December 1, 2010

Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to and follow him on Twitter.

Game of the Week?

Really? You want just one?

Not this week - not this time of the year - not when nearly every game is someone's Game of the Year ... if not a Game of a Lifetime.

As the stakes get higher, our format gets bigger.

Instead of Game of the Week, we're expanding our Weekend Watch. We're giving you two - one for each day.

Today, we offer an in-depth look at five games being played Friday night - games in which nine of the 10 teams are ranked, three will decide state titles and some may help decide the RivalsHigh national title.

No. 1 South Panola figures to get a tough test against No. 37 Meridian in a Mississippi title game; No. 6 Hoover will get the same with No. 31 Daphne in an Alabama championship.

And don't forget about last year's No. 1, Don Bosco Prep. Currently No. 11, it will try to force its way into the Top 10 with a battle against its biggest rival, No. 59 Bergen Catholic in a New Jersey final.

Of course, it wouldn't be Friday Night Lights without a big game in Texas. We've got that, too, as No. 4 Trinity takes on No. 28 Coppell.

But if you think it can't get any better, come back tomorrow. Yeah, that's right. Saturday is just as strong.

Like we said. Game of the Week? Here are the games of the weekend.

Weekend Watch
No. 4 Trinity
vs. No. 28 Coppell
def. Plano, 23-6
def. Duncanville, 35-10
def. Midland, 49-7
def: South Grand Prairie, 36-16
def: Allen, 37-35
def: Arlington Martin, 42-21

When: Friday 11/3. 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: 9/23/05, Trinity won 34-0
Rankings: Trinity (13-0), No. 1 in Texas
Coppell (13-0), No. 4 in Texas

TRINITY WINS IF: Brandon Carter can lead the team to victory. Trinity is far from a one-man team, but when a big play is needed, the Trojans look to QB/RB/WR Brandon Carter to deliver. So far, he has been able to do it, but each week the stakes are raised and the opposition figures to improve. Carter, a three-star Oklahoma commit, will line up all over the field and do everything for Trinity. He has to.

COPPELL WINS IF: Its defense sets the tone. The offense is a balanced attack - averaging 150 on the ground and 220 through the air - and should be able to put up 24-30 points against Trinity, so it will come down to the defense. The team has yet to yield more than 20 in a game all season. If it is able to do that again, the Cowboys may be able to pull off the mild upset.

X-FACTOR: Been there done that? Trinity is a team that is all but certain to make appearances in this round of the playoffs. Coppell has only been out of the second round once this decade, playing for a spot in the state semifinals is something new altogether. The nerves likely will be in the stomachs of Coppell. And if the team comes out and doesn't respond well to the first punch it takes, those nerves could snowball. If Coppell comes out firing, it should be a fantastic game.

PREDICTION: This game looks like it could be better than the semifinal game, where either DeSoto or Stony Point will be waiting. Coppell, which could be one of the most underrated teams in the state, has played a monster schedule. It has been shown time and again across the country that the more battle-tested teams win come playoff time. If that trend continues, then Coppell will take the victory. Trinity however is still the king of the mountain and will be hard to knock down. - Coppell 26, Trinity 23

Weekend Watch
No. 6 Hoover
vs. No. 31 Daphne
def: Blount, 40-24
def: Foley, 40-24
def: Wetumpka, 37-0
def: Davidson, 47-14
def: Gardendale, 29-7
def: Spain Park, 30-10
def: Clay-Chalkville, 35-27
def: Mountain Brook, 44-20

When: Friday 11/3, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: 12/3/05, Hoover won, 56-14
Rankings: Hoover (14-0), No. 1 in Alabama
Daphne (14-0), No. 2 in Alabama

HOOVER WINS IF: The team is not too conservative. The Bucs have been too vanilla and predictable at times this season. With running back Justin McArthur, wide receiver Jaylon Denson and do-everything Caleb Sims at the disposal of quarterback Ryan Carter, the team should be more explosive. If Hoover tries to slow play its hand against Daphne, it could see itself down and having to fight back. The team has the character to fight back, but it plays better when there is blood in the water.

DAPHNE WINS IF: Its offense is crisp. The knock on Hoover's defense all season has been the secondary. No team has been able to exploit that with consistent quarterback play, an inability to handle Hoover's defensive line or by establishing a run to open up the pass. If Daphne is able to execute on offense, it can take advantage of the lone vulnerable spot of the Bucs.

X-FACTOR: Depth. Hoover is one of the deepest teams in the Top 10, especially on the defensive front. It rotates in players on a regular basis and stays very fresh allowing for plenty of pass rush as well as run defense. If Daphne can not hold off the wave of defenders from the front seven, it will have a hard time getting anything going.

PREDICTION: Hoover is the least sexy team among the elite squads in the country. The Bucs do not do anything that jumps off the page as excellent, but with coaching has been able to rise to national prominence. Getting off the bus, this will look much like the Gadsden City game for Hoover, an eyeball-test disadvantage. The Bucs have the workman-like attitude of their coach, Josh Niblett, and his tenacity to boot. When push comes to shove, level heads prevail. - Hoover 28, Daphne 24

Weekend Watch
No. 1 South Panola
vs. No. 37 Meridian
def: Grenada, 56-0
def: Olive Branch, 24-13
def: Madison Central, 43-7
def. Ocean Springs, 22-0
def. Gulfport, 37-7
def. Oak Grove, 34-0

When: Friday 11/3, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: 12/5/08, Meridian won, 26-20
Rankings: South Panola (14-0), No. 1 in Mississippi
Meridian (14-0), No. 2 in Mississippi

SOUTH PANOLA WINS IF: It limits mistakes. The team has dominated all of its opponents this season, but it has played some sloppy games, including a quarterfinal win over Olive Branch. The Tigers have a knack of rising to the occasion, and if this team is focused, it is hard to stay on the field with them. Starting fast will play a major advantage for a team that knows how to finish.

MERIDIAN WINS IF: Its defense is as good as advertised. Meridian's offense has not been forced to do much this season as the defense usually gives it good starting field position, forces turnovers and does not allow big plays. Of course, the Wildcats have yet to see a defense as physical or fast as South Panola. Scoring points will be difficult and the defense will need to limit what the offense needs to do.

X-FACTOR: Man for man, South Panola is better. The offensive-line advantage goes to South Panola. Quarterback, at worst, is a wash. Skill players are all in favor of the Tigers, as are the linebackers and the secondary. South Panola, long a force in Mississippi, has never competed for a national title - finishing only as high as No. 8 in the polls the last five years. This year, the team's top-end talent (which includes the No. 1 player in the state) is equaled by its depth.

PREDICTION: Meridian was in a similar spot two years ago, facing a very good South Panola team that seemingly was destined to continue its winning streak and state title run. But with a perfect game plan and execution, the Wildcats came together and took home the state title. Something similar would need to happen in this game. And while we think the Meridian defense can slow South Panola, the offense figures to be hard pressed to get things going. - South Panola 22, Meridian 10

Weekend Watch
No. 11 Don Bosco
vs. No. 59 Bergen Catholic
def. Paramus Catholic, 62-0
def: St. Peter's Prep, 37-0
def. Red Bank Catholic, 65-34
def. Seton Hall Prep, 60-17

When: Friday 11/3, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: 10/2/10, Don Bosco won, 38-18
Rankings: Don Bosco (11-0), No. 1 in New Jersey
Bergen Catholic (10-1), No. 2 in New Jersey

DON BOSCO WINS IF: Paul Canevari keeps running the ball. Canevari (like Qyen Griffin at South Panola) was on the defensive side of the ball as a junior but has seamlessly made the transition to featured running back. Canevari is over 1,000 yards rushing on the season and is the workhorse for the team. The offense is balanced with Pittsburgh commit Gary Nova throwing the ball, but this team often finds the end zone on the legs of Canevari.

BERGEN WINS IF: It is up to the task defensively. It is essentially the Tanner McEvoy show on offense, which the Ironmen will be able to slow, so the defense will need to keep this game close for Bergen. With Nick Latesta, Zach Sparber, Shutang Mungwa and a handful of other playermakers on defense, the potential is there. Bergen always plays Don Bosco tough and this game should be no exception.

X-FACTOR: Coaching. Former Don Bosco assistant coach and offensive coordinator Nunzio Campanile knows the ins and outs of the Bosco scheme and should have his team ready to play. Conversely, Greg Toal knows the tendencies of his former assistant and will be able to scheme against that. The chess match on the sidelines will be interesting to watch as the two coaches also have a dissimilar demeanor with the fiery Campenile going against a calculating Toal.

PREDICTION: Bergen was the only team on the schedule that was able to stay within 20 points of Don Bosco in the teams' regular-season game. While Bosco is a well-oiled machine and consistently solid, Bergen figures to be greatly improved after full season under Campenile. Bosco is still the team to beat and will remain the best in the Garden State, but maybe by not as much. - Don Bosco 27, Bergen Catholic 13

Weekend Watch
No. 33 Peach County
vs. Sandy Creek

def. Stockbridge, 49-0
def. Thomson, 33-0
def. Grady, 42-35
def. Perry, 44-3
def. Americus-Sumter, 48-0
def. Monroe Area, 41-0

When: Friday 11/3, Time TBA
Last Meeting: Teams have not met this decade
Rankings: Peach County (13-0), No. 1 in Georgia
Sandy Creek (13-0), No. 6 in Georgia

PEACH COUNTY WINS IF: It can contain Alex Chisum and B.J. Trimble. The Trojans escaped with a win over Grady in the last round, when it had a hard time slowing the explosive offense of Grady (which has one of the best players in the state, Damian Swann). If it cannot get pressure on the passer and Chisum and Trimble get open, it could be a long evening at the Georgia Dome. Peach County is a team without a lot of superstar players, but one that comes together to make a tremendous unit on defense. It will need to be complete to advance to the state final.

SANDY CREEK WINS IF: It respects its opponent. Sandy Creek is the defending Class AAAA state champion and it is playing down in class this year. It also has not had a very demanding schedule getting to this point. If the team expects to just show up and win, it could be in for a rude awakening. Off the bus, this team looks like it should win, but that does not mean anything when it gets to this point in the season - especially in a state such as Georgia.

X-FACTOR: Playoff path. Sandy Creek hardly has been tested in the playoffs, outscoring its opponents by a combined 133-3. Peach County shut out its first two opponents by a combined 82-0 before tangling with Grady last week in a 42-35 thriller. That Grady game can go one of two ways for Peach County: a) it can harden the team and prepare it for this week and a potential state final game with Carrollton or b) it could wipe out the team emotionally, making it harder to get excited for this contest. The answer will be found early as it is certain Sandy Creek will come out flying.

PREDICTION: Georgia has been a state that has tremendous balance in its top two classes, leaving the teams that stand out in the Class AAA and AA divisions. Three of the final four in Class AAA could compete and win in any class in the state and seeing the defending champs from AAAA and AAA on the field this week will be a testament to that. The Trojans are battle tested, and that plays dividends come the last few weeks of the season. - Peach County 30, Sandy Creek 20

Weekend Watch
Other Predictions (2010: 103-47)
No. 9 Northwestern def. No. 35 Greenwood, 32-21 (SC state final)
No. 29 Jenks def. No. 93 Union, 40-23 (OK state final)
No. 41 Bentonville def. Fayetteville, 44-29 (ARK state final)
No. 3 Aquinas def. Boyd Anderson, 40-16 (FLA playoffs)*E-Mail request*
Madison County def No. 54 Cocoa, 20-16 (FLA playoffs) *E-mail request*
Have your game picked next week: E-mail Dallas Jackson
Game of the Week record: 10-5
2010 Record for all games picked: 113-52

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