Whatever you think about the New Jersey high school football playoff system, Strength Index appears here to stay.
And in the one season the NJSIAA has used the offshoot of the Born Power Index (remember, there were no playoffs last year, so even though the formula was calculated, it never led to anything), it appears to be a good criteria for helping to seed teams.
But it can tell us a lot more: it can rank teams in terms of strength based on more than just wins and losses, it can help predict what a team will need to do to make the playoffs, and it can hep with scheduling.
Today, we’re taking a look at the divisions in the Big Central Conference, and how they stack up against each other.
The fledgling league has taken a “size” approach so far when creating its divisions, while also aiming to keep local and regional rivalries together.
For example, Division 5D (yes, league officials say they will likely have names in 2021, but they have yet to be announced) contains teams that have played mostly in the GMC Red or White Divisions: Piscataway, New Brunswick, Edison, Sayreville, North Brunswick and St. Joseph of Metuchen. All those public schools are in the largest Group 5, while the Falcons are in Non-Public 4, the largest of their kind.
Division 5B is all large public schools, but essentially the Skyland Delaware Division of old: Hunterdon Central, Bridgewater-Raritan, Hillsborough, Ridge and Franklin.
In the middle groups you start getting a bit more of a mix geography-wise, like Division 4 with Linden, Montgomery, North Hunterdon, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Woodbridge, Colonia, JFK and Cranford.
But larger size doesn’t necessarily mean stronger teams.
In fact, the Big Central division with the highest average Strength Index was Division 3, which includes Somerville (No. 14 in SI, statewide), Rahway, Summit, Carteret, South Plainfield and Warren Hills. That number, of course, is bolstered a bit by the Pioneers’ high rating.
Then again, two of the Group 5 divisions place in the middle of the pack when it comes to average SI rating: 5A and 5C. The 5A Division includes Elizabeth, Union, Plainfield, Watchung Hills and Westfield, while 5C includes South Brunswick, Old Bridge, East Brunswick, JP Stevens, Monroe and Perth Amboy.
What does this all tell us?
For starters, despite being Division 3, with mid-size schools, playing there is no walk in the park. Nor is Division 1A, which includes the likes of Bound Brook, New Providence, Middlesex, Roselle Park and Brearley. In fact, their average SI is less than a point lower than Division 5C.
Who’d like to see Bound Brook face Perth Amboy? Or Charlie Barth try to do his thing for New Providence against East Brunswick?
Later in the week, we’ll look at Strength Index, and what might happen if it were used exclusively to determine Big Central Divisions.
Meanwhile, here’s the average Strength Index by division in the Big Central: