Who’s the “strongest” team in Central Jersey? No. 1 won’t surprise you, but the rest might

by Mike Pavlichko

DISCLAIMER: We have uncovered some errors in the calculation and formatting that led to different numbers for some teams, particularly Somerville, which we believe should have been closer to an 80 SI number. All numbers in this story are unofficial. Gridiron New Jersey is the official calculator of Power Points, Strength Index, OSI and UPR, but has not yet provided final, official numbers. We are working to correct these errors, and/or to post the official SI numbers once they are confirmed.

In both the Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings and the Big Central Conference Media Poll, Somerville was the unanimous Number One team.

It was an easy decision.

But according to the NJSIAA’s Strength Index formula – using CJSR’s unofficial season calculations – Phillipsburg takes the top spot.

And you have to go fairly well down the list to get to the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in both polls.

The Stateliners have the highest Strength Index in the Big Central at 84.64, and are No. 16 overall in the state. The top team in New Jersey is Delbarton, at 92.81.

The Pioneers – Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Team of the Year – are ranked 19th in the conference with an SI rating of 65.30, and 127th overall out of 340 teams in New Jersey. Woodbridge, which ranked second in both polls, ranked higher: 10th in the Big Central at 70.54, 80th statewide.

There were other surprises, too.

There are three teams among the SI top ten who aren’t ranked in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten.

St. Joe’s of Metuchen, which was in the preseason poll, but eventually dropped out, ranks 7th in the Big Central and 61st in the state at 74.21. Behind the Falcons were South Brunswick (73rd in NJ at 71.55) and Hillside (76th in the state at 71.10).

Here are the Top 20 teams in the Big Central Conference, according to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s unofficial Strength Index calculations:

Below are the Top 20 teams in New Jersey:

Phillipsburg was the only Big Central Conference team to rank in the Top 20 statewide, according to unofficial Strength Index calculations by Central Jersey Sports Radio.

The differences between the “numbers” and the “human polls” also carried over to polls by other media organizations that cover high school football around the Garden State.

There was much debate over who would be No. 1 in New Jersey after Bergen Catholic beat St. Peter’s Prep.

The Crusaders felt they had a case at 5-1, having beaten No. 1 St. Peter’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving. So did Delbarton, which went undefeated, but only played six games.

In the end, Gannett New Jersey, NJ Advance Media, and News 12 New Jersey all chose Wall as the top team in the state in 2020.

The Crimson Knights felt they had a good case, too.

They beat a solid Manasquan team in Week 5, and bested two very good parochial schools in Weeks 7 (Mater Dei) and Week 8 (Donovan Catholic, the Griffins’ only loss). They also had the advantage of playing both games at home, and only had one road game all season.

But Wall just barely managed to get into the top ten of the SI rankings, coming in 9th, with an SI of 88.19.

Holy Spirit felt it belonged at No. 1 too, with an 8-0 record, one of just two in the state to reach that mark; Tenafly is the other (which ranked 163rd, checking in at 60.06). The Spartans beat five teams with winning records, and check in at 12th statewide in SI, with a rating of 85.69

After Delbarton at No. 1 Bergen Catholic came in 2nd, just .26 points behind at 92.55. St. Augustine – which finished 4-3 – ended up third.

CLICK HERE for the full statewide SI rankings.

CLICK HERE for the Big Central Strength Index rankings.

Strength Index explained…

The NJSIAA’s Strength Index formula is loosely based on the Born Power Index. It’s calculated after every game played.

The difference between Team A’s rating and Team B’s rating produces the expected result, in favor of one team or another.

If the favored team wins by more than the expected result, their Strength Index value goes up by 1/5 of the difference. If they win by less than the expected result – or lose – their Strength Index value goes down by 1/5 of the difference. The other team finds their Strength Index value go up or down by the opposite amount. (If Team A goes up by 3 points, Team B goes down by 3 points.)

However, unlike the Born Power Index, a team’s Strength index is not used to determine their playoff standing, since both system’s increase a team’s rating if it wins by more points – which can actually be an accurate measure of strength).

Instead, the NJSIAA uses the Opponent Strength Index. That averages the Strength Index of a team’s opponents, but gives full values for wins and half value for losses.

Strength Index Example #1:

Team A has a rating of 90. Team B has a rating of 80. The expected results is Team A by 10.

Team A wins by 25 points, which is 15 points more than expected.

Team A’s Strength Index increases by 1/5 of 15, or 3, to 93. Team B drops by 3 to 77.

Strength Index Example #2:

Using the same values, Team B wins by 5 points. They did 5 points better than expected.

Team B’s Strength Index increases by 1/5 of 5, or 1, to 81. Team B drops by 1 to 89.

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