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Thursday, August 21st, 2008

More computer points available for MAC teams

By Randy Bruns
It's a whole new year for football, and in the Midwest Athletic Conference, it's going to be a different schedule as well.
Beginning this season, the MAC - which includes 10 football playing teams - has switched to an eight-game conference schedule. The result is that every team in the league will have an additional non-conference game in week two, which athletic directors hope will result in more league teams qualifying for postseason play.
It's not a given, but with successful leagues like the MAC, more non-conference games tend to equal more teams in the playoffs.
The reason is that non-conference games give teams (and thus their conference-mates) the opportunity to garner more computer points. When MAC teams knock heads with each other nine times a year - as they did the past two years - the net record in those games will always be even because one team will always win and the other will always lose.
With an additional non-conference game, though, there are 10 more opportunities to earn computer points from schools the other conference teams don't play. The key obviously is that MAC teams must win more of those games than they lose, and they've historically been pretty good at that, as their combined record in non-conference games the last three years is 25-11. Every win over a non-conference opponent - even wins by the MAC team with the worst record - equates to more points for the rest of the conference teams.
The new format was first discussed after Anna joined the league as a football-only member beginning with the 2006 season. Bringing in a 10th league team solved the old problem of having to schedule a late-season non-conference game that an odd number of teams made necessary, but it also made it even more difficult for MAC teams to qualify for the postseason. After qualifying an average of four teams per year from 1999 through 2005, just three teams made the postseason in 2006 and only two qualified in 2007.
The new MAC schedule will be set for two years at a time to allow each school to play one home and one away game in week two. In order to determine which teams won't play each other the first two years, the league's athletic directors ranked the teams in order of 1 through 10 based on their finishes in recent years. The next schedule change, which will affect the 2010 and 2011 seasons, won't be determined until after the 2009 season ends.
An unfortunate effect of the new schedule change is that each MAC team won't play one specific league team for two years straight. The only real rivalry game that won't be played for the next two years is the one involving Marion Local and Minster. Though the rivalry has been lopsided in Marion's favor the last several years, it brought together two bordering communities and always provided a nice paying attendance for the home team.
When queried about this potential loss of a key rivalry game, Coldwater Athletic Director Eric Goodwin admitted that he and his fellow athletic directors thought long and hard before deciding in favor of the prospect of more computer points.
"The loss of a natural rivalry game is huge," said Goodwin. "For Coldwater, we have so many with Marion Local, Versailles, St. Henry, etc., and we would hate to ever lose these games. But the decision to add Anna was based on what was best for the entire league which again revolves around computer points and getting teams that opportunity (to qualify for the playoffs)."
An interesting result of the new scheduling format could be the rooting interest a team's fans may have in other MAC games. We'll use St. Henry and Parkway as an example since the two teams won't be playing the next two years. Interestingly, St. Henry will actually benefit the most if Parkway loses every one of its games. Why? Well, obviously St. Henry can't gain any computer points from Parkway, be the level-one points from beating the Panthers or level two points from any team Parkway beats.
Furthermore, St. Henry will gain fewer points from any win over a team that is beaten by Parkway because that team will have fewer level-one points to harvest. This even applies to the non-conference games, as St. Henry won't gain a thing from any of Parkway's non-conference wins while the Redskins' Region 20 competitors (Marion and Anna) will gain those additional points if they beat the Panthers. It's complicated, but still something for fans to keep an eye on even if rooting for a particular result doesn't mean it will happen.
Following are analyses of each of the MAC teams' non-conference games with a note on which league team they won't be playing the next two years. The two area Western Buckeye League teams (Celina and St. Marys) will play their normal schedule and thus only their sole non-conference game is discussed.

Anna
Won't play: Delphos St. John's (Anna leads the series 2-0 the past two years)
Non-conference opponents: Lehman (7-3 last year) & Waynesfield-Goshen (8-2)
Anna appears to be in good shape with its non-conference games as long as it can pull off wins. Last year's win over Lehman was a 7-3 nailbiter, and the Cavaliers appear to return a good deal of talent. Waynesfield has averaged 7 1/2 wins a year for the past four seasons and plays in a league that contains some perennial weak teams.

Coldwater
Won't play: Fort Recovery (Coldwater 2-0)
Non-conference opponents: Kenton (7-3) & Kokomo IN (8-2)
The Cavaliers look to have a nice potential source of points from its non-league games. Kenton typically produces anywhere from 5-7 wins a year and will have another Mauk at quarterback this season. Since Kokomo is an out of state team, the size of its enrollment is especially important because any team it plays will be deemed to be the same size for points purposes. Kokomo's size is comparable to a Division I Ohio team, and thus not only would the Cavaliers gain major points with a win over the Wildkats, the points would continue to pile up with every Kokomo win.

Delphos St. John's
Won't play: Anna (St. John's 0-2)
Non-conference opponents: Lima Central Catholic (9-1) & Tinora (8-2)
The Blue Jays have a tough road early on, but they could be in line for big points if they can pull off two early wins. Last year's squad lost a tough 6-0 decision to LCC, a school that is coming off a pair of 9-1 campaigns. Tinora is also a toughie, as the Rams have gone 8-2 the last two seasons.

Fort Recovery
Won't play: Coldwater (Fort Recovery 0-2)
Non-conference opponents: Ansonia (6-4) & Cardinal Stritch (1-9)
Fort Recovery continues its traditional opener against Ansonia, a team the Indians have beaten four of the last five years and typically wins 4-6 games a year. Stritch is a wildcard, as the Cardinals were 1-9 last year but an 8-2 playoff qualifier in 2006. Further clouding the picture is a recent development that saw Stritch's coach replaced just last week.

Marion Local
Won't play: Minster (Marion Local 2-0)
Non-conference opponents: Elida (0-10) & Harvest Prep (5-5)
The Flyers can't count on many wins from Elida, which has notched just one win over the past two years. The second game will be more interesting, as Harvest Prep enjoyed something of a renaissance last year under legendary coach Jack Johnson, who made a name for himself at Pickerington. Marion walloped the Warriors back in 1999 and 2000 just after the school had been newly formed, but Harvest appears to be in line for more success these days.

Minster
Won't play: Marion Local (Minster 0-2)
Non-conference opponents: Fort Loramie (8-2) & Springfield Catholic Central (10-0)
Minster has a lot on its plate during the first two weeks, but if it can notch a pair of wins it will have a leg up on its Region 24 competition. The Wildcats suffered their first ever loss to Fort Loramie last season, so they know their neighbors to the south will provide tough competition. Catholic Central represents another stiff challenge, as the Irish advanced to the state semifinals last season before bowing to Newark Catholic, the eventual state champions.

New Bremen
Won't play: Versailles (New Bremen 0-2)
Non-conference opponents: Covington (10-0) & Olentangy Orange (0-0)
The Cardinals have a mixed bag in the season's first two weeks. They open with perennial Cross County Conference power Covington, a team they lost to by a score of just 7-3 last year. That score illustrates the caliber of play in the MAC, as the Buccs went on to finish the regular season 10-0 while the Cardinals were just 2-8. The second game against Orange is a complete toss-up as Orange is a new school that will play this year without any seniors. Their divisional classification hasn't been settled yet, but indications are it will be in Division III. Of particular note is that Orange's head coach, Brian Cross, is the former coach at powerhouse Canton McKinley.

Parkway  
Won't play: St. Henry (Parkway 1-1)
Non-conference opponents: Crestview (5-5) & Wayne Trace (4-6)
Parkway will play a couple of local teams in its non-conference games. The opener against Crestview will be the sixth straight in the rivalry, and the Knights should provide a decent amount of points after improving to the .500 mark a year ago. Wayne Trace is new to the Parkway schedule and something of a wildcard, but the Raiders have gone a combined 10-10 the last two years so they won't be a pushover.

St. Henry
Won't play: Parkway (St. Henry 1-1)
Non-conference opponents: Marion Pleasant (9-1) & Kenton Ridge (6-4)
The Redskins should have the opportunity for major points in week one, as Pleasant has gone 9-1 the last two seasons with both losses coming to St. Henry. Pleasant has been the bully of its league for some time now and should be good for at least seven wins this year. Kenton Ridge is a new addition to the St. Henry schedule, and the Cougars could hold even more points potential as they come off a 6-4 season.

Versailles
Won't play: New Bremen (Versailles 2-0)
Non-conference opponents: Oakwood (7-3) & Bishop Ryan, Ontario, Canada (5-2)
Versailles will play Oakwood in the opener for the sixth straight year with a chance at some solid points. The Lumberjacks have made the playoffs the past two years but narrowly beat a young Tiger team last season. Bishop Ryan was a desperation addition to the schedule after Versailles couldn't find an in-state school. The Celtics, who play a different type of football and schedule, went 5-2 last season and will likely be considered a Division II school for points purposes. Interestingly, Canadian schools went 0-11 against their Ohio competition a year ago.

Celina
Non-conference opponent: Lima Senior (2-8)
The Bulldogs have lost close games to the Spartans in each of the last three seasons. Even worse, even with a win the Bulldogs won't likely gain a lot of points as Senior hasn't won more than two games in any of the last three seasons. Celina has a lot of work to do to improve on the past few seasons, but beating Senior would be a good start.

St. Marys
Non-conference opponent: Piqua (7-3)
The Roughriders finished just a hair out of the playoffs last year after going 7-3 in the regular season. The disappointing ending to the season can be blamed in part on the dismal performance of WBL teams in week one, as conference teams went 0-10 in the opening week. Just one win by one of its conference-mates would have allowed the Riders to keep playing after week 10. Still, St. Marys had a chance to make that a moot point but came up empty in last year's game against Piqua. The Indians finished 7-3 last year and should provide a big opportunity for points once again.
Additional online story on this date
All local hotels, including one in Wapakoneta, are booked; 100 boat racers are registered; and more than 30,000 spectators are expected.
Now, it's up to the weather to make this weekend's Governor's Cup Regatta on Grand Lake the most well-attended race ever in Celina. [More]
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