There they are, right at the top: Cranford – undefeated at 5-0 with a huge game at Woodbridge Friday night (7 pm, CJSR) – leads the entire North Group 3 supersection, the only team from the Big Central Conference to hold such a lofty position in the Week 6 playoff standings.
The Cougars are 1.7 UPR points ahead of West Morris (2.8), while West Essex (3.2) and River Dell (3.8) are not far behind. But there’s no real advantage to being first or second overall, other than the first-place team gets the 16th overall team in the opening round, while the second-place team gets the 15th overall team. And in the playoffs, it’s always more about matchups anyway.
For just this one more season, home field will end at the sectional finals, and the “regional championships” will be held at Met Life Stadium. But next year, when football plays down to overall group champions – finally! – those games will be at neutral sites, and it remains to be seen if the “regional championships” – soon to be “group semifinals” – will be held at neutral sites as well, or at the higher seeded team’s home field.
Nonetheless, it’s stating the obvious that a win against Woodbridge would be huge. But, practically-speaking, it’s an opportunity to shore up a top-two spot for Cranford. A loss, and they still might get it. That may depend, in part, what happens the rest of the way with West Morris (4-2) and West Essex (5-1), and to some extent, possibly River Dell (4-2).
The next team down in North 3 is Summit, where the Hilltoppers are in the 9th spot with a UPR of 8.4. They’re more likely to move up than down, in our estimation. There are two teams ahead of them within two UPR points, Lincoln (8.2) and Montville (7.6). But the teams behind them are at least 2.4 UPR points away. Pascack Valley is a 10.8 and Vernon has an 11.6 UPR.
The only other team from the BCC with a remote possibility here here is North Plainfield. The Canucks are 3-3 but have won two straight. And they may win out, with three road games coming up to finish the regular year at Governor Livingston and South River; those opponents have a combined four wins, and the best of them is South River. The Rams are 3-2 with a 48.25 SI. That Strength Index will help North Plainfield, as will the 15 power points they’ll get. But whether it’s enough to offset the drop they’ll possibly see even if they beat their previous two opponents may not be enough to overcome.
The next two weeks will bring that into clearer focus for cutoff weekend.
South Group 3:
Rumson-Fair Haven, which has one of the toughest schedules in the state among public schools – and also has benefitted from a mutliplier win over Donovan Catholic – leads the pack here, followed by undefeated Cedar Creek, the only seven-win team in the state at the moment.
This is one of the sections where we will differ from Gridiron New Jersey, which did not use the Week 5 Strength Index update for Out of State teams as it outlined in a post last Friday. Those SI numbers are to be updated at mid-season, then again after Week 8 when all the other SI values are fixed heading into the final weekend.
This affects Somerville, which is also one of the teams whose OSI is off because of the discrepancy. The Pioneers played Olney Prep of Philly in Week Zero. Holmdel is off, too, as they played St. Joe’s by the Sea (NY) on Week One.
By CJSR’s calculations, Somerville is in 6th at the moment (Gridiron has them 8th) but there’s also the matter of the Pioneers’ forfeit against Phillipsburg, which will go down as a loss after week eight if it’s not made up, but has not been added to the mix yet. If it were factored in now, the Pioneers move to tenth, and would be two places out of at least a first round home game.
That’s rare territory for Somerville, which is used to battling for a top seed. But that’s what two losses will do, no matter how they come.
In any event, it’s critical for the Pioneers to win out, and a victory at St. Joseph of Metuchen Saturday (2 pm, CJSR) would be a big help, since they’re a multiplier that would get them 42 points for a win. Warren Hills (4-2) is next, and then Summit on Cutuoff Weekend (5-1).
They can win out, and need to if they want a shot at a home game at least in the first round of the playoffs, although they still might get it with a loss to the Falcons and wins over the Blue Streaks and Hilltoppers, as St. Joe’s is worth 28 points for a loss.
The only other Big Central team in this race is Rahway, which has won two straight after dropping their first three, and stands in 15th place. A tall task for the Indians comes this weekend in a road game at Donovan Catholic, but they’re a multiplier, so even a loss will give them a boost. That’s a 42/28 multiplier, so even the 28 for a loss would jump their power point average from 8.8 to 12. That would jump them from 16th to 11th in power point rank (assuming no one else moves), which is good for 2 full UPR points, and would likely move them to a more comfortable 12th or 13th place. They close at South Plainfield and Hillside, which both could be must-wins. We’ll have to see how this week shakes out.