It’s our first week of playoff analysis here at Central Jersey Sports Radio – this year, presented by our friends at My Family Appliances in Edison – and it seems like more teams have a legitimate shot at earning top seeds.
That may just be anecdotal evidence, and there’s still a lot of football to be played, but as of now, at least three Group 3 schools may have a chance.
Playoff Qualification Primer
The NJSIAA uses the United Power Ranking (UPR) to determine where teams are seeded. Without getting into all the behind the scenes calculations and caveats, each team’s UPR is based on two factors: their rank in the supersection based on power points and on OSI.
Power points are an average and based on the traditional formula that’s been used – albeit altered from time-to-time – over the years. Teams get six points for every win, group points based on the group of the opponent, and residuals – 3 for every win by a team you beat, 1 for every win by a team you lost to.
OSI is the Opponent Strength Index, and average of all the opponents played. Teams get the full value of a team’s Strength Index for a win, half for a loss. A win over an opponent with an SI of 80 gets and 80, a loss gets you 40 points. SI varies based on results throughout the year.
Teams are ranked in each category. OSI values are worth 60 percent of the formula, power points 40 percent. That added number makes the UPR, with lower numbers better. The best UPR a team can have is a 1, which is first in both power points and OSI.
The UPR is calculated for the NJSIAA by the website Gridiron New Jersey. Central Jersey Sports Radio also does its own unofficial calculations throughout the season, and will unveil its playoff projections in our annual special broadcast, this year on Saturday, October 21 from 5-7 pm, presented by My Family Appliances in Edison.
North Group 3
While Old Tappan (4-0, 10-game win streak, second longest active in the state) sits at the top, Summit (3-1) is No. 2 overall at the moment in the section, with a 2.2 UPR, right behind Old Tappan (1.4) and ahead of Warren Hills (4-1, 2.4 UPR) by a smidge. Cranford (2-2) is just behind the, but it’s a wider gap, as they have a 6.4 UPR, which is decent ground to make up.
The Hilltoppers have a good schedule coming up after winless Scotch Plains-Fanwood at home this weekend, with strong teams like Linden at home next week, then two road games to closer it out at Colonia and St. Joseph-Metuchen. Old Tappan’s schedule may be slightly lower in quality the rest of the way out, and Warren Hills is fairly similar, too. Summit may have to win out to earn a top seed, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Cranford has a tough schedule, too, including closing with Group 5 North Brunswick. The Cougars may need some help, but it’t not out of the question for them either if things break right.
The next area team in the standings is Hillside at No. 12. The Comets are 3-1, and should fairly safely be in the playoffs if they continue to play at the level they have been; their lone loss is to Ridge.
Governor Livingston is an interesting study. The Highlanders are 4-1, having won four straight after losing their opener. It”s their best start since going 8-1 to start 2006, a season they finished 8-3. It’s their first four-game win streak since 2008, when the Highlanders went 7-5 and lost to Caldwell in the North 2, Group 2 title game.
All that and GL is only in 16th place.
It’s mainly due to their schedule: three of their four wins have come against teams that are a combined 0-14 in North Plainfield, JFK and JP Stevens. The schedule gets tougher though, with Carteret and Bernards – teams with top-seed playoff aspirations – among their final four games. Both are at home, the Ramblers next week, and Bernards on the Saturday of Cutoff Weekend.
A win against one of those might be needed in order to combat the weak schedule. Stay tuned, they could be this year’s cause celebre in the Big Central, a la Spotswood last year and Manville two years ago. They finished with seven and six wins, respectively, at the cutoff, and didn’t make the postseason, and scheduling had a lot to do with it.
South Group 3
It might be a bit of a longshot, and playing winless JP Stevens won’t help them this week, no matter how close they keep it, but Carteret sits in sixth with a 7.4 UPR, 4.8 points behind second-place Holmdel.
Then again, after the Hawks this Friday night (7 pm on CJSR) the schedule gets tougher. There’s 4-1 Governor Livingston, then Rahway and Hillside.
A lot may depend on what others do.
Somerville (3-2) sits in eighth at the moment, so they’re right on the bubble of a first round home game. They could go either way at this still-early date.
South Plainfield, like Governor Livingston, is another plus-.500 team in rough shape. At 3-2, the Tigers sit in 24th place, a full nine UPR points out of the playoff window. Worse yet, their remaining schedule is not good. Other than GL this week, they have Voorhees, at Perth Amboy, and home to Monroe the last three weeks; those three teams are a combined 6-9. It’s not awful, but there’s no “big win” either, to give them a big boost.