Dukes Can’t Win It
New Formula: JMU Out Of CAA Contention
Posted: November 14, 2012
HARRISONBURG — If the James Madison football team goes to the Division I-AA playoffs, it will be with an at-large bid.
The Dukes’ automatic-bid hopes died Tuesday at 5:05 p.m., when the Colonial Athletic Association released its tie-breaking scenarios to choose the conference’s official representive in the postseason.
JMU was eliminated, essentially, because of its weak schedule.
Because six teams — JMU, New Hampshire, Old Dominion, Richmond, Towson and Villanova — could finish with 6-2 CAA records, traditional tiebreakers weren’t possible. Instead, the CAA used a mathematical formula that it said is similar to the RPI, which ranks teams based on their strength of schedule and performance against that schedule.
Under the formula, only New Hampshire, Towson and Villanova can win the Colonial’s automatic berth.
JMU went just 1-3 against teams with winning records this season and lost to Richmond and Villanova. The Dukes’ non-conference schedule consisted of weaklings Saint Francis and Alcorn State and I-A West Virginia. SFU and ASU both lost handily to Madison and are now 4-6. WVU (5-4) beat JMU, 42-12 (though margin of victory was not factored into the Colonial’s formula).
Had James Madison (7-3 overall, 5-2 in the CAA) beaten Richmond or Villanova, it likely would have improved its rating. The Dukes’ lone victory over a winning team was Oct. 6 against Towson.
The formula is called an “Elo-Chess variance” and is utilized by Jeff Sagarin as part of his college football rankings. CAA associate commissioner Scott Meyer said it is the first time the system has been used to determine the league’s automatic playoff bid.
In 2007 — the last time figuring out the automatic bid was so complex — Meyer said the league flipped a coin.
“We wanted to use some sort of ranking that took account of who you played, knowing, true and well, that there is no such thing at the [I-AA] level — no true RPI-strength-of-schedule-type rating,” Meyer said.
The regular season ends Saturday, and there are 16 scenarios in which a tiebreaker is necessary. The simplest outcome would be if New Hampshire beats Towson. In that case, the Wildcats would win the Colonial title outright, making all this math unnecessary.
There also are scenarios in which Towson and Villanova could receive the automatic berth.
Old Dominion is ineligible for the automatic bid because it is leaving the CAA in 2013.
(All 16 scenarios are posted on caafootballblog.com — an official Colonial site.)
Madison’s Elo-Chess rating is 54.18. The teams ahead of the Dukes are Old Dominion (60.43), New Hampshire (58.44), Richmond (56.97), Villanova (55.77) and Towson (55.00).
JMU also is the lowest-ranked team of those six in Sagarin’s rankings of the 246 Division I-A and I-AA football teams. The Dukes are ranked 161. ODU is 122, UNH is 137, UR is 147, Villanova is 153 and Towson is 157.
New rankings are released every week, but because of the NCAA’s Saturday night deadline for receiving each league’s automatic bids, the CAA was forced to use the rankings from last week. Sagarin’s new rankings won’t be out until, approximately, 1 a.m. Sunday, according to the CAA.
JMU coach Mickey Matthews didn’t like that the automatic bid would be based on week-old data.
“I think it’s kind of ridiculous to do that,” he said Tuesday evening. “It’s always going to be close in this league.”
The NCAA selection show is scheduled for Sunday at 1:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU. Matthews suggested moving the show back to give the selection committee more time to pick the at-large teams and determine seeding.
“If that’s the reason, we need to change the selection show,” Matthews said. “... There could be a lot of things happen, positive or negative, for the six teams involved, so it would be kind of like yesterday’s news.”