One of the big news stories that has been rolling around the state is the possibility of a new ratings system for football. The ratings would give teams bonus points for every game that their opponent won, regardless of whether or not they won the game or not. This has put some into a frenzy and others saying that there isn’t much change going to come with the points change. There have been a few studies that show that in previous years, there has been not a whole lot of movement and in other years, there has been a ton. It all comes down to all close the competition is for that season. What I hope it does, is allow teams to not be afraid to schedule a little tougher.
For years, we have seen teams schedule light and sneak into the playoffs. That’s fine, some say schedule light others say schedule to the same level of their competition. It makes sense, it really does. What we have seen is that schools are now incredibly nervous to schedule the tougher teams in the state, where it is almost guaranteed a loss when they play. That loss can be massive when it comes to points and the rating system that we have, especially if you must go almost perfect to get in. The tough teams are now having to go far and wide to find games of teams who are willing to play. Most of those teams are powerhouses in their respective areas as well.
The ratings change makes a team like Martinsburg the best team you could play on your schedule. It is a guaranteed 9 or 10 bonus points per year. That could move teams rating almost an entire point, and that is with a loss! For a 5-5 or 6-4 team who is on the playoff fringe, those 10 bonus points can be the ultimate factor in them getting into the playoffs and not. It’s not punishing those teams who play a tough schedule anymore, it brings the discussion of strength of schedule into play and puts it into the rating. Teams won’t be begging to do this at all though, it will take some time to see the benefits of playing a top team in the state. One tough game like this is probably enough to have the benefit of playing a game like that. When you add the points up and do the math, there isn’t a whole lot to gain from playing many of those games. Playing one game though, can be all the difference between getting into the playoffs or sitting at home. Solves two problems in one sweep.
This won’t be the end all solution to the scheduling difficulties that we have been seeing around the state the past couple of seasons. There will still be teams not willing to play the top dogs or finding ways to game the rating system, it’s going to happen regardless. There will never be a perfect solution to making sure teams play equal and fair schedules for every team in the state. What I hope it does is allow the top dogs to have 10 games in a season, because when teams only play 9 games, those kids are being robbed. The SSAC should adopt the ratings change, give teams points for playing a tough schedule. They should also find ways to guarantee that teams don’t dodge other teams. Ideas such as playing a regional conference schedule, regardless of classification like what they do in the state of Virginia. That will obviously bring more discussion, but it gets people thinking, and that’s what we need.