Tag: Strength Index

Ridge leads Big Central in final 2022 Strength Index rankings

With the 2022 high school football season now complete, the numbers are in: five state sectional finalists and two champions. And who knows what 2023 will bring.

But according to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s unofficial Strength Index calculations, Ridge came in with the highest rating of all 59 teams at the end of the year.

Strength Index doesn’t so much take into account wins and losses. Rather it looks at how a team performed against another team relative to their ratings. A team consistently ranked 30 points lower than its opponents that loses all its games by just a field goal would increase its Strength Index, the thinking being that the team is better than the rankings indicated.

Those numbers would indicate Ridge is a “tough out.” At 7-3, their three losses came by 18 to North 2 Group 5 finalist Phillipsburg, by 10 to Hillsborough (before injuries forced the Raiders into their third-string quarterback), and by seven to North 1 Group 4 finalist Ramapo.

All five teams that ended up in sectional finals finished in the top eleven, with North Hunterdon second, Phillipsburg, Hillside and Edison fifth through seventh, and Brearley at No. 11.

Westfield and Roselle saw the biggest gains, nearly 20 points, from the start of the 2022 season. Westfield was 4-6 a year ago, but finished 8-3 this year. Roselle was 5-6 last year, and started this season 0-4, but didn’t lose the rest of the way, finishing with a strong 8-4 record.

The biggest falls were seen by North Plainfield (-23.85), Belvidere (-27.25) and Bound Brook (-32.43).

Overall, 30 teams increased their SI rating, while 29 saw their Strength Index value fall.

The end-of-year SI values are used to determine next year’s starting numbers, with all teams reduced or increased towards 60, which is considered the mid-point.

For example, a team rated 90 – which is 30 above the midway point of 60 – would see its SI reduced by 10, or one-third of 30, and start next season at 80. Alternatively, a team rated 51 – which is nine points below the midway of 60 – would increase by three points, or one-third of nine, and start next season as a 54.

Those Strength Index numbers – which change throughout the season – are used to calculate the Opponent Strength Index, which is 60% of the NJ UPR formula to determine playoff seeding. Playing strong opponents – not just beating them – helps a team’s OSI.

Knowing the starting values for next year can help leagues create favorable schedules for their teams to make the playoffs, and can help schools know what kind of out-of-conference opponents they shoudl schedule.

The average SI value among Big Central teams in the final unofficial 2022 calculations was 58.1.

Below are the 59 teams in the Big Central, with their starting SI, final SI, and the amount of change:

TEAM2022 STARTFINAL SICHANGE
1Ridge73.7890.3416.56
2North Hunterdon69.4984.4915.00
3Westfield63.3483.2019.86
4Cranford76.2783.116.84
5Phillipsburg72.3383.0210.69
6Hillside68.1282.0413.92
7Edison62.5280.5718.05
8St. Thomas Aquinas72.8478.966.12
9Watchung Hills60.2178.3818.17
10North Brunswick69.0975.586.49
11Brearley61.5375.0513.52
12Bernards66.0673.177.11
13Hillsborough84.8771.05-13.82
14Roselle49.5569.2819.73
15Montgomery60.2369.188.95
16Somerville75.3768.95-6.42
17Piscataway52.0568.7716.72
18Plainfield54.3268.4614.14
19Delaware Valley68.0167.53-0.48
20Summit61.8467.515.67
21Manville48.8466.4017.56
22Union82.2365.32-16.91
23Hunterdon Central54.2565.2210.97
24Woodbridge63.5464.741.20
25Linden59.5264.254.73
26Bridgewater-Raritan66.3564.21-2.14
27St. Joseph-Metuchen63.7763.76-0.01
28South Hunterdon59.3662.993.63
29Sayreville71.8659.94-11.92
30Colonia70.4159.90-10.51
31South Brunswick59.6259.28-0.34
32Johnson42.8658.7615.90
33South Plainfield51.9656.614.65
34Carteret53.0356.543.51
35Rahway65.1156.54-8.57
36Old Bridge61.7855.15-6.63
37East Brunswick65.1954.73-10.46
38New Providence66.8052.38-14.42
39Scotch Plains-Fanwood59.6051.25-8.35
40Elizabeth58.6349.97-8.66
41Monroe53.1548.80-4.35
42Franklin57.3748.07-9.30
43Voorhees48.9247.10-1.82
44Perth Amboy42.4346.263.83
45JFK52.8144.18-8.63
46Roselle Park39.9142.682.77
47Spotswood34.0140.586.57
48Middlesex51.8139.30-12.51
49New Brunswick58.0738.87-19.20
50Dunellen34.5837.202.62
51Governor Livingston44.8036.56-8.24
52Dayton46.5136.11-10.40
53South River47.8535.33-12.52
54North Plainfield56.7832.93-23.85
55Metuchen46.5929.48-17.11
56JP Stevens33.3725.41-7.96
57Belvidere51.5524.30-27.25
58Bound Brook54.2621.83-32.43
59Highland Park26.3215.65-10.67

As for the rest of the state, it’s little surprise who’s at the top of the rankings: the two teams widely considered the best among their peers this season in the non-public and public realms.

Non-Public Group A champion Bergen Catholic finished with the highest Strength Index value in the state, at 111.19. While the Crusaders only gained 15.83 points this year, the next team on the list gained a lot more: Toms River North. The Mariners – the state’s first-ever Group 5 champion, and first-ever 14-0 team in state history – ended the year with a 107.01 SI rating.

Ridge – tops in the BCC – finished 11th overall in the state, with north Hunterdon – second in the BCC – at 29, and Westfield (33rd), Cranford (34th), Phillipsburg (36th), Hillside (40th) and Edison (43rd) all in the Top 50.

The Super Football Conference had seven of its teams in the top ten, while the Shore Conference had two and the West Jersey Football League had one. Six of the top ten were public schools.

Below is a downloadable PDF version of the full Strength Index values – according to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s unofficial calculations – for every team in the state of New Jersey, including starting 2022 SI number, final number, and the amount of change.

Who’s the “strongest” team in the Big Central? It’s a playoff team, but (maybe) not who you think

Phillipsburg is the No. 1 team in the latest Central Jersey Sports Radio and Big Central Media polls, which won’t be conducted again until the season is over for every league team, but in unofficial Strength Index numbers calculated by CJSR, the Stateliners are No. 2.

Who’s at the top of the list?

It’s Ridge, and if you’ve been sleeping on the Red Devils, apparently you should do so at your own peril.

While P’burg has gotten a lot of ink this year – and deservedly so – as has North Brunswick’s defense and St. Thomas Aquinas continuing to win (17 Big Central games and counting) despite a big bump up in quality of schedule, Ridge has done well, but it may have been the way they started.

The Red Devils’ first win was over Monroe, 48-0 in the season opener. The Falcons ended up the year 2-7. Ridge then lost to Phillipsburg – as everyone has this year – and Hillsborough, before they ended up on their third string quarterback. So, they were 1-2, with good losses, but unclear how good they may have actually been.

Since then, they’ve won six straight, including a playoff-opening win over Roxbury, and in that span have allowed a grand total of 24 points, with two shutouts, and never more than seven points in a game against Hunterdon Central, Bridgewater-Raritan, South Brunswick, Westfield, Union and Roxbury last weekend.

This Friday night, 3rd-seed Ridge travels to 2nd-seed Ramapo for a North 1, Group 4 semifinal game. Both teams are 7-2.

Phillipsburg is second in the current Big Central Strength Index rankings, followed by Cranford third and St. Thomas Aquinas fourth. Statewide, the Trojans are third among Non-Public South B teams, but seeded fifth, behind Holy Spirit and DePaul, which are behind Aquinas in Strength Index. The Trojans also finished first in power points and fourth in OSI.

North Hunterdon is fifth in the Big Central in Strength Index, followed by Hillside, Watchung Hills, Edison, Westfield and North Brunswick to round out the top ten.

All but Watchung Hills remain alive in the playoffs, while Aquinas opens the postseason this weekend at 4th-seed Holy Spirit.

The only Big Central playoff teams not in the top ten in league Strength Index are Brearley and St. Joseph-Metuchen.

The Bears are 11th, while the Falcons are 18th.

Below are the complete, current, and unofficial rankings based on SI value, as calculated by Central Jersey Sports Radio:

black calculator near ballpoint pen on white printed paper

Official Strength Index values for every New Jersey team heading into Cutoff Weekend

As coaches around the state try to figure out where they might land in the playoffs, who they’ll play, or even if they’ll get in at all, the key number they’ll need is the Strength Index value of their opponents.

The Strength Index – a number that changes every game based on the results in relation to the SI value of both teams – is locked in this week, but only for playoff calculation purposes. This makes the art of predicting a little easier, taking one more variable out of the equation.

Using our own calculations – and comparing to the official numbers used by Gridiron New Jersey, which calculates the playoff formula for the NJSIAA – we’ve compiled a list of every high school football team in the state, along with their Strength Index number.

The SI is used to calculate a team’s OSI, with teams getting the full value of a team for a win, half for a loss, and three-quarters for a tie. Inotherwords, a team that defeats an opponent with an SI of 80 gets an 80 added to their average. A loss nets 40, and a tie nets 60.

While the numbers are locked this week for calculating OSI, they are still run behind the scenes and for the entire rest of the year, whether it’s a playoff game, consolation, regular season game – even Thanksgiving. That’s because the final numbers from this season are recentered one-third of the way to a midpoint of 60 (teams above 60 go down 1/3, while teams above rise by 1/3) to make things more even at the start of the next season. (Example: A team rated 90 would go down by 10 to an 80, or one-third of the way to 60. A team rated 51 would go up by 3 to a 54, one one-third of the way to 60.)

Click below for a full, downloadable .pdf file with a list of New Jersey schools and their Strength Index values as of 10 pm on October 16. Please note that values may change if errors are discovered by Gridiron New Jersey, as was the case last week with at least four known games that had wrong scores reported, affecting dozens of other teams in the process.

The computers agree: Phillipsburg is tops in the Big Central, but on the rest? Not so much

There’s no mistaking who the computers say is the No. 1 team in the Big Central Conference at the midway point of the season: the Phillipsburg Stateliners.

Their Strength Index rating of 90.44 is by far the highest in the league, 10.75 points higher than the next closest team, Hillside, which has a 79.69 SI value. It’s also the largest gap between teams in the league.

Statewide, Phillipsburg is the only team in the Big Central in the top 25 for SI, sitting in sixth, behind only Red Bank Catholic (97.7), Ramapo (94.06), Don Bosco Prep (92.94), Toms River North (92.77) and Donovan Catholic (91.28), making it the third-highest ranked public school in the state.

Since Strength Index doesn’t take into account group size, or any “large school bias” that can sometimes occur in human polling, the math says Hillside is the second strongest team in the Big Central, with a rating of 79.69, just ahead of North Brunswick at 79.29 and St. Thomas Aquinas at 78.79, and Hillsborough with a 78.28 Strength Index value. Ridge is right behind the Raiders with a 77.16 SI.

Essentially, all these teams are considered “even,” essentially within a field goal of each other for calculation purposes.

Interestingly, Union – with just one win, having just beaten Somerville to improve to 1-3 – is in the top ten, mainly based on their strong rating at the start of the year, which is where they ended 2021. Union was a favorite to win its playoff section until COVID cost the team its season.

After a few weeks of play, the computer tells a different tale than human polls

Some teams have played three games already, most have played two. It’s still very early, and everyone’s rankings are different – especially in the seemingly wide-open Big Central Conference – but what does the Strength Index say about who are the best teams?

And who’s most improved?

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

Statewide, the top team in the Strength Index ratings is Bergen Catholic, at a 94.51, down just slightly from where they were to start the season, 95.36. Red Bank Catholic is just two-tenths of a point behind, followed by Caldwell – which is on the state’s longest active winning streak, now at 17 games – Donovan Catholic and St. Peter’s Prep rounding out the Top 5.

The highest-ranked Big Central Conference team would be Hillsborough, whose SI number has actually improved over last year, when they were 13-0. That makes sense, since they are 2–0 this season, winners of 15 straight. Their SI value is now 85.84, tenth best in the state. The next best BCC team is at No. 15, with St. Thomas Aquinas at 82.22, and Phillipsburg is down at 31, with a 78.36 Strength Index value.

Here are the top ten Big Central teams, by Strength Index:

  1. Hillsborough – 85.84, +.97
  2. St. Thomas Aquinas – 82.22, +9.38
  3. Phillipsburg – 78.36, +6.03
  4. North Hunterdon – 75.30, +5.81
  5. Hillside – 68.12, +7.15
  6. Ridge – 74.53, +.75
  7. Union – 73.22, -9.01
  8. North Brunswick – 71.86, +2.77
  9. Cranford – 71.76, -4.51
  10. Edison – 71.44, +8.92

In both the Central Jersey Sports Radio and Big Central Media polls, Phillipsburg is the top-ranked team, followed by North Brunswick. Again, it’s early, with last year’s success – or lack of – weighing a bit more heavily on SI values; that needs a full season to play out. But right now, the computers put Hillsborough first, and St. Thomas Aquinas – which debuted in both polls this week – second.

Phillipsburg is third in the Strength Index among Big Central teams, while North Brunswick is 8th.

North Hunterdon has debuted in both human polls, and there they are in the Top Ten of the SI numbers, as well.

Biggest Winners….

Who’s made the biggest gain from a year ago? By far, it’s A.L. Johnson out of Clark, having gained 15.64 in the Strength Index, to climb from a 42.86 at the start of the season to a 58.5. And if they keep winning as they have been, they’ll go even higher.

Remember, though, Strength Index isn’t what gets you seeded higher in the playoffs, it’s the Opponent Strength Index (or OSI), so this number is only relevant to the playoffs for the teams that play Johnson, not the Crusaders themselves.

The Crusaders are 2-0, having outscored their first two opponents – Governor Livingston and Bound Brook – a combined 84-6, scoring 42 points in each game, and shutting out Bound Brook at LaMonte Field last week. The Crusaders host Metuchen this Friday night and close out September with two straight road games, at Roselle and New Providence.

Here are the Most Improved teams in the Big Central, according to Strength Index:

  1. Johnson, +15.64 (2-0)
  2. St. Thomas Aquinas, +9.38 (2-1)
  3. Edison, +8.92 (2-1)
  4. Watchung Hills, +8.5 (2-1)
  5. Linden, +8.02 (1-1)
  6. Montgomery, +7.93 (3-0)
  7. St. Joseph-Metuchen, +7.5 (2.0)
  8. Hillside, +7.15 (2-0)
  9. South Hunterdon, +6.60 (2-0)
  10. Phillipsburg, +6.03 (2-0)

A lot of this makes sense, when you look at the numbers.

While Aquinas had a great year last year, this year has been a step up in competition, and they’re still 2-1, so that’s boosted their Strength value. Edison had a big win over Cedar Creek, which may be down a bit by later in the year, but the win, at the time, boosted their SI.

Montgomery is 3-0 for the first time since 2007, when the Cougars went 9-2, bowing out of the Central Jersey Group 4 semifinals to top-seed and eventual champion Howell. St. Joe’s is there because of Somerville’s high rating from years past when the Falcons beat them at Brooks Field Friday night.

And so on, and so on.

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: