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Playoff scenarios abound as OUA heads into final weekend

October 23, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Lots remains to be determined Saturday on the final day of the Ontario University Athletics football schedule.

Only two teams are locked into playoff positions—the McMaster Marauders, 7-0 going into their game at Ottawa, will finish first; the Guelph Gryphons, 6-1, will finish second, regardless of the outcome of their game at Laurier.

That’s because the Gryphons lost to McMaster on Labour Day, and therefore the Marauders will prevail if those teams happen to finish tied. As well, though Guelph could lose and finish in a tie at 6-2 with either Western or Windsor, the Gryphons would be favoured because they defeated both of those teams in the regular year.

By virtue of finishing in the top two, McMaster and Guelph have earned first-round playoff byes and each will host a semifinal game Nov. 8.

The other givens, of course, have been known for two weeks: Queen’s, Toronto, Waterloo and York will be spending the playoffs in the library.

First, the easy part of the post-season equation.

Windsor and Western, both 5-2, will meet Saturday, at London. The winner will finish third and assure itself home field for a quarter-final game.

That settles the top three spots. It’s pretty straightforward.

Then it gets complicated.

That’s because the loser of that game will finish 5-3 and drop into a quagmire of teams jockeying not only for fourth place—and home field for the other quarter-final—but for its very playoff life.

Laurier, Ottawa and Carleton are all 4-3, and since none of them plays another, none is automatically eliminated with a loss, and neither are any of them in a position to claim a playoff spot outright with a win. The ultimate fate of each is dependent on the others.

For instance, if they all win—besides the Laurier-Guelph game in Waterloo and the McMaster-Ottawa game in Ottawa, Carleton closes its schedule at home against Queen’s—they and the loser of the Western-Windsor game would all be part of a four-way tie at 5-3, with only three spots open on the post-season dance card. (Imagine, for a moment, the heartache that would befall a team that finishes 5-3 and misses the playoffs.)

It won’t be a simple puzzle to solve.

According to the OUA General Playing Regulations, the first means of breaking ties is head-to-head competition between or among the tied teams during the regular year. Here is the relevant history:

  • Western beat Laurier but did not play either Carleton or Ottawa.
  • Windsor beat Laurier and Ottawa but lost to Carleton.
  • Carleton beat Ottawa and Windsor, lost to Laurier and did not play Western.
  • Ottawa lost to Carleton and Windsor and did not play Laurier or Western.
  • Laurier lost at Windsor and Western, beat Carleton and did not play Laurier.

Phew.

The league’s unbalanced schedule complicates things by creating a situation where tied teams didn’t play each other. That means the tied teams’ records against common opponents becomes the tie-breaking variant.

Saturday’s outcomes will determine which of the 16 possible scenarios will emerge. In all of them, however, Windsor and Western will end up among the playoff teams. (for a complete synopsis, see http://www.oua.ca/sports/fball/2014-15/releases/2014_playoff_scenerios)

The only remaining game that doesn’t have a playoff implication is the contest in Toronto, where winless York will host winless Waterloo in a game between teams that have scored 76 points, combined, in 14 games this year.

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