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An idea of what North Jersey Group 5 would look like if the seeding were done today.

This is it:  Cutoff Weekend in New Jersey high school football.

This is the weekend the state playoffs are seeded, and we’re going to tell you everything you need to know heading into the weekend.

The math is easier; SI values locked in, and few residuals are to be gained

All season long, the values attached to each game based on an opponents’ Strength Index have changed each week.  This week, they don’t change.  That’s going to make predicting a lot easier.  Teams will know in advance the value they’re getting.  Playing an 84.24 rated team?  Get 84.24 for a win, 42.12 (half) for a loss.  This is much like power points, where teams know what they’ll get for a win or loss going to a game.

Also, teams only earn residuals from an opponent’s first seven games.  Since all but nine teams around the state in action this week have already played seven games, there are very few residuals to go around.  In fact, no teams from the GMC or Mid-State Conference can earn any residuals this weekend.

The Final Standings aren’t always Final

Once the Top 16 teams are decided, there’s still more to figure out.   Tiebreakers need to happen.

First, ties in UPR – which determines seeding – are broken.  The first tiebreaker is head-to-head results, then it goes to common opponents.  If there are none, next up is OSI rank.  After that is power point rank, then a coin flip.  But mathematically-speaking, since OSI goes down to two decimal places – a hundredth of a point – it would be like hitting the lottery if two teams in the same supersection ended up with exactly the same OSI.

But there’s still more.  There’s a top-down head-to-head component.  Starting with the 1 and 2 teams, they are checked for head-to-head competition.  If Team 2 beat Team 1 in the regular season, regardless of their UPR, OSI or power points, Team 2 jumps ahead.  Then, if Team 3 beat Team 2, Team 3 jumps ahead.  Keep going down the list until you get to Teams 16 and 17.  Yes, Team 17 can get in the playoffs, regardless of other ratings, if it beat Team 16 head-to-head.

Unbeaten Teams Get In, No Winless Teams In

There’s no danger of any winless teams even sniffing the playoffs this year, but a new rule says no matter how high a team may be ranked, a winless team cannot qualify for the playoffs.  In addition, undefeated teams automatically qualify for the playoffs, and that rule may come into play.  Robbinsville – which is 8-0 – might not make the playoffs naturally if they go 9-0, depending on what other teams do.  But the rule would get them in, possibly at the expense of 2-4 Absegami, which wouldn’t be a huge loss.

No More Northings

Finally, the Top 16 will be broken down into sections of eight teams each, but not by geography like last year.  That led to some sections being top loaded with the Top 3 or 4 teams overall, while the other section’s top-seed was really the 5th overall.  Now, brackets will be “snaked” like in the March Madness basketball tournament.  So the first two overall seeds are the top seeds in each section.  The next two teams are the second seeds, and so on.

One section will be overall teams 1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12, 13, and 16.  The other will be teams 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 14, and 15.  The idea is to get more competitive balance.

Sectional Names are just a Name

The overall top-seed will be rewarded with the title of their natural playoff section, from two seasons ago.  So, if the top seed in South 5 is Williamstown, and North Brunswick is second, Williamstown would be the top seed in South Jersey Group 5, and North Brunswick in Central.

Hypothetically, if it was North Brunswick 1 and Sayreville 2, the Raiders would be the top seed in Central Jersey Group 5, while the Bombers would be the top seed in South Jersey Group 5.

Weird, right?

Bottom line, the titles have nothing to do with anything.