December 1, 2011

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

You want to know the amazing thing about some matchups this weekend? They aren't even title games.

That's right, some of the bigger states still have a few rounds to go before crowning champions.

You would never know it by looking at some of these matchups. Ranked teams, rematches, rivalry games. We've got it all.

But before you look ahead, take a glance at our look in on a few top (non-championship) games across the country.

Weekend Watch
No. 10 Grayson
vs. No. 60 Colquitt County
When: Friday, Dec. 2, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: December 3, 2010 - Colquitt County won, 31-24
Rankings: Grayson (14-0), No. 1 in Georgia
Colquitt County (11-2), No. 7 in Georgia


Why it's big: It's a semifinal game in Georgia where the winner will be the likely favorite to capture a state title. That is huge. The two teams met in the same spot last season with Colquitt County getting the better of the Rams. Things have changed in the last 12 months. Grayson got better on offense and Colquitt got better on defense. How those two sides square off will be the key to the outcome.


Colquitt County wins if: Its offense is up for the challenge. While the Packers improved defensively, the team may have taken a step back offensively. The team should be flying high with its last-minute win over Camden County in the quarterfinals. But the defense it will face this week should be better against the pass and that may slow the offense further. If Colquitt is going to win the game, it will need to be in the 20s - something Grayson has not allowed an opponent to do since August.


Grayson wins if: Its offense is actually improved. The team has scored more points than last year (and allowed fewer as well), but is has not come against the most stiff of competition in Georgia. Kell, Brookwood, Central Gwinnett and Lowndes were all able to contain the Rams for good stretches of the game and none of those teams have the offense that Colquitt does in order to capitalize. The Rams will need to be into the 20s as well. It has been held down before - and the offense has been the undoing before.


Prediction: With the two teams playing nearly one year ago to the day, it is remarkable how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. Can Grayson score? Can Colquitt play defense? Which will bend and which will break? This game is a toss up in most every sense. Colquitt has played the harder October and November schedule, which could make it more battle-tested or more banged up. Colquitt, however, is an offensive-minded team with an improved defense. That gives it the edge in this one.
- Colquitt County 27, Grayson 21

Weekend Watch
No. 24 Glades Central
vs. No. 56 Miami Norland
When: Friday, Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: First meeting this decade.
Rankings: Glades Central (12-0), No. 4 in Florida
Norland (12-0), No. 8 in Florida


Why it's big: There are other quality opponents in Class 5A of Florida, but for most, this game is a de facto state title game. Both have been RivalsHigh 100 teams since the preseason and were expected to battle it out for the top spot in the class. While the two have switched as to which is the favorite and which is the underdog a couple of times, this game is still getting a top billing in a loaded week of high school football.


Glades Central wins if: Its defense is up to the challenge of slowing Duke Johnson. The Raiders have allowed 74 points all season - 34 of them were to American Heritage on the last of a three-games-in-11-days stretch. They have only yielded 17 since the calendar switched to October. Three straight shutouts have the Raider defense primed to play. This game will be the biggest challenge since facing Dwyer to open the year. If the team can contain Johnson - you're never really going to stop him - it can win.


Norland wins if: Its defense is up to the challenge. The Vikings have allowed more than twice the number of points as Glades Central - including 40 points last week to a talented Miami Jackson team. The Vikings will have to hope this turns into a track meet and both teams get into the upper-30s. Otherwise, it will likely not be able to stay in the hunt. Keith Brown will need to have the defense matching the intensity of Glades and that could be a tall order.


Prediction: This game can be broken down any number of ways. The final angle is that this just looks like a special Glades Central team. It looks more focused than in recent years. It looks more together. It looks more disciplined. For a state title run, all of those things need to be clicking. The defense will have to play like it did early this year against Dwyer. If those things do not happen, Norland has the talent to take this game going away. Glades Central has the better defense and it makes the plays it needs to win.
- Glades Central 33, Norland 28

-- For more on Florida football, visit FlaVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 35 Southlake Carroll
vs. No. 38 Arlington Martin
When: Saturday, Dec. 3, 6 p.m.
Last Meeting: First meeting this decade.
Rankings: Southlake Carroll (13-0), No. 4 in Texas
Arlington Martin (12-1), No. 7 in Texas


Why it's big: It is a pretty big surprise that either of these teams are here. Southlake Carroll was a preseason favorite to win the Division II title but its district standings pushed it to the Division I bracket. Martin had to get past the Trojans of Euless Trinity to advance and based on past history, not many thought that would be the case. The winner of this game advances to the state semifinal round to take on the winner of Skyline and The Woodlands. It is an incredibly intriguing game.


Martin wins if: Its passing offense is effective. The team is on a 5-to-2 clip favoring the run this season - so it is a safe bet that Southlake Carroll will be focused on shutting that down. Martin only completed 51 percent of its passes this year. If it is forced to go to the air, it will need to be more effective and efficient than that. Martin was able to stuff Euless Trinity, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will do the same to Carroll's offense. Martin will need more than 19 points to win.


Southlake Carroll wins if: It doesn't turn the ball over. The Dragons' regular-season and postseason schedule has been much more difficult to navigate. Simply put, it has played teams which are faster, stronger and better offensively and defensively than Martin. There are few things that Martin does here that Southlake Carroll has not already seen this season. Martin is a high-quality team, but as long as the Dragons do not give Martin hope, the team should advance.


Prediction: With a series of three really high-quality playoff wins to get to this point, Southlake Carroll has to be feeling pretty good about this matchup. Plano East is faster than Martin. Cedar Hill has more raw talent. Bowie had a better offense. Martin, however, has a lot of confidence coming off of a game against Euless Trinity where it held the Trojans to three first downs all game and zero in the second half. That is as impressive of a performance as anything Southlake Carroll can offer this year. That mentality is a driving force for Martin - but it might not be enough.
- Southlake Carroll 23, Martin 13

-- For more on Texas football, visit TheOldCoach.com

Weekend Watch
No. 52 Dwyer vs.
No. 53 St. Thomas Aquinas
When: Friday, Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: First meeting this decade.
Rankings: Dwyer (11-1), No. 6 in Florida
St. Thomas Aquinas (10-2), No. 7 in Florida


Why it's big: Both teams started the season inside the Top 25 nationally and both have been hard to get a gauge on as the season has progressed. Dwyer has seemed to steadily and quietly improve but without as many real tests to prove themselves. Aquinas has been hit with injuries at key positions and has seen its quarterback play change seemingly with every drive. This is a statement game for both teams as well as a chance to advance to the semifinals.


Aquinas wins if: Its defensive line dominates the game. This is the position on the field that has to be circled for Aquinas and it has to lead the way. The secondary is not as strong as it has been in recent years. Its receivers and quarterbacks are not lined with a laundry list of Division I players. The offensive line is solid but young, so it really comes down to the play of the defensive line to put pressure on Dwyer's quarterback and force the Panthers into errors.


Dwyer wins if: It limits the running game of Aquinas. The passing attack has been able to slow itself in many games this year. The Dwyer game plan should be to stop Dami Ayoola and Fred Coppet and make Aquinas go to the air. Quarterback Faton Bauta has come into his own after struggling in the season opener against Glades Central. Last week against Cooper City, Aquinas struggled in containing the quarterback. This is an area that Bauta can exploit and help make plays with his legs.


Prediction: It is a weird year for Aquinas. It started the season with two quality wins and had fans believing the transition from George Smith to Rocco Cassullo would be an easy one. Injuries certainly exposed some of the weaknesses in the team, but with a loss, the team could end the year unranked nationally. With the opportunity to advance and likely face Manatee, which Aquinas team shows up will be the deciding factor. Getting its defensive line healthy will be a difference maker.
- St. Thomas Aquinas 19, Dwyer 16

-- For more on Florida football, visit FlaVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 70 Oaks Christian
vs. No. 71 St. Bonaventure
When: Friday, Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: September 23, 2011 - Oaks Christian won, 34-24.
Rankings: Oaks Christian (10-2), No. 5 in California
St. Bonaventure (10-2), No. 6 in California


Why it's big: It is a rematch game where the winner will advance to the section final for a likely rematch against Westlake. The game also has roundabout implications for other teams in a race for the CIF Division I Bowl Game as California does not have a true playoff format - relying instead on section winners and a selection committee. Oaks Christian joined the Marmonte League to help silence critics of its program's poor schedule. Another win over St. Bonaventure will continue that effort of establishing legitimacy.


St. Bonaventure wins if: The secondary can step up its game. In the team's two losses this year - to Oaks and Westlake - both were able to go to the air regularly and both broke the 30 point barrier. If the Seraphs figure to make this game more difficult, it will have to put more pressure on Oaks and not make its secondary cover for more than four seconds. The longer the team is asked to contain the Oaks playmakers, the less likely it is to get the job done.


Oaks Christian wins if: It limits mistakes and plays run defense. Oaks enters the game with losses to two Top 20 teams, Bellevue (Wash.) High and Westlake. In both of those losses, Oaks Christian was unable to get off the field on third downs and turned the ball over. It beat St. Bonaventure this season with its defense and will need to stick with that formula. Beating a team twice in one season is hard, especially using the same blueprint, but it should work again in this contest.


Prediction: Oaks Christian is a private school with a chip on its shoulder. The ability to have the resources it has and still play the underdog role is something that many teams do not have. Both of these teams already have been beaten by Westlake so the end of the season is likely in sight for both - but neither will be happy to do it a week earlier than the other. This is a fairly respectful but budding rivalry and it can come down to the final fight for yards.
- Oaks Christian 28, St. Bonaventure 20

-- For more on Southern California football, visit CaliforniaPreps.com

Weekend Watch
No. 96 Heritage vs. No. 97 Centreville
When: Saturday, Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: First meeting this decade.
Rankings: Hermitage (12-0), No. 1 in Virginia
Centreville (11-1), No. 2 in Virginia


Why it's big: After one of the biggest wins in school history, Centreville is one win away from playing for a state title. For a group of seniors that were 1-9 as freshmen, that is quite an accomplishment and turnaround. Heritage has played some of the best defense in the state this year and is looking to make a run at a state title of its own. In a season of parity in Virginia, the two teams appear evenly matched, much like the other side of the bracket. Any of the four remaining teams could win a state title.


Centreville wins if: It can get off to a solid start. The team has talked about some of the struggles it has when it gets down and the need to be able to pick itself up. The mental strength that it gained in the fight it won versus Westfield last week will go a long way, but it is easy to slide into old habits and let doubt creep in. If Centreville gets down early, it could become thankful just to have gotten to this point instead of pushing to go further. Playing with the lead will help keep that thought from developing.


Hermitage wins if: Its defense continues its level of play. The unit has allowed just 52 points and only one team to break into double-digits all season. Centreville is not an overly explosive or athletic team and could have trouble matching the playmakers on Hermitage. The defense should be able to take advantage of that and put the clamps on Centreville. The offense for Hermitage, however, will have to do its part. The team has only scored 24 total points in the first two playoff games and 10 points may not get it done.


Prediction: This should be a low-scoring game with two teams that can play defense and prefer to let the other team make the mistakes on offense. If either team gets into the 20s, it will likely be the winner. This could be decided on a special teams play or a defensive return. Virginia may simply not have an elite team this year but a good group of eight that can all be argued for or against as the best. As the cumulative number of teams still alive in the playoffs gets reduced, it has barely cleared the picture as to which is the best.
- Hermitage 14, Centreville 7

-- For more on Virginia football, visit VirginiaPreps.com

Weekend Watch
Total Predictions (2011: 106-48)
No. 2 Gaffney def. No. 51 Byrnes, 20-13.
No. 3 Don Bosco def. No. 83 Bergen Catholic, 30-20.
No. 5 Bellevue def. O'Dea, 38-16.
No. 60 Colquitt County def. No. 10 Grayson, 27-21.
No. 17 Prattville def. No. 63 Hoover, 22-9.
No. 19 Maryville def. No. 65 Whitehaven, 30-24.
No. 24 Glades Central def. No. 56 Norland, 33-28.
No. 35 Southlake Carroll def. No. 38 Arlington Martin, 23-13.
No. 44 Broken Arrow def. No. 68 Union, 17-16.
No. 53 St. Thomas Aquinas def. No. 52 Dwyer, 19-16.
No. 70 Oaks Christian def. No. 71 St. Bonaventure, 28-20.
No. 77 Pickerington Central def. No. 76 St. Ignatius, 13-10.
No. 96 Heritage def. No. 97 Centreville, 14-7.
Santa Margarita def. Mission Viejo, 38-13.
Submit your picks: Play the Pick'Em contest
Game of the Week record: 9-5
2011 Record for other games picked: 97-43



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