Tuesday, October 16, 2012
WGAM / Telegraph Poll for 10-15-12
Exeter, Pinkerton, Winnacunnet, Bedford and Keene all have identical 6-1 records. They have all won and lost games against each other. So who's better than who? Well in my opinion Exeter and Pinkerton are just a small notch above the other three as of right now, but it is definitely debatable. In this week's column I give each team's case for the #1 spot, and also explain why I once again have Dover in the #10 spot on my ballot.
WGAM The Game/Nashua Telegraph poll for 10-15-12
1. Exeter (6)
2. Pinkerton (3)
6. Bishop Guertin
8. Manchester Central
10. Nashua South
(first place votes)
Others receiving votes: Portsmouth (2), Milford (1), Concord (1), Dover (1)
Who's the #1 team?
There are 5 teams who can all make a legitimate case for being this week's #1 team in the state. Here is a closer look at the case that each of these teams can make, with the teams listed alphabetically.
Bedford's case for #1 - they've played a tougher schedule so far than both Keene and Winnacunnet, since those teams have yet to play BG and Bedford already beat BG by 2 TD's. Bedford has also beaten Keene, who just beat #1 ranked Winnacunnet. Also, the Bulldogs only loss was way back in week 2.
Exeter's case for #1 - Winnacunnet, Keene and Bedford are all 1-1 against each other. All 3 of those teams all have key players injured. Exeter and Pinkerton are a notch above those 3 teams right now, and Exeter beat Pinkerton head-to-head on the road and without 2 of their best players. Exeter supporters would also point out that Pinkerton's win over Brockton isn't that impressive since the Boxers were playing without their starting QB and gave the Astros the win by turning the ball over 5 times.
Keene's case for #1 - simply put, Winnacunnet was the #1 team last week and Keene not only beat them but they beat them by 2 touchdowns on Friday night. Not only that, but the Blackbirds only loss of the season was by just 1 point. That loss came to a Bedford, who lost to the Winnacunnet team that Keene just beat.
Pinkerton's case for #1 - even though they lost to Exeter in week 2, some might argue that the Astros are now playing better football because they beat Brockton on Friday night which is arguably the most impressive win a NH team has had all year. Pinkerton supports would also point out that Exeter has suffered a loss more recently than Pinkerton has.
Winnacunnet's case for #1 - they have been the #1 team for 3 weeks in a row, and they should not lose that spot just because they lost a game where their star RB was injured and they were playing without their head coach. Coach Auffant was suspended for the game and the team didn't even know about it until right before they got on the bus to drive to Keene. The Warriors are still undefeated when Auffant is on the sidelines, and they are still undefeated when Ben Franzoso is 100%. We saw how much of a difference it makes not having your head coach on the sidelines in week 1 when Souhegan got smoked by Winnacunnet 41-7 with Coach Beliveau. There's no question that game would have been closer if he was there. Lastly, the Warriors' win over Exeter in week 4 is still the most impressive win by a NH team so far this season.
6. Bishop Guertin
7. Nashua South
8. Manchester Central
Here's why I voted that way:
1. Exeter...for all the reasons I stated above in their case for #1. I just think right now Exeter and Pinkerton are a notch above the other 3 teams, and Exeter beat Pinkerton head-to-head. They did it on the road and without Laurent and Swane. The Blue hawks deserve to be back in the #1 spot.
2. Pinkerton...the Astros are just barely behind Exeter. It will be an absolute shocker if these 2 teams don't meet in the D-I title game next month. That will be the game of the year!
3. Bedford...for all of the reasons I mentioned in their case above.
4. Keene...can't put them above Bedford since the Bulldogs not only beat them but they beat them on the road. Yes I know Keene just beat Winnacunnet (I have Keene ranked ahead of Winnacunnet, don't I?) but that win is less impressive since Auffant wasn't there and Franzoso was only 50%.
5. Winnacunnet...they can definitely make a good case to be higher than this, but as of RIGHT NOW the other 4 teams are playing slightly better. Until Franzoso gets healthy it's tough to put the Warriors higher than this.
6. Bishop Guertin...everybody is just talking about those top 5 teams, and how each of them can make a case for being #1. But don't sleep on the Cardinals. Ever since they beat handily by Bedford people have been counting them out. But watch out because these guys are still fast, they can still hit people and they are even better now that CJ Boykin and Pat Bilodeau are healthy and back in the lineup.
7. Nashua South...why does South get the nod here over Central? Well let's see here. South defeated Central in the head-to-head meeting between the 2 teams. Also, South only lost by 2 touchdowns to Exeter this weekend, whereas Central lost to Exeter by 7 TD's. And finally, Central only beat Nashua North by 3 points, whereas South beat the Titans by 13. I would say that those are enough reasons to justify ranking South ahead of Central.
8. Manchester Central...see South.
9. Souhegan...the Sabers return to my ballot as they have continued winning games while Concord lost to un-ranked Nashua North over the weekend while Dover lost again. I'm looking forward to covering the Souhegan vs. Central game this Friday night. It's #8 vs. #9 on my ballot, should be a good one!
10. Dover...hey, why stop voting for them now? Who else am I going to vote for the #10 spot. Let's see here, Milford? Nope. The Spartans are at best the third best team in a weak Division.
Portsmouth? Their whole team is injured and they have played an extremely soft schedule. If Dover had their schedule they would be 6-1 just like Portsmouth is. Not only that, but Portsmouth only beat a struggling Hollis-Brookline team by 16, and the Green wave would have beaten them by a lot more than that.
Concord? Nope. They just lost to un-ranked Nashua North. Dover hasn't lost to an un-ranked team all year, thank you very much.
Plymouth? Well they are the only team that really has a case to be the #10 team on my ballot instead of Dover. The Bobcats are undefeated and have won all their games by at least 16 points. However Plymouth plays an extremely weak schedule. They have not played a ranked team all year. I know that at one point earlier in the season Trinity and Windham got a couple of votes but there's no way either of those teams is top 10. Plymouth has had a great season so far and deserves a lot of credit, especially considering they graduated big time players like Newberry, Brooker and Reisert. However they have played a soft schedule, they have NOT played any of the big boys. They haven't played Keene, they haven't played Bedford, they haven't played Winnacunnet. We don't know how Plymouth would do against any of the big boys in D-I or D-II. Nor do we know how they would do if they were in D-I or D-II and had to face a schedule that is as grueling from week-to-week as the schedule that D-I and D-II teams face. We can only speculate on how the Bobcats would do. However we don't have to speculate on how Dover would do, we know for a FACT how they would do. It is a FACT that so far this season no team in New Hampshire has played a tougher schedule than Dover has. If Plymouth played the schedule Dover has they would also be 1-6. Not only that, but Plymouth would have lost by a lot more than 1 point to Keene and there's no way they would take Winnacunnet to double-overtime. Plymouth only beat a struggling Laconia team by 16, whereas Dover would CRUSH Laconia if they played each other. It's a whole different level from D-IV to D-II (in terms of speed of the game, physicality, etc.) and a lot of people don't realize that.
Look, I'm not going around saying Dover is a top 5 team. I have them at #10. The other 9 teams are better than them. But Dover took Winnacunnet (ranked 31 at the time) to double-OT. They only lost by 1 point (21-20) to a Keene team that just beat Winnacunnet. And this past Friday night they were all tied up 14-14 with Bedford (a consensus top 5 team). The Bulldogs needed to drive the length of the field in the last minute of the game and score a TD with 10 seconds left in order to barely escape with a 20-14 win over this feisty, dangerous Green Wave squad. There are 5 teams who are the consensus top 5 in NH right now, and Dover has pushed 3 of them to the brink. Would Portsmouth be able to do that? Nope. Would Milford be able to do that? Nope. Would Concord do that? Nope. Would Plymouth be able to do that? Nope.
Not only has Dover continued to go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the state, but they played all 3 of those games I just mentioned after they played their first 2 games of the season against Exeter and King Phillip High. Exeter is the #1 team in NH, while King Phillip is the #11 team in the entire state of Mass. If King Phillip was in NH they would be a top 3 team in the state, maybe even #1. Just last weekend King Phillip beat a different undefeated team from Mass 43-0. Portsmouth and Milford are getting decimated by injuries right now as it is while playing in D-III. Imagine if either of those teams or if Plymouth were to play Exeter and then King Phillip to start the season? They wouldn't have any players left right now!
Don't just look at the records, people. Look at strength of schedule. I have heard some people out there say that they don't care if Dover lost to the Patriots and the Steelers, if they are 1-6 they're not a top 10 team. Are you kidding me? That's an extremely weak argument. You're talking about the NFL here! If any team from the NHIAA played against the Patriots (or any NFL team for that matter) they would get absolutely demolished and it would be over in 30 seconds. If Dover played the Patriots they would lost 100-0, just like if Exeter played the Patriots they would lose 100-0. Heck, if Newfound played the Patriots they would lose 100-0. So we wouldn't be able to draw any conclusions from any of those games, and therefore this would be a terrible analogy and a very weak argument against Dover. Not only that, but whoever says anything like this is admitting that all they look at is won-loss records when ranking teams and they put no stock in things like strength of schedule, point differential, etc.
The rankings should be about who the top 10 teams in the state are. So if you are ranking Milford ahead of Dover then you are in essence saying that if RIGHT NOW Dover and Milford were to play head-to-head on a neutral field that you think Milford would win. This is exactly why Dover is the logical choice for the #10 spot. Because if Keene, Bedford and Winnacunnet are all consensus top 5 teams, and they could only barely beat Dover, how are they not at least a top 10 team? If Keene could only beat Dover by 1, what makes anyone think that Portsmouth could beat Dover? If Bedford needed a TD with 10 seconds left in order to escape with a win over Dover, what makes anyone think Plymouth could beat Dover? And if Winnacunnet needed double-OT to beat Dover, what makes anyone think that Milford or Concord could beat Dover?
And know what some people are probably thinking - yeah it's one thing to ALMOST beat these teams, but you actually have to win games. My response to that? Well yeah, of course, that's why I only have Dover ranked #10! If they had beaten Bedford on Friday night I would probably have them around the #8 or #9 spot. If they had beaten both Bedford and Winnacunnet then I would probably have them somewhere around the 5 - 7 range. And if the had beaten Bedford, Winnacunnet AND Keene then yes, they would be somewhere in my top 5, probably around the #3 or #4 spot. So you see, I'm not rewarding Dover for losing games. Like I said if thy had won these close games they would be higher up on my ballot. But the fact is they lost them, so the #10 spot is as high as I can rank them right now. And based on the facts at hand, no other team is more deserving of the #10 spot than the Green Wave.
I'm looking at facts here. It is a FACT that Dover has played the toughest schedule in the state. And it is a FACT that even after playing that type of schedule they are still playing with the big boys and pushing them to the brink. None of these other teams (Portsmouth, Milford, Concord, Plymouth) can say that.
Once again, I rest my case.