By RANDY BRUNS
When it comes to gaining computer points, winning games is the most important factor, but good scheduling is a close second. With the addition of Anna to the Midwest Athletic Conference, teams in that league will play only one non-conference game. Many fans with a basic working knowledge of the Harbin computer point system automatically think fewer non-conference games means less points will be available, but that's not necessarily the case.
Consider last year, when MAC teams finished 5-4 in their second non-conference game -- meaning the one not played in week one. Now 5-4 isn't terrible, but it also isn't as stout as the record MAC teams compiled in their second non-conference games just a few years ago (7-2 in 2003 and 2004). Because of that drop-off in performance, the computer points available to MAC teams this season will likely be more or less a wash when compared to last year.
To see why, we have to look at what will happen when Anna replaces the second non-conference game on each team's schedule. Let's start with the assumption that Anna will win its opening non-league game this year (Lehman) and then go 5-4 in MAC play, losing to the top four league teams. It is, of course, impossible to tell how Anna will fare in its inaugural season in the MAC, but given its outstanding success since starting its football program six years ago, we can assume a game against the Rockets won't be a pushover.
Using last year's final records to establish the four teams that will, per our assumption, beat Anna, a win over the Rockets would gain 22.5 points for each of those teams. Of those four teams (Coldwater, Versailles, St. John's, and Marion Local), only one would experience a drop in points compared to what it gained from last year's second non-conference game.
Coldwater gained 39.0 points from its win over Dublin Jerome in week four last year, so assuming Jerome would perform the same way this year, the Cavaliers would drop 16.5 points compared to 2005. The other three teams, however, would benefit slightly from beating Anna compared to the team they beat in last year's second non-conference game. Versailles and Marion Local (which both beat Lehman and received 16.0 points), and St. John's (which gained 18.0 points from beating Ada) would all gain a few points with a win over Anna. As if this wasn't complicated enough, we still haven't figured in the full effect of Anna's addition to the league. We now have to look at what would happen with the bottom five MAC teams, since we are assuming they all will lose to Anna. Of those five teams (St. Henry, Minster, Parkway, Fort Recovery, and New Bremen), only Minster won its second non-conference game last year. Thus, since we are assuming Minster will lose to Anna, the 3.5 points that it earned last year by beating Lehman will have to be erased.
So, based on our assumption of how Anna will do this year and comparing it to last year's standings and results, only one team would see much of a difference, as Coldwater would lose 20.0
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points, Marion Local and Versailles would each gain 3.0 points, and St. John's would gain a negligible 0.5 points.
Interestingly, last year was something of an anomaly for Coldwater with regard to its second non-conference game. Jerome had a good year and provided plenty of points, but just one year prior the Celtics went 2-8 and gained just 16.0 points for the Cavaliers.
So it all comes down to how well the incumbent MAC teams can handle Anna. As we have seen, if the top four teams -- which all qualified for the playoffs last year -- can beat the Rockets, there likely won't be much of an effect. However, if the Rockets knock off one of the "big boys", it would cost valuable points and could mean the loss of a playoff spot for at least one MAC team.
OPENING WEEK GAMES
Some MAC teams have certainly raised the bar in scheduling their non-conference openers. Consider St. Henry, which replaced Lehman (3-7 last year) with Marion Pleasant, a team that went 8-2 a year ago and has a rich history of playoff success. This matchup is the perfect example of a "feast or famine" scenario, in that St. Henry will likely reap huge points with a win or go home with no points with a loss.
St. John's was even more ambitious, as it added Worthington Kilbourne this year as a replacement for Bellevue. Kilbourne is a Division I school near Columbus that went 7-3 in 2005 and won a pair of playoff games. Using last year's numbers, a win over Kilbourne would have added over 20 points to St. John's total compared to what a victory over Bellevue provided. The gain to the rest of the MAC wouldn't be nearly as great, as any team beating St. John's would gain just 1.0 point with a St. John's win over Kilbourne compared to Bellevue. A loss by St. John's however, would equate to a negative effect of 5.0 points compared to the win over Bellevue.
Other area teams also have important week one games capable of providing plenty of points.
Celina will face off with Lima Senior again this year and will certainly hope for improvement from the former Allen County power. The Spartans were 4-6 in 2004 but dropped to 1-9 last year, which didn't provide the Bulldogs many points.
St. Marys faces a similar problem when it leads off this year with Sidney. The Yellow Jackets have gone 1-9 and 2-8 the last two years, which didn't help the Roughriders‚ cause very much. St. Marys missed out on the playoffs by just one spot last year, and all it would have taken would have been one more win by Sidney to put them in.
Minster opens again with Fort Loramie, which went 5-5 in its first year of football and has a rather soft schedule that should provide a decent number of wins.
New Bremen added Covington, which is typically at or near the top of the Cross County Conference and should provide big points if the Cardinals can pull out a victory.
Coldwater opens with Kenton, as it has for the past several years. The Wildcats went 7-3 a year ago and returned to their normal place in the playoffs, so another good season (and good points potential for Coldwater) is likely.
Versailles once again will face Oakwood, which has won five or more games for the past several years and should once again provide good points if Versailles can register a victory.
Marion Local will take on Troy Christian for the third straight year. The Eagles fell to 1-9 last year after a string of playoff qualifying teams, and Flyer fans will certainly be hoping that they can win a few more this season.
Parkway opens again with neighboring Crestview, a team that looks to be ripe with points potential if the Panthers can pull out a win. The Knights have gone 9-1 the past two years, and last year Parkway took them to the wire. A win in this year's opener would give the Panthers a lot more hope than it has had in prior years.
Fort Recovery will again take on Ansonia, which has gone 4-6 the last two years. The Indians have had success against the Tigers, and a win in this year's lidlifter would start them on the right track.
Anna will face Lehman before playing its first MAC game in week two. Lehman has had three straight down years and will have to show significant improvement to provide much points help for the Rockets.