Tag: Strength Index

Who’s the “strongest” Big Central team heading into ’22? We take a deep dive into the numbers

We are less than four weeks away from Week Zero – Opening Day for not all, but a good number of high school football teams across the state, and in the Big Central Conference, which will be playing its second full season this year.

And with our Central Jersey Sports Radio play-by-play schedule reveal kicking off our third straight season of high school football coverage on the site, it’s time to delve into some of the numbers before we start previewing teams, the season and looking at some of the new head coaches around the league.

The 2020 season was supposed to be the first season for the Big Central, a merger between the Mid-State and Greater Middlesex Conferences. COVID-19 had other ideas, but officially the league is now in its third season, and second full season. That third year prompted a reshuffling of the divisions, and the schedule-makers in the conference say the aim was to create more balance and evenly-matched teams.

The first two years, divisions were determined primarily by group size, but some of that has been abandoned to more accurately reflect the skill and success level of certain teams, like Somerville – which has moved to a division with larger schools and a non-public after going 14-0 the past two seasons in actual games played on the field against Big Central competition, not including forfeits or non-league/out-of-state competition – and JP Stevens, a Group 5 school with dwindling turnout which has lost 23 straight games overall, spanning four seasons. The Hawks’ last win was on October 26, 2018, a 29-14 home win over Monroe, and they’ll now be in a division with smaller schools, and will face off against Group 2 programs like Metuchen and Spotswood this year.

So, let’s first take a look at the new Strength Index ratings that we’ll be starting 2022 with. Strength Index is a formula used by the NJSIAA, calculated by the website Gridiron New Jersey, which aims to identify how strong a team is. The higher the ranking, the better they are supposed to be.

A team’s ranking changes after every game, depending on how it performed against its opponent, relative to the opponent’s strength.

For example, two teams rated a 60 are considered identical. In a matchup where one team is rated a 70 and the other a 60, the team rated 70 is considered to be ten points better. If it wins by ten, its rating – and that of its opponent – would stay the same, because it matched the expectation for the game based on its rating.

If it won by 20, it “outperformed” its ranking, and the formula says the team that outperformed increases by 1/5th the difference. So, if a team ranked 70 beat one ranked 60 by 20 points, they outperformed by ten. One fifth is two, so the winning team becomes a 72. The losing team drops the same amount, and becomes a 58.

This formula also says that a team that “underperforms” – a higher ranked team losing to a lower ranked team, or even not winning by as many points – would see a reduction in its Strength Index number. So, technically, the winner of a game doesn’t always go up. Their Strength Index could go down, and the losing team’s SI could go up.

But unlike the similar Born Power Index formula, Strength Index isn’t what determines playoff standing (along with traditional power points) anymore, after one rather controversial year in 2018. It’s the OSI, or “Opponent Strength Index.” And the idea is that if you beat better teams, you’ll be seeded higher, but there’s no advantage to winning every game by 40 points. In fact, it’s often a disadvantage, because making your opponents “underperform” makes them less valubale. And if you’re playing weaker teams, that hurts your playoff chances. In this way, the formula encourages sportsmanship.

But let’s get back to Strength Index. Here are the 59 Big Central teams (North Warren left the original 60 teams for this year) ranked from top to bottom:

2022 START
Hillsborough84.87
Union82.23
Cranford76.27
Somerville75.37
Ridge73.78
St. Thomas Aquinas72.84
Phillipsburg72.33
Sayreville71.86
Colonia70.41
North Hunterdon69.49
North Brunswick69.09
Hillside68.12
Delaware Valley68.01
New Providence66.80
Bridgewater-Raritan66.35
Bernards66.06
East Brunswick65.19
Rahway65.11
St. Joseph-Metuchen63.77
Woodbridge63.54
Westfield63.34
Edison62.52
Summit61.84
Old Bridge61.78
Brearley61.53
Montgomery60.23
Watchung Hills60.21
South Brunswick59.62
Scotch Plains59.60
Linden59.52
South Hunterdon59.36
Elizabeth58.63
New Brunswick58.07
Franklin57.37
North Plainfield56.78
Plainfield54.32
Bound Brook54.26
Hunterdon Central54.25
Monroe53.15
Carteret53.03
JFK52.81
Piscataway52.05
South Plainfield51.96
Middlesex51.81
Belvidere51.55
Roselle49.55
Manville48.84
South River47.85
Metuchen46.59
Dayton46.51
Governor Livingston44.80
Johnson42.86
Johnson42.86
Perth Amboy42.43
Roselle Park39.91
Dunellen34.58
Spotswood34.01
JP Stevens33.37
Highland Park26.32

It should be noted that each year’s starting Strength Index is based on the final SI value of the previous year, centered one-third of the way to 60 in order to lessen the impact of the previous year. For example, a team finishing with a rating of 90 would be reduced by one-third of the distance to 60, which is 10 points (90 to 60 is 30, and one third is 10).

It would make sense that Hillsborough and Cranford – both of whom won state sectional championships last year, and the Raiders a regional crown while going 13-0 – would be among the top three, despite the fact both lose almost every significant statistical contributor from 2021. Union was also a heavy postseason favorite before COVID cases controversially sidelined the Farmers’ playoff run.

But the Strength Index doesn’t account for the future. It will let that play out through the 2022 season. While the preseason SI numbers are historical and a starting point, some carryover has to be assumed. Not every player on the roster graduates every position player. There’s carryover in rosters, coaching and even program tradition – or not. Eventually, Strength Index will play out on the field.

While there’s some historical context to the Strength Index, it’s a key difference from power points, which are based on wins and residuals. But Strength Index does not factor in group size, like power points do. An 8-0 Group 3 team could be just as strong as an 8-0 Group 5 team.

One example is St. Thomas Aquinas. The Trojans bulldozed their way through 2021, racking up shutout wins in their first seven games of the season, tying a playoff-era Middlesex County record set by Piscataway in 2004. They didn’t play a schedule like Hillsborough – with teams like Westfield and Phillipsburg on the docket – but they dominated their competition, and their SI improved from a 52.93 at the start of 2021 to a 79.26 at the end of the season. (Don’t forget, the starting SI numbers are centered closer to 60, which is why Aquinas begins at 72.84

The Trojans made the biggest gain in SI in the 2021 season, jumping 19.91 points. Other big gainers in 2021 (meaning they were much improved, according to the Index) were Colonia (+17.77), Metuchen (+17.01) and North Hunterdon (+12.36). Locally, though not in the Big Central, Immaculata also made a huge gain, with a +16.97, playing in the North Jersey Super Football Conference, where they will be again this season.

So how does the Big Central stack up statewide?

Hillsborough is No. 10 in the state overall, according to the Strength Index, just behind Donovan Catholic and Red Bank Catholic at nine and eight. Union is 16th, while Cranford is No. 32. The top five teams in the state are Bergen Catholic, Millville, St. Joseph-Hammonton, Camden Eastside (formerly Woodrow Wilson) and West Morris Central, a decidedly South Jersey lean.

Interestingly, if you broke the rankings into thirds, 30 percent of the Big Central lands in the top third. That’s 18 teams, and the same as the 2021 preseason. But the bottom appears to have slipped. Of the 59 Big Central teams, 20 are in the middle third, four fewer than last year. And 21 are in the bottom third, three more than last year (the difference being North Warren leaving). Essentially, the BCC had more “middle of the pack” teams heading into last year than heading into this year.

Later this week, we’ll take a look at Strength of Schedule, and whether the Big Central’s new divisions achieve parity among the teams. And when the NJSIAA comes out with its football classifications for 2022, we’ll give you our all-too-early playoff projections as to the minimum wins each team should need to get in the playoffs, based on their strength of schedule.

Breaking down 2021’s final Strength Index numbers: Who were the top teams in the Big Central, statewide? Who gained the most?

It was a busy 2021 high school football season, and a long one. Maybe that’s because 2020 was so short?

But it was a good busy, and the good kind of long. Very few teams – though a couple notable ones – had issues with COVID, and most played a full season. We got all the way through the 2021 playoffs, right down to regional champs for the last time ever, before 2022 ushers in the era of football Group Champions, just like every other sport in New Jersey.

Central Jersey Sports Radio has run the numbers, and calculated the unofficial final 2021 Strength Index values for every team in the state of New Jersey. And we’re sharing them with you.

The SI values are locked in after Week Eight of the regular season, in an effort to cut down on the uncertainty heading into Week 9 for playoff qualification. But since SI values are based on the previous year, then typically re-centered a third of the way up or down to a mid-point of 60 before the next season begins, that means SI must still be calculated “behind the scenes” for all games after Week 8, including consolation games (now called “regional crossovers”), playoffs and Thanksgiving games.

We did all of that, and the results follow. It should be noted that while Gridiron New Jersey is the official calculator of Strength Index, Power Points, and OSI, the website no longer has a week-by-week listing of results, so our results were compiled only with what was available on NJ.com. We did not verify ever score in the state since Week 8 (hundreds of games) with Gridiron New Jersey. Some out-of-state Strength index numbers also were unavailable, such as the number for Easton (PA), which beat Phillipsburg on Thanksgiving. So, the Stateliners’ SI value may be off slightly. All our numbers and calculations are unofficial, but we believe accurate enough to paint a proper portrait of the statewide picture, and how the Big Central fared.

We’ll start talking about the BCC itself. The Top Ten teams are:

  1. Hillsborough, 97.10
  2. Union, 93.18
  3. Cranford, 84.27
  4. Somerville, 82.93
  5. Ridge, 80.52
  6. Phillipsburg, 79.84
  7. St. Thomas Aquinas, 79.16
  8. Sayreville, 77.68
  9. Colonia, 75.51
  10. North Hunterdon, 74.17

Click here for a PDF version of the full list of the unofficial 2021 final Big Central Strength Index numbers.

Statewide, Hillsborough finished in the Top Ten for Strength Index, Checking in at No. 9. Union – whose season was cut short after the first round of the playoffs due to COVID – finished 16th. Others that finished in the Top 50 – out of well over 300 teams in the state – included Cranford at 32, Somerville at 40, Ridge at 46, Phillipsburg at 47, and St. Thomas Aquinas at 49.

The Top 20 teams are:

  1. Bergen Catholic, 111.16
  2. Millville, 103.59
  3. Cedar Creek, 101.76
  4. St. Joeseph-Hammonton, 101.11
  5. West Morris, 98.09
  6. Don Bosco Prep, 97.38
  7. Red Bank Catholic, 97.25
  8. Donovan Catholic, 97.22
  9. Hillsborough, 97.10
  10. Caldwell, 96.94
  11. Northern Highlands, 95.48
  12. DePaul, 94.25
  13. Woodrow Wilson, 94.22
  14. St. Augustine, 93.48
  15. Rumson-Fair Haven, 93.19
  16. Union, 93.18
  17. Seton Hall Prep, 93.05
  18. St. Peter’s Prep, 92.62
  19. Winslow Twp., 90.62
  20. Salem, 89.00

Click here for a PDF version of the full list of the unofficial 2021 final Strength Index numbers.

So who were the biggest gainers in the Big Central Conference in 2021? Inotherwords, who had the biggest turnarounds? With Strength Index, keep in mind, it’s not about wins and losses. It’s about score, and how competitive a team is. If a football team played opponents generally ranked 30 points higher than them, but lost all their games by only a field goal, they would gain a good deal, and be considered a “stronger” team by the Strength Index model, even though they may have been winless.

In the Big Central, it’s little surprise St. Thomas Aquinas saw the biggest gain. Finishing 4-6 in 2019 and 4-3 in 2020, the Trojans went 9-1 this season, winning seven of those games by large margins. They also shut out their first seven opponents of the season. Aquinas went from a 52.93 in preseason to a 79.16; not the highest in the Big Central, but the biggest gain, going up by 26.23 points in the Strength index category.

Hillsborough saw a gain of 24.01 points, going 13-0 this season after a 4-4 2020 campaign. They started the season a highly-respectable 73.09, but finished with a 97.10 Strength Index rating, ninth best in the state.

Other jumps of double digits included Colonia (+22.87), Union (+17.83), North Hunterdon (+17.04), Sayreville (+14.88), East Brunswick (+12.10), Cranford (+11.67) and Metuchen (+10.38).

Click here for the full unofficial list of Big Central Strength Index changes in 2021.

Overall, two-thirds of the league – 40 of the 60 Big Central teams – saw changes of fewer than 10 points in either direction, and 36 of them saw changes of seven points or fewer. Essentially, that means 36 teams are plus or minus within a touchdown of where they were the year before. That’s basically a toss-up game, and a negligible difference at best.

Even more teams would be within that “touchdown” change heading into 2022, after re-centering, which brings teams a third of the way in either direction back to 60. In other words, a team with a 51 rating would gain one-third of the way to 60, or three of the nine points, and they would become a 54. A 72 rated team would become a 68, and so on. About 43 of the 60 league teams would be in that category.

Who are the Big Central’s most improved teams this season? Week 5 winners? The Strength Index tells all

The Strength Index New Jersey uses to determine OSI – Opponent Strength Index – which accounts for 60% of the state playoff formula is calculated on a weekly basis.

And it can give us a pretty good idea of who’s having a good season, as well as who has improved.

The SI formula is simple. Each team is calculated on their results every week. Compare the two numbers of a pair of opponents, and how each of them does compared to the difference in that number determines how much a team’s Strength Index goes up or down.

If Team A is rated 87, and Team B is rated 80, the difference is 7. The expected result is that team A is 7 points better than Team B.

If Team A wins by 7, both teams stay the same.

If Team A wins by 12, they go up by 1/5 the difference against the expected result. The difference is 5, so Team A goes up by 1 point, and Team B goes down the opposite.

If Team B wins by 3, that’s a 10-point swing. They would go up by 2, and Team A would go down by two.

Knowing that, we can see who has made the biggest gains since the beginning of the year.

The Strength Index says St. Thomas Aquinas (4-0) has made the biggest gain, almost 20 points higher than it started the year. That means the Trojans have improved, and they certainly have. In three league games, they’re averaging 49.3 points per game, and they’ve won all four of their games by shutout. They’re coming off a 4-3 season last year.

Colonia also has gained a lot, 17.39 points to be exact. The Patriots were 2-6 last year, but are 4-1 heading into Week 6, their only loss coming in their opener, 21-14 to Woodbridge, one of the top teams in the league.

Here’s a look at the most improved teams in the Big Central in 2021, using Strength Index:

The top gainer from Week 5 to Week 6 with South Brunswick, picking up 7.01 points after handing Monroe its second loss of the season.

Roselle gained after a 42-point home win over Johnson, and Bridgewater-Raritan climbed after a road win at Phillipsburg, its first at Maloney Stadium since 2016.

Here’s the rest of the list:

Week 5 statewide Strength Index Numbers: Somerville leads BCC but drops in overall rankings

Once again, Somerville is the highest rated team in the Big Central, according to the Week 5 Strength Index numbers published by Gridiron New Jersey, the NJSIAA’s official playoff qualification calculator.

But the Pioneers dropped one more spot, from 15th to 16th in the statewide rankings.

While Gridiron does not release the full list, Central Jersey Sports Radio will continue to compile the numbers each week.

There’s also a new team atop the rankings, as Bergen Catholic (98.73) leapfrogged St. Peter’s Prep (91.61), which lost to Don Bosco this weekend, while the Crusaders blanked Pope John 41-0. BC will play the Marauders at Caven Point on October 30th. Rounding out the top five are Red Bank Catholic (94.46), Cedar Creek (94.14) – the highest rated public school – and St. Joseph-Hammonton (92.85).

Shawnee (92.54) is sixth, followed by Holy Spirit (92.52), DePaul (92.22), Donovan Catholic (92.13) and St. Joseph-Montvale (91.69).

Somerville is the sixth highest rated public school in the state. Cedar Creek and Shawnee are followed by Ramapo (12th statewide, 90.04), Rumson-Fair Haven (13th, 89.97), NOrthern Highlands (15th, 88.71) and the Pioneers (87.41).

Somerville lost to Northern Highlands earlier this year.

Click below to download a PDF of all the teams in New Jersey ranked by Strength Index values.

Here are the rankings for all 60 teams in the Big Central Conference:

Week 4 statewide Strength Index Numbers: Somerville leads BCC; Who were the biggest gainers?

Somerville remains the highest rated team in the Big Central, according to the Week 4 Strength Index numbers published by Gridiron New Jersey, the NJSIAA’s official playoff qualification calculator.

While Gridiron does not release the full list, Central Jersey Sports Radio will continue to compile the numbers each week.

The top team overall in the state was St. Peter’s Prep, with an SI of 97.75. The Marauders are followed by Bergen Catholic (96.76), Cedar Creek (94.35), Red Bank Catholic (91.95) and DePaul (92.52) to round out the top five.

Holy Spirit is 6th at 92.31, followed by St. Augustine (92.06), Seton Hall Prep (91.95), Rumson-Fair Haven (90.36) and Donovan Catholic (89.78)

Idle Somerville (87.54) dropped from 11th to 15th as teams behind them last week passed them in Week 4.

Click below to download a PDF of all the teams in New Jersey ranked by Strength Index values. Big Central teams are highlighted in yellow. Independent area teams are in blue.

Here are the rankings for all 60 teams in the Big Central Conference:

Below are the top ten gainers in Strength Index for Week 4:

Somerville is top Big Central team in Week Three Strength Index rankings

While OSI – Opponent Strength Index – is 60 percent of New Jersey’s UPR formula to determine playoff qualification, that index gets its data from each team’s Strength Index, how strong a team is considered to be. The SI has nothing to do with wins or losses, but how each team performs based on its own rating relative to its opponent’s rating, and the final score.

Somerville is the highest ranked team in the Big Central, according to the official Week Three Strength index values, updated by Gridiron New Jersey, the website that calculates such values for the NJSIAA. This means the Pioneers are considered – by the formula – the top team in the Big Central Conference.

While Gridiron does not publish the numbers directly, Central Jersey Sports Radio compiled the values for all 339 schools playing football in New Jersey in 2021, and will continue to do so all season long.

The top team overall in the state was St. Peter’s Prep, with an SI of 98.49. The Marauders are followed by Bergen Catholic (96.33), Cedar Creek (94.51), Seton Hall Prep (92.34) and DePaul (91.77).

Rumson-Fair Haven is 6th at 91.14, followed by St. Augustine (89.86), Ramapo (88.47), Holy Spirit (87.89) and Red Bank Catholic (87.69) to round out the Top Ten.

Somerville is right behind at 87.54.

OSI works so that a winning team gets the full value of its opponent calculated into its average. If it beats a team with an SI of 80 and a team with an SI of 60, it’s OSI is 70 (the average of 60 and 80).

Losing teams get half the value of its opponent. A loss to an 80 team is worth 40, for example. A tie garners three-quarters of the SI value (an 80 would be worth a 60).

Click below to download a PDF of all the teams in New Jersey ranked by Strength Index values. Big Central teams are highlighted in yellow. Independent area teams are in blue.

Here are the rankings for all 60 teams in the Big Central Conference:

RANKTEAMSI
1Somerville87.54
2Woodbridge79.73
3Ridge79.53
4Cranford78.36
5Phillipsburg77.53
6Union76.27
7Hillsborough75.65
8Monroe72.99
9Bernards72.75
10Delaware Valley71.98
11Hillside71.87
12North Brunswick69.57
13Warren Hills69.37
14Old Bridge68.84
15St. Thomas Aquinas68.72
16Colonia67.47
17East Brunswick66.90
18Sayreville66.88
19Westfield66.45
20Brearley66.07
21Summit65.83
22Watchung Hills65.12
23Bridgewater-Raritan64.66
24Linden63.98
25New Providence62.49
26North Hunterdon62.30
27Edison62.20
28St. Joseph-Metuchen61.05
29Montgomery60.49
30Rahway59.71
31Piscataway59.69
32New Brunswick58.37
33South Brunswick57.44
34Elizabeth55.13
35North Plainfield54.89
36Manville53.66
37Bound Brook53.20
38Scotch Plains-Fanwood53.19
39Plainfield51.60
40South River50.76
41Franklin50.41
42South Hunterdon50.41
43Hunterdon Central50.22
44Voorhees48.40
45Middlesex47.87
46South Plainfield47.66
47Belvidere47.44
48Governor Livingston46.89
49Roselle Park46.09
50Perth Amboy45.89
51Carteret44.85
52Dayton44.72
53Roselle43.88
54JFK43.35
55Johnson42.00
56Spotswood28.52
57JP Stevens25.60
58Metuchen25.47
59Dunellen22.92
60Highland Park13.46

OPINION: What if the Big Central created divisions solely on Strength Index?

The Strength Index is a good calculator and way to rate opponents, and the way it’s used to create the Opponent Strength Index – where it doesn’t reward teams for running up the score – is a big improvement over using the pure numbers of the similar Born Power Index.

It’s also a good tool to tell how tough a team’s schedule is, and to track their progress throughout the year. Are they just skating by? Are they challenging themselves? Is their schedule too difficult?

We’ve already looked at some of that this year, including the fact that top teams often have to “play down” because they have no equivalent in their division. That can make it difficult to make the playoffs – as often is the case for a school like Bernards – or to get a top seed, as happened to Somerville a couple of years ago.

On the flip side, it can also be a detriment to a team playing way above its station. Should a struggling program have to play really tough schools just because they happen to be the same size.

The Big Central Conference was created a couple of years ago to alleviate some of those scheduling concerns, but the inequities still exist. As a superconference – a merge of the Skyland and the GMC – it’s still relatively small.

There are 60 teams in the Big Central. Compare that to the North Jersey Super Football Conference with 113 and the West Jersey Football League with 94.

But there’s such a wide range of teams in the Big Central that the groupings – still mainly based on geography and longtime rivals – often have teams that don’t belong because they’re too good, or not good enough.

And while the league realigns its divisions every two years (or plans to, since it’s only in its second year of existence) it allows one to wonder: What if the Big Central adopted a scheme that would base divisions on Strength Index numbers, and nothing more?

Similar to what’s done in football (soccer) in Europe, teams can move up or down based on their results. And the Big Central does that in a way, too.

The NJSFC also did something like that, creating a division with struggling programs to allow they to play each other rather than getting whooped by someone much better who just happened to be local and an old-time rival.

We took a look at a couple of sets of numbers, keeping in mind the data is limited because Strength Index has only been used for two seasons, and last year was not a typical or full season. But for our purposes, we used a two-year average of starting Strength Index: the preseason 2021 and preseason 2022 values.

Since the league has 60 teams and ten divisions (mostly with six teams each, but one with eight and a couple with five) we decided to make ten even divisions of six teams each. Since geography and rivals weren’t a factor – we went strictly by math here – we figured this would give each team five divisional games, with a chance to schedule three or four more games against traditional rivals or more local teams.

Here’s what we came up with:

Division 1: Somerville (81.67), Hillside (79.54), Phillpsburg (79.32), Union (76.12), Hillsborough (73.26) and Ridge (72.48).

In this division, we’ve got four Group 5 schools, a Group 3 in Somerville and a Group 2 in Hillside. All are excellent teams. They went a combined 31-12 last season in a wacky year. Somerville finished 7-0 and beat Woodbridge in a highly anticipated matchup, though we never got to see the next game – ‘Ville-Phillipsburg – due to COVID. This division would see some really good games.

One might suggest from a numbers standpoint that Hillside is playing way out of its league. But minus its season-opening 14-9 win over Bernards, they romped through Roselle, Johnson and Middlesex by a combined 141-14, including a shutout over the Rams.

Would the Comets like that challenge? Maybe, maybe not. But it would be interesting to think of.

What about Somerville? They have challenged themselves in non-divisional games over the years. They played at Delbarton in 2018 and won 35-7, and this year will play at St. Joseph-Metuchen.

Division 2: Rahway (72.45), Woodbridge (72.19), North Brunswick (71.09), Cranford (70.21), Bernards (68.51), Piscataway (68.50).

Woodbridge, North Brunswick and Piscataway are the largest schools here, in Group 5. Cranford is in Group 4, Rahway in Group 3 and Bernards in Group 2. The Mountaineers might be the most interesting, as Jon Simoneau loves to challenge his group, too.

They’ve also been among the teams battling for playoff position, in such a weak division that they often need to win 6 or 7 games to just sniff the playoffs, while other teams skate in with a tougher schedule but three wins. The problem for Bernards is there are few similar size schools worth a lot of power points or with high enough SI values to get them in. The answer may be playing the big boys.

But are their opponents too strong?

Before we get to the rest of the list, you could also have an appeal process, or come up with some algorithm that says you can’t be in a division where the average of the other group sizes is over X amount. Take Bernards for example. The average Group size of the other five teams is 4.4. So, maybe that average can’t be more than two full numbers above your Group size. Since Bernards is a Group 2, the average of the other teams couldn’t be more than 4. That could be achieved with one Group 5, two Group 4s, and two Group 3s (5+4+4+3+3=20, 20/5=4).

Or maybe teams could be allowed to move down a couple of divisions if they aren’t happy, much like the appeal process that currently exists.

But remember, with only six teams per division, you would have five divisional games, that means an opportunity to schedule three or four other opponents that maybe aren’t as strong. Or just as strong, depending on what you prefer.

And remember, if you had a couple of rough years, your SI will go down, and you’ll naturally fall into a division that’s more even. You can play your way up or down every couple of seasons.

The middle divsions will be a little more even in terms of Group size, so let’s jump for a moment to the last hypothetical division.

Division 10: Dayton (41.64), Dunellen (39.59), Roselle Park (38.29), JP Stevens (34.84), Metuchen (30.98), Highland Park (20.31).

Of course, the one that jumps out at you is JP Stevens. But again, maybe a safeguard works in the opposite direction to keep a Group 5 team out of a division where the rest of the teams all average more than two whole numbers lower. (These five division-mates average a 1.2. Group value.) Or maybe you can’t be in with any teams that are more than two or three groups above you.

But for the rest of the teams based on recent results, it’s right about spot on.

Here are the hypothetical Big Central Conference divisions, marked by color, using the two-year average of 2020 and 2021 preseason Strength Index Values:

Here are the divisions using just the 2021 preseason Strength Index values:

While it’s far from a perfect system and not one I’m advocating, it’s an interesting jumping off point. Perhaps with some tweaks and safeguards, it could be a good guide to divisions and scheduling in the future.

Who’s the “strongest” team in the Big Central? Here are the league’s SI ratings heading into 2021

Now that the NJSIAA has released its official starting Strength Index numbers for the 2021 high school football season, who’s the strongest team in the Big Central?

Well, to be honest, not much changed since the end of the 2021 season.

At least at the top, Phillipsburg has the highest 2021 preseason Strength Index in the league, followed by Somerville.

Continue reading “Who’s the “strongest” team in the Big Central? Here are the league’s SI ratings heading into 2021″

Who’s got the toughest road in the Big Central? Updated rankings based on revised slate

by Mike Pavlichko

Even though the NJSIAA state playoffs in 2020 won’t look anything like normal – if they’re even held at all – it’s still an interesting exercise to look at some of the numbers they use, like Strength Index, and what we are calling the “Preseason OSI.”

Meanwhile, the revised schedules created by the Big Central Football Conference have in some cases created big changes in the strength of schedule for some teams.

The key stats are:

  • Preseason OSI: This is the average of the Strength Index of all a team’s opponents. During the season, OSI is calculated by using the full value for a win and half for a loss. In the preseason, we use full values for all opponents to keep the numbers evenly proportioned.
  • Play Up or Down: This is how much higher or lower a team’s OSI is compared to their own Strength Index. If a team’s OSI is higher than its own SI, that means they are playing stronger opponents, or “playing up.” In a normal playoff year, playing up by a lot could get you in the postseason even with a sub-.500 record. Playing down too much might keep you out, like happened to South River in a 6-3 campaign last year. This stats says scheduling is important.
  • Change in Preseason OSI: We thought it would be good to look at OSI values we calculated back in February when the regular season was 9 games long as opposed to 6 (and an even shorter 5 for those who had Carteret or Piscataway on their schedules, unless they find replacements).

We’ll give you some of the highlights here. For a full list of rankings of Preseason OSI, Play Up or Down, and Change in Preseason OSI, scroll to the bottom of each section and download the posted PDF files.

Continue reading “Who’s got the toughest road in the Big Central? Updated rankings based on revised slate”