Hohenfels' AJ Day tries to move through Alconbury's defense during a football game Sept. 13, 2014, at RAF Alconbury, England.

Hohenfels' AJ Day tries to move through Alconbury's defense during a football game Sept. 13, 2014, at RAF Alconbury, England. (Adam L. Mathis/Stars and Stripes)

Who’s in the playoffs?

It’s a question DODDS-Europe Division II football teams have been wondering since the beginning of the season, which arrived without a clear idea of exactly how postseason qualifiers would be determined.

That’s finally changed. DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore this week announced an entirely new system for selecting eight playoff-bound teams from a Division II field that features 13 teams spread across six countries.

Here are the long-sought answers to questions DODDS-Europe followers might have about the new system.

In short, what’s the new system?

It’s a point-based system in which teams are awarded more or less points based on the quality of their opposition. The eight teams that rank highest under this system, regardless of region, will qualify for the postseason.

So how does it work?

The system divides the teams into two tiers. Teams that finish with winning records are first-tier teams; teams with losing records are second-tier teams.

The points are assigned thusly: 50 points for a win over a first-tier team; 45 points for a win over a second-tier team; 30 points for a loss to a first-tier team; and 25 points for a loss to a second-tier team.

At season’s end, each team’s point total is divided by the number of games it played, which will be five for all teams. From that number, three and a half bonus points are awarded to any team that went undefeated, and three and a half points are deducted from any team that finished with a losing record.

What about tiebreakers?

If two teams finish with the same points ranking, a series of tiebreakers will be applied. The first one is head-to-head result between the two tied teams. If they didn’t play each other, the team that played a higher number of first-tier teams – win or lose – wins the tiebreaker. The third tiebreaker, if necessary, goes to the team with the best pure won-loss record. If none of those produce a winner, an extremely unlikely scenario, the team whose school name comes first alphabetically gets the nod.

Which games count for points?

Only regular-season games against other DODDS-Europe Division II teams are counted. Games against local-national teams aren’t considered.

How will the playoff bracket be set up?

The playoff qualifiers will face quarterfinal matchups Oct. 11. It’s a simple eight-team bracket, with the eighth-seeded team visiting the top-seeded team, No. 7 at No. 2, No. 6 at No. 3 and No. 5 at No. 4. In the semifinals, the higher-ranked team will play host. The European championship game is set for Nov. 1 at Kaiserslautern.

How long will this system stay in effect?

It’s hard to say. DODDS-Europe reviews these things frequently, particularly in this era of general drawdown, a volatile roster of participating schools and fluctuating student populations. Recent history says the probability of change over the coming seasons is rather high.

What was the inspiration for the new system?

As the organization did with the recent realignment of its non-football divisions, DODDS-Europe searched for a template among stateside sports associations. It found one in the Iowa High School Athletic Association and adapted that organization’s system.

What was the old system?

Division II was divided into the seven-team north and six-team south regions. The top four teams from each region, based purely on wins and losses, reached the playoffs.

This system didn’t produce any apparent injustices. Every team with a winning record qualified for the postseason. The most accomplished non-playoff team was 2-3 Alconbury, which won its two games by a combined three points over teams with a combined one win.

Why is the Division II system so much different than Division I?

Division I lends itself to a straightforward system. There are six teams, and each plays the other five, so wins and losses are a reliable way to determine the best teams. The four teams with the best records move onto the postseason, while the other two sit out.

What do coaches think?

A number of DODDS-Europe Division II coaches didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time. Those that did weren’t overly concerned with the issue.

“I haven’t given it too much thought,” Hohenfels coach Larry Daffin said, adding that he expects “a hiccup or two” with any new policy.

Is it OK to decide these things in the middle of a season?

That’s a matter of opinion. But it’s far from unprecedented in DODDS-Europe. Earlier this fall, in fact, the organization realigned its three divisions for all sports except football weeks after the fall regular season was under way.

Ansbach coach Marcus George said the playoff uncertainty had no effect on his approach to the season, saying the goal is to “just win” and let the bracket take care of itself.

Which teams are headed to the playoffs?

Ansbach, Hohenfels and Vicenza are all 3-0 and assured of winning seasons, so they have nothing to worry about. Same goes for Bitburg, which is 3-1 and will finish above .500 regardless of how its regular-season finale against Hohenfels plays out Saturday.

The scene gets messier from there.

Rota and Aviano each have two wins so far, giving them an inside track on a playoff berth. Naples is just 1-2, but still has a shot at a winning season and will reap the rewards of a difficult schedule featuring all three of the currently undefeated teams.

International School of Brussels, SHAPE, and Menwith Hill/Woodham are all stuck on one win. ISB plays both of those teams down the stretch and could claim a spot by beating both.

At the other extreme, Alconbury, AFNORTH and Baumholder are winless and in need of a major turnaround to crack the postseason.

How does this differ from other DODDS-Europe sports?

Football is the only DODDS-Europe team sport that doesn’t allow every team into its postseason. That makes it the organization’s most meaningful regular season and only traditional playoff race. With the postseason structure now in place, the next two weeks should be very interesting.

Twitter: @broomestripes

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