Cutoff Weekend is rapidly approaching – October 21st – and there’s still a lot of football to be played before the NJSIAA seeds the state playoff.
Here at Central Jersey Sports Radio, we’ll be breaking down playoff scenarios for every Big Central Conference team’s that’s in the running.
The NJSIAA’s uses its UPR system – which factors Opponent Strength Index as 60 percent of the formula and traditional power points for the other 40 percent – to determine playoff seeding, but things can change a lot from week to week, until Cutoff Weekend, when Strength Index numbers are locked in.
Here’s our team-by-team look at Group 4. Official standings on Gridiron New Jersey can be found by clicking the links below.
3. Montgomery (6-0): The Cougars just keep on winning, and we think have a legit at finishing in the top two and getting a No. 1 seed. That’s because they’re only 0.4 UPR points out of second behind Ramapo. That’s probably the best they can do, as Roxbury (6-0) is in first by 2.4 UPR points over Ramapo, and 2.8 over Monty. There are also three teams bunched very close behind them: Mount Olive and Northern Highlands with 4.4 UPRs, and Ridge in sixth at 4.8 UPR. Montgomery has passed, and should go into their Cutoff Weekend game at Linden 8-0 with games at North Hunterdon (0-6) and Scotch Plains-Fanwood (1-5) the next two weeks. They’ll need to win all three to have a shot at that second seed. For the record, Ramapo has River Dell (1-4), Old Tappan (5-0) and Ridgewood (2-3) the rest of the way. It’s a bit of a stronger schedule, but to compare the best teams on their slates, it could come down to Monty and Linden on that last weekend after Ramapo-Old Tappan next week; both of those games could very well be toss-ups and decide the race.
6. Ridge (4-1): As one of those three teams bunched behind Montgomery, can the Red Devils make a run? IF they can win all three, their challenging schedule just could do it, especially if they get some help from above (no, not that above). They get South Brunswick at home Friday night, then visit Westfield next Saturday before a Friday night Cutoff Weekend clash with Union in Basking Ridge. A challenge, yes. But if they can win ’em all, call it a blessing in disguise. They’ll have earned it.
8. Woodbridge (4-2): We’ll call the Barrons a “bubble top eight” team. With an 8.2 UPR, they’re a little far back from the rest of the teams above them; Morris Knolls in 7th has a 6.6 UPR, then Ridge at 4.8 is a long way away, for now. What may not help them maintain that position is the fact they have in-town rival JFK this week, and North Hunterdon next week. Both are winless, so even a win in the regular season finale at Sayreville might not get them there. But the Barrons should at least go 2-1 the rest of the way, and we consider them in the playoffs.
9. Linden (5-1): The Tigers have a 9.2 UPR, just one full point behind Woodbridge. They have a tougher schedule than the Barrons, and all things being equal, if both teams sweep the next three weeks, Linden should jump the Barrons, at the very least. It’s road games the next two weeks for the Tigers – at Summit and Cranford – before finishing out at Montgomery. Let’s say if they want a top eight finish and a first round playoff game, they control their own fate; they probably need to win out to do so.
12. Sayreville (4-2): We wouldn’t say the Bombers have clinched a playoff berth yet, but we do think they’re going to end up on the right side of things. They have a pure 12 UPR (i.e., they’re in 12th across the board in power points, OSI and UPR), and the 17th place team is at 17.6 UPR; 5.6 points is a lot of ground to make up. Assuming the Bombers win at least one of the next three, we think they should be in. After 2-4 Franklin this week, they have their rivalry game with Piscataway (currently 3-3) next week at Kenny Armwood Stadium, then host Woodbridge on Cutoff Weekend, Friday night. A second win should make it a lock.
13. Rahway (3-3): The Indians – right behind Sayreville – are a pure 13 UPR. Like Sayreville, we think they should be in, if they can continue at their current level of play. It’s a tough slate, though: St. Thomas Aquinas comes to Rahway River Park this weekend, then they close with two on the road: at Carteret and at Colonia. Won’t have a shot at a first round home game; should be in the top 16.
18. Scotch Plans-Fanwood (1-5): Despite their record, the Raiders are in 18th place, and at this point, any win should give them a boost. They have Cranford home Friday, then go to Montgomery, then close out back at home against JFK. But they’ll probably need a win over one of the first two to even have a shot.
19. Colonia (3-3): This one is the puzzler. Scotch Plains with one win is ahead of the Patriots, as are four other two-win teams. Their losses have been to some good teams: Sayreville, Linden and Woodbridge. The good news is, they can atone with wins over good teams coming up. After 2-4 Perth Amboy this Friday night at Waters Stadium, they will host Summit (5-1) then Rahway (3-3) to close it out. Colonia is 2.8 UPR points out of a playoff spot. If they can win all three, they might have a shot. They should beat Amboy, Rahway is a toss-up, Summit is a tough one. Stay tuned!
There are no Big Central teams in South Group 4, but we’ll take a quick peek at the top of the standings, which have Millville (4-1) and Mainland (6-0) holding the top two spots, followed by Winslow (5-1) and Brick Memorial (6-0) with Jackson Memorial and Hammonton not far behind.