Analysis by Samuel Houesworth ( a Celina and an Ohio State graduate)
(8-14-19) Celina will square off against Versailles to open up the football season for the 10th year in a row. In that time, Versailles holds a slight edge with 5 wins in the previous 9 contests. On the surface, it appears to be an excellent, competitive game to begin the season and prepare both teams for challenging conference schedules. However, for one, it practically sabotages any chance of getting into the state playoffs right from the get-go.
The OHSAA computer rankings take very few factors into consideration when rating every team in the state of Ohio: How many wins, the size of the school they beat, how many wins that school has, and to a lesser extent, how big those schools are. Now, it makes some sense to factor in school size because as logic states, the bigger the pool of students, the better the football team… Then there’s the MAC.
The MAC plays like a conference of D-3 and D-4 teams, but in the computer algorithm, gets treated like the actual conference of D-6 and D-7 teams it really is. Immediately, by scheduling a MAC team out of conference, schools are giving up big points before the game is even played.
But if you think that Celina can get second level points from a win over Versailles, think again. The Tigers have to power thru a schedule of D-6 and D-7 opponents, having finished with a winning record only once since 2012. At least, that’s how the computers see it.
And of course, you gotta win these games. While 4-5 vs. Versailles isn’t bad, it can absolutely be better, especially since Celina hasn’t had a losing record since 2011, but has only been to the playoffs once in that same 7-year period.
But, I’ve got a solution.
I went back through the last four years of Ohio high school football results to rate each school, see how many 1st and 2nd level points they could offer, and what the chances of earning those points are (because scheduling well doesn’t mean Jack if you can’t win!) All of this calculated down to a simple Expected Added Computer Points (EACP) number to rate all 713 teams in the state.
Versailles, at 1.251 EACP, is the 523rd best option for Celina on Week 1. Despite Celina having a 63% chance of winning, the D-5 status and brutal schedule put the Tigers in the bottom third in the state.
The best option for Celina, if parents and fans don’t mind a 3 – 3 1/2 hour drive, is Athens High School in The Plains (3.747 EACP), just up the road from Ohio University. This is a Division 3 that has averaged 8.6 wins per season over the last 8 years, but is very beatable as those wins come against fairly weak competition. They are perfect for bulking up computer points.
If that’s a little too far away, Celina could always schedule Aiken (3.609 EACP) down in Cincinnati for all the same reasons. Averaging 7 wins over the past 4 years, Aiken tends to perform very well in a Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference that struggles to make any noise in the state tournament.
There are so many other options as well.
Want to stay out of D-3? Try Zane Trace (3.562 EACP) in Chillicothe, Gibsonburg (3.436), or Toledo Start (3.363) if you wanna go big.
Want to stay close to home? Northland (3.279) is less than two hours away in Columbus, Belmont (3.132) in Dayton, or Troy Christian (2.970).
Granted, all of these cases give Celina a better than 75% chance to win. But what if you want a competitive opener? Taft (2.900) in Cincinnati is the top dog in the CMAC. Beechcroft (2.890) has made the playoffs in 5 of the last 8 years, and Sylvania Northview (2.671) if you can withstand the smell of Michigan just two miles up the road.
Look, the OHSAA computer rankings are an archaic system to decide which 224 teams get to play for the state championship. While it’s an algorithm that needs to be updated, until it does, bubble teams like Celina should look for any advantage they can find to see if they can jump into the top 8, or maybe even into the top 4.