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In one of the few seasons Piscataway has lost back to back games under Dan HIggins, the Chiefs beat Elizabeth for a state title at Rutgers in 2011. (Photo courtesy Piscataway Chiefs.)
by Mike Pavlichko

In 2018, the NJSIAA’s high school football playoff seeding process got more complicated, adding a second formula – the Born Power Index – to the mix of an increasingly complicated power point formula.

To a degree, it was fairer, now seeding in teams on strength rather than just wins and losses, where many agreed not all 6-win teams are created equal.

But after WCTC Sports uncovered that winning by higher margins in the Born Power Index resulted in higher seeding, and under increased pressure from coaches – including a call for trasnparency, since the BPI formula was never made public – a change was made to use a similar formula, but in the reverse way.  The OSI was created:  the Opponent Strength Index.  It’s advantage was that teams were no longer rewarded for winning by larger margins, or penalized for winnings by lesser margins.

But, it also made the complicated system even more complicated.

Somewhere, Bill Born is smiling.

Though secret, Born’s formula was simple:  a team’s rating increased or decreased depending on how well it did points-wise relative to the difference between each team’s rating.  Inotherwords:  outperform the “spread” – later called a “projection” – and your number would go up.

They key part is it wouldn’t change based on what your opponent does the rest of the year.  And that was the beauty of his system:  a team is worth what it’s strength is at the moment you play them, not at the end of the year.

With the OSI, the value Team A gets for beating Team B, and Team C, and losing to Team D changes all year.  So now, you must follow Teams B, C and D all year.  But you also must follow all the teams that Teams E through J play if you’re going to calculate your numbers when you play them, as well as all the teams that play the teams that E through J play, and so on..

The result is this:  while the “formula” for all this is indeed public, it’s harder to follow.  Especially for a team like New Brunswick.  Why?

Well, it’s one thing when you’re playing all GMC teams.  They all play each other, and local scores are easy to find.

When the Zebras go out and play Dickinson from Jersey City, now they have to follow all of Dickinson’s opponents, all year long.

Of course, they don’t really have to.  Gridiron New Jersey is an excellent site that has all of this info, though Strength Index ratings are not all in one place.  You have to click on individual team pages to find that number.

But the whole reason for transparency – making the formula public – was so that teams who have coaches who calculate power points (yes, you still have to do those on top of the SI and OSI) could check their work.  Teams can report discrepancies as always.

I challenge every coach in the GMC and Somerset County to come up with – right now – their own SI and all of their opponents’ SI numbers on the spot.

There are 36 teams, and I’ll bet you any amount of money fewer than 5 could do that.

It’s quiet now on the playoff front.  No one is really looking at it.

I’m waiting for Week 7 when every coach in the state starts emailing me, Tweeting me, calling me and texting me to ask, “So, how do I do this?”

Answer:  “Go back to the beginning of the year and follow these 47 teams.”

Them:  “What?”

Me:  “Good luck!”

Tough Luck Chiefs…

The last two games have been tough ones for the Piscataway Chiefs.

Ranked Number One in the WCTC Top Ten for 14 straight weeks, dating back to the start of 2018, Piscataway got knocked off 13-7 by New Brunswick at Memorial Stadium.  The Chiefs were stopped on a 3rd-and-22 with ten seconds left and no timeouts.

Last Saturday, in Metuchen, Piscataway fell 15-14 to St. Joseph’s, after scoring a potentially game-tying touchdown with no time left.  The Falcons stopped a two-point conversion as time expired to hang on for the victory.

Of course, the announcement that New Brunswick has forfeited all its wins this year, now negates that two game winning streak.

It also negates all the research I did Tuesday morning on back-to-back losses by Piscataway.

So, in the Dan Higgins era – he’s now in his 17th season – the Chiefs have only lost back-to-back regular season games six times in five different seasons.

Besides the two seasons already mentioned, the others came in 2013 (South Brunswick and Sayreville), 2011 (South Brunswick and Woodbridge), 2009 (twice: Howell and Sayreville, then Woodbridge and Toms River North), and 2003 (Old Bridge and Sayreville).

Those losses account for just 12 of 188 games coached by Higgins, a remarkable feat and measure of consistency.

Of the four other seasons that featured consecutive losses, they’ve won a state title twice:  2011 (beating Elizabeth in the North 2, Group 4 final for the second of back-to-back crowns) and 2003 (Higgins’ first season, beating Union in the North 2, Group 4 title tilt at Giants Stadium).

For some comparison’s sake, it only happened to Joe Kuronyi – Higgins’ predecessor – six times, and all in his first four seasons, which were somewhat lean:  12-20-4 from 1990-1993.  In the end, Kuronyi was 87-43-4 over 13 seasons, with one state title, his last season in 2002.

Have the Chiefs ever lost back-to-back games by a single point?

Yes.  It happened in 1989, the final season for Dan Higgins’ father – Tom Higgins – when the Chiefs lost 7-6 to Sayreville on Sept. 29 and 14-13 at Madison Central on October 6.

All The Marbles…

Friday night’s Game of the Week on WCTC – North Brunswick at Piscataway – now has more at stake with New Brunswick’s forfeits.  Until yesterday, a win by North Brunswick would have clinched the GMC White Division title outright, while a win by Piscataway would have forced a three-way tie for the crown.  In that scenario, Piscataway lost to New Brunswick, New Brunswick lost to North Brunswick, and North Brunswick lost to Piscataway.

Now, however, it’s a winner-take-all scenario.  If the Chiefs win, both teams will have a division loss, but they will have won the head-to-head.  A North Brunswick win would have them running the table to the division crown.

Game time is at 7 Friday night on WCTC, presented by Middlesex County Solid Waste Management.