Just three more weeks of games remain until the NJSIAA seeds the state playoffs, and Central Jersey Sports Radio is well into its team-by-team analysis of all the scenarios for all the Big Central Conference schools still in contention for postseason play.
All our stories are sponsored by My Family Appliances in Edison, on Route One South in Wick Plaza, which will be presenting out third annual “Playoff Projection Show” on Saturday, October 21 from 5-7, hosted by Mike Pavlichko with analyst Marcus Borden. And, My Family Appliances will be giving away three $100 gift cards to lucky listeners that night!
Scroll down for our team-by-team look at Group 2 schools in the North and South supersections, and click on the supersection name to go to Gridiron New Jersey for the official standings, as calculated by the website for the NJSIAA.
4. Bernards (6-0): The top four teams in this supersection all have what we call “pure” UPRs of 1, 2, 3 and 4. That means first place Westwood (6-0) is first in power points and OSI, Caldwell (5-0) is second in both, Rutherford (5-0) third and Bernards fourth. So they are bunched close enough together. Strength Indexes will continue to change the next two weeks, and a lot can happen with those four teams’ opponents, but right now, they’re basically battling it out with each other. A top-seed would guarantee home field through the sectional finals, and – new this year – the No. 1 overall seed means a potential home game in the group semis. (Last year, those were played at neutral sites, but now they go to the higher seeded team.) This week will tell a lot, as the Mountaineers should beat Bound Brook; the question is how much a victory over a one-win team with an SI of 31.19 will hurt them. Bernard’s OSI is almost 54, so that will bring them down. And they’ll only get 11 power points, which would bring down their 14.50 average. But they do have two stronger teams the rest of the way, both on the road. New Providence (3-3, 58.10 UPR) is next Friday, and then they visit Governor Livingston (5-1, 57.18) on the Saturday of Cutoff Weekend. Of the teams above them: Rutherford has two left against above-.500 teams; Caldwell has a 1-4 team in there, too; and Westwood has a bye this week followed by two middle-of-the-road to good opponents. Anyone can slip here, and that could give Bernards a shot, if they don’t trip themselves.
8. New Providence (3-3): The Pioneers are the highest team in the supersection from the Big Central, and we’re not exactly sure how on the “top eight” bubble they are. That’s because the next team back – Overbrook (3-2) – is four full UPR points behind them. That’s a lot of ground to make up: ten places in power point rank or seven OSI places. They should beat Metuchen at home this week, and may beat Middlesex the final week at Mountainview Park. Should they lose to Bernards, that still may not hurt them much. The Pioneers have a 47.12 OSI and Bernards is worth 40 as a loss, and might even go up by beating New Providence. Granted, they can’t lose their last three games, but they shouldn’t. They’re a good bet to get a home game.
11. Spotswood (6-0): Yes, the Chargers are undefeated, but appear destined to start the playoffs in some other town. But the bigger concern is this: if they don’t sweep their last three games, will they get in? That’s a good question. Spotswood got snubbed last year with a 6-3 record at the cutoff. They lost to Brearley, Roselle Park and Johnson, the latter by a 44-0 score. Both teams are better this year. Now, Spotswood should beat 1-4 Dayton this weekend up in Springfield. Johnson (4-1) will be a tough task at home next Saturday. And they should beat JP Stevens (0-6) the final weekend. And if they finish 9-0, they’ll be in regardless; by NJSIAA rule, no unbeaten team can be left out of the playoffs. But 8-1? With a their only loss to Johnson? Will it be enough? It might be too early to tell yet. Stay tuned…
12. Johnson (4-1): We’re a little less concerned for the Crusaders missing the playoffs, with a stronger schedule. They have Hillside and Spotswood on the road the next two weeks, then South River. So if ALJ and the Chargers both go 2-1 the rest of the way, we’d expect Johnson to move past Spotswood. How far? Likely not far enough to pick up a first round home game. They close with South River, but a win there shouldn’t hurt them much. All things being equal, Johnson – despite being behind Spotswood – is on slightly firmer footing heading into the final three weeks of the regular season.
13. Delaware Valley (3-2): The Terriers’ schedule the rest of the way out is more like Spotswood’s, but a loss to the best remaining team they have on the schedule – Hillside – would be better than a Charger loss to Johnson. So, like the Crusaders, we think they’re on better ground. That home game against the Comets comes in the middle of two road games: this week at South River (0-5) and the final weekend against North Plainfield (0-6). Del Val may need to win out as well. It depends on what some of the teams behind them do.