A handful of Big Central football teams could stand to benefit from the 23 North Jersey schools that have agreed to skip the playoffs this year in exchange for schedule relief.
Those schools are currently listed in the UPR standings on Gridiron New Jersey, which is the official calculator of the NJSIAA’s complex playoff qualification formula. But they will be taken out of the UPR formula by Gridiron New Jersey in the coming weeks, according to Westwood Athletic Director Dan Vivino.
That could lead to a better playoff position – or even a better shot at getting in the playoffs – for several Big Central teams. Those in the North 5, North 4, North 3, and North 2 supersections would be affected.
The teams hail from the North Jersey Super Football Conference’s Ivy White and Ivy Red Division, as well as the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference’s United Division, according to Vivino.
In North 5, Memorial, Dickinson and Bergen Tech would be out. Memorial is the only team currently in the top 16, which make the playoffs. That could boost the chances for a team like Plainfield, which is 1-3 at the moment, but 19th in the standings.
North 4 would lose Cliffside Park, Ferris, Palisades Park, Fair Lawn, and Tenafly. Cliffside Park is the closest to the playoffs, sitting in 17th at 2-1.
In North 3, Dover, Dwight Morrow (Englewood), Fort Lee and Snyder would be out. Fort Lee would be the most notable exception, at 3-0, in 18th place. An NJSIAA rule says any team that finishes the year undefeated automatically makes the playoffs, regardless of their standing. North Plainfield (1-3) is right behind them in 19th.
North 1 could see the biggest impact, with Glen Ridge, Bogota, Saddle Brook and Weehawken out. Glen Ridge is in 15th at 2-1, Bogota is 6th at 2-0, and Saddle Brook is three places out of a playoff spot at 1-1. Brearley of the Big Central currently sits in 12th at 3-0 in that supersection.
Typically, an NJSFC schedule would follow the “3-3-3” rule, three challenging teams, three games that could go either way, and three more winnable games, all in an effort to achieve parity and fairness.
Vivino – the scheduler for the NJSFC – says the idea of giving teams “relief” is to give them an easier schedule with similar schools to avoid demoralizing defeats, getting blown out week in and week out.
But asking for relief comes at a price: giving up a shot at the playoffs. The theory being that teams asking for relief could load up and run the table against much weaker squads, then make the playoffs over teams that might be more deserving.
Vivino says each of those schools has to sign a letter – approved and recognized by the NJSIAA – acknowledging they won’t be in the playoffs, regardless of where they stand at the end of the year.
Vivino says Gridiron New Jersey is working to remove those teams from its display of the UPR standings, though they will probably be around for another week.
It’s not as simple as “skipping over” one of the ineligible teams in the UPR standings, either. That’s because the UPR is made up of 40-percent power point average rank, and 60-percent OSI rank. Each team must first be taken out of those rankings, the new rank calculated, and a new UPR calculated.
Take Bogota, for example. They’re 6th in UPR, but 8th in power point average and in OSI. Once they’re removed, Mountain Lakes would move from 9th to 8th in power points, but stay where they are at third in OSI. So their UPR drops 0.4 points to an 8.2. Even though they’re ahead of Bogota in UPR, they could move up, if there were a team close enough to them to jump. (There’s not now, but there could easily be any other given week.)
In addition, all games played will still count toward power points for other teams, as well as for Strength Index and OSI. And those teams’ SI numbers must be calculated each week as well, since they are used as part of the basis for the next season (recentered up or down around a midpoint of 60 at the start of each year).
In a way, it’s like a team that has multiple ejections and is ineligible for the playoffs. They still play, power points still count for other teams, etc. They just can’t be in the postseason. The same applies here.
However, Vivino points out that – at least in the NJSFC – there will be a non-NJSIAA postseason for the top teams in the Ivy Divisions, and even a trophy handed out to the champion.