picked off three passes against Castle, and turnovers are hard to produce on a consistent basis.

Think I'm ranking someone too low? Hit me on Twitter (@ESPNHSGrimala).