There's nothing better than a state title game in football.
But ... there is something close.
The rise of high school football's popularity on a national scale has been accelerated by schools' willingness to travel across state lines and see how their teams stack up with the best in other areas.
It may not be fair to judge an entire state by one game - but it sure is fun.
Here's a look at the best matchups we already know. We know there are more. And we know there are plenty more coming.
Friday: Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy at Louisville (Ky.) Trinity
Buzz: Brentwood Academy will kick off a new season with a new coach and on the road against the defending RivalsHigh 100 National Champions. Trinity will be replacing its entire offensive line as it starts its march to another state title. It will be an early challenge to the passing game for the Shamrocks.
Week One: Weekend of Friday, August 24
Friday: Olney (Md.) Good Counsel at Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman Buzz: A made-for-television game will match two of the top private school programs from either side of the United States. Both teams will be looking to fill many holes left by graduating two talented senior classes but each has the depth to plug in and keep playing at a high level.
Friday: Louisville (Ky.) Trinity at Nashville (Tenn.) Montgomery Bell Academy
Buzz: Trinity makes a return visit to Nashville as part of the two-year contract with MBA. The MBA program is still trying to find its legs after a turnover in its coaching ranks. Last year this game was a total mismatch as Trinity moved the ball at will. MBA will look to gain some respect back.
Saturday: Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita at Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy College Prep Buzz: Santa Margarita has a solid chance of starting the season as a Top 10 team in the preseason and the easy No. 1 in Southern California. Brophy has been a solid team in Arizona for the better part of the last decade with some real high points and some below average seasons. This should be a test right of the gate for both teams. Santa Margarita will be the favorite but a quality opponent like Brophy will be ready.
Saturday: Baltimore (Md.) Gilman at Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller Buzz: Both Gilman and Moeller lost talented players from the 2011 team but each return a strong core of talent and the expectations have not dropped for either. Gilman figures to enter the season as the No. 2 team in the Maryland rankings and Moeller will continue to be a Top 10 preseason team in Ohio. This early test will be a good indicator of which could be for real.
Saturday: Jacksonville (Fla.) University School at Trotwood (Ohio) Trotwood-Madison Buzz: University School made some national noise last year with an impressive season and a high octane offense. A trip to Ohio will test the school early as Trotwood-Madison is loaded with talent on the defensive side of the ball. The winner of this game will likley be making a strong national statement even if it is on the backend of the RivalsHigh 100 rankings.
Saturday: Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes at Chesapeake (Vir.) Oscar Smith Buzz: Byrnes will be near the top of the RivalsHigh 100 entering the season and this will be a solid first test as the team could make a run at a national title. Oscar Smith has been the flag carrying program for the state for the last several seasons and is expected to start the season on the top line in the state. Both teams would love for this to be a win that boosts it to the top of the regional rankings, if not national.
Week Two: Weekend of Friday, August 31
Thursday: Euless (Texas) Trinity at Bellevue (Wash.) High Buzz: A fantastic way to kick off Labor Day weekend with one of the best teams of the decade in Texas heading to the namebrand team in Washington. It is rare for a Texas team to travel out-of-state so this game is huge. There will be a lot at stake for both teams and that makes for a great game out of the gate.
Friday: Miami (Fla.) Central at Loganville (Ga.) Grayson Buzz: It will be hard to top this game for the weekend as both teams have high expectations for the season. Grayson is coming off a state title season and returns almost its entire defense. Miami Central has steadily improved each of the last several season and is a legitimate national contender every year.
Friday: Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman at Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis
Buzz: St. Louis is one of the namebrand teams from the islands and are looking to make noise in a mainland game with one of the best teams in the West Region. Coming off of a game the week before against Good Counsel it could be a challenge to couple the travel with preparations.
Friday: Cincinatti (Ohio) St. Xavier at Indianapolis (Ind.) Cathedral
Buzz: The clump of Louisville, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati are taking major advantage of the easy roadtrip by sending its top teams to take on one another. This should be a defensive dandy and could come down to a few clutch plays. Both teams are premier teams in each state and the region.
Friday: Warren (Mich.) De La Salle at Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius
Buzz: Few Michigan teams venture out-of-state to test its mettle and this should be a stellar game for both teams. Both De La Salle and St. Ignatius have been ranked nationally and St. Ignatius is coming off of a state title winning season.
Friday: Hoover (Ala.) High at Batesville (Miss.) South Panola
Buzz: Two of the premier teams in the South will be playing in their second of a two-year deal. Last year, Hoover downed South Panola with a stellar defensive effort. South Panola will have some talented players on the field as the Tigers look for revenge.
Friday: Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst at Bentonville (Ark.) High
Buzz: Both Bentonville and Rockhurst have elevated its programs to national levels and each has been ranked in the RivalsHigh 100 during the past five years. Bentonville is starting to branch out and play more games versus regional opponents and that will help gain respect for its program as well as Arkansas football.
Friday: Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton versus Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame *in Dublin, Ireland*
Buzz: A much anticipated game for both schools as the two programs would make for a great game if it were to be played in the United States. The increased exposure this was given by being played in Ireland will only add to the uniqueness of this opportunity for both schools.
Friday: Philadelphia (Pa.) St. Joseph versus Cocoa (Fla.) High *Disney Wide World of Sports*
Buzz: Cocoa has been one of the most active teams in out-of-state games over the last three football seasons and so this game adds to that list. The Philadelphia Catholic League is one of the best on the Eastern side of the Keystone State and this game could be a test for each team.
Saturday: Gardena (Calif.) Serra at salt Lake City (Utah) East
Buzz: This is the opening game of a triple header in Utah. Serra is returning a lot of starters after a down season in 2010 while East is coming off of a 12-2 campaign and one of its more successful seasons. The game is set to start at 1:30 local time.
Saturday: Valdosta (Ga.) High at North Augusta (S.C.) High Buzz: Valdosta was not expected to pick up an out-of-state game this season with a new Region alignment in Georgia as well as opting out of a contract with Jacksonville (Fla.) Lincoln and so the addition of North Augusta was suprising. While neither team figures to be nationally ranked at this point in the season the game holds plenty of regional interest.
Saturday: Long Beach (Calif.) Poly at Sandy (Utah) Jordan
Buzz: Maybe the most high profile team in the event is Long Beach Poly but the program has not been up to its normal standards the last few seasons. Jordan has one of the best young talents in the state at quarterback and could prove to be the best team in the state of Utah by seasons end. A great game to weigh both programs.
Saturday: Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian at South Jordan (Utah) Bingham
Buzz: Bingham has built itself into the namebrand team in Utah over the last few seasons but it has not faired well in out-of-state contests. Valor Christian has enjoyed quick success in Colorado and is quickly finding that success comes with animosity. It has to go out-of-state to fill its schedule. A tough test for both programs highlights the event.
Saturday: Washington (DC) Friendship Collegiate at Brandenton (Fla.) Manatee
Buzz: This is an interesting game for Manatee to take as Friendship Collegiate has not has success against out-of-state opponents in its history and this could be a no-win situation for Manatee. The Hurricanes had been having a tough time landing games so taking one that could find its way onto ESPN networks will help pay the bills.
Week Three: Weekend of Friday, September 7
Friday: Denver (Colo.) Mullen at Concord (Calif.) De La Salle Buzz: This is a much bigger game for Mullen than it is for De La Salle as the Colorado power has had a tough time getting out-of-state competition of this caliber. The team took a step back this season suffering multiple losses and firing its coach so it may be a season in transition anyway. De La Salle has had some struggles in out-of-state games but it will enter as a major favorite in this contest.
Friday: Oradel (NJ) Bergen catholic at Melville (NY) St. Anthony's
Buzz: A one-year deal will see one of the best from New Jersey go into New York to take on the class of the state. St. Anthony is expected to have a better team than the one that ended 2011 ranked in the RivalsHigh 100. It will need to as higher expectations have been placed on Bergen Catholic as well.
Friday: Broken Arrow (Okla.) High at Bentonville (Ark.) High
Buzz: Broken Arrow has been stepping up its play over the last few seasons and has elevated its reputation from being just the largest school in Oklahoma to one of the best. This will be a good measurement of both programs early in the season.
Friday: Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline at Salt Lake City (Utah) Cottonwood
Buzz: A fantastic game that will match five-star quarterback Max Browne of Skyline against four-star signal-caller Cooper Bateman of Cottonwood. Both teams will be near the top of the rankings in their state and this game will help seperate regional rankings and could be a major win for Utah if Cottonwood can pull of the perception upset.
Friday: Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder at Louisville (Ky.) Trinity
Buzz: This will be the first of a series of games for the Shamrocks against the Greater Catholic League in Cincinnati. In 2011, the Shamrocks went to The Pit and hung one of the worst losses in the history of the Elder program on the Panthers. This year the game is on the Shamrock's home turf but could be equally one-sided.
Saturday: Jenks (Okla.) High versus DeSoto (Texas) High *neutral site*
Buzz: This is the opening game of a two-game series at Pennington Field pitting two of Oklahoma's best teams against some top compeition from the Dallas Metroplex. This is an important game for Jenks and Oklahoma football as it will be a way to slot one of the state's top teams inside the Texas Top 50 very early.
Saturday: Tulsa (Okla.) Union at Euless (Texas) Trinity
Buzz: Union has become the dominant team in Oklahoma and so this is a very important game for the state. Euless Trinity is a namebrand team nationally but the outside expectations for the team are a little lower this year than in previous seasons. The combination makes for an excellent measuring stick game.
Saturday: Montvale (NJ) St. Joseph Regional versus Olney (Md.) Good Counsel *neutral site*
Buzz: This is one of three games that will pit some of the best from New Jersey against the best from the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore areas. This is a season opener for St. Joe - which is expected to be improved from 2011 - and the second game of the season for Good Counsel.
Saturday: Ramsey (NJ) Don Bosco versus Baltimore (Md.) Gilman *neutral site*
Buzz: The two teams played a few seasons back and Don Bosco got the better end of the game. Neither is expected to be as good as it was in 2011 but this is still a headline game. Don Bosco will be breaking in nearly a from scratch defense after having one of the best ever last year.
Saturday: Jersey City (NJ) St. Peter's Prep versus Owings Mills (Md.) McDonough *neutral site*
Buzz: St. Peter's is hoping that some out-of-state exposure (and success) can help propel the program back onto the national map. McDonough finished 5-5 last year but lost four of those games by one socre so an improved team is an expectation. This is a solid game for both teams.
Saturday: Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller at Novi (Mich.) Detroit Catholic Central
Buzz: This is a stellar game between two teams that play in tough regions of the Rust Belt. Moeller will be the bigger national brandname but Catholic Central has had the better national rankings in the last several seasons. It could be a very balanced and competitive game - which is the exact reason to play out-of-state games.
Week Four: Weekend of Friday, September 14
Friday: Oradell (NJ) Bergen Catholic at Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman
Buzz: This is another in a series of impressive out-of-state games for both of these teams. By the end of the month most everyone nationally will know a lot about each program. This will be game four for Bishop Gorman but only the second contest for Bergen Catholic.
Friday: Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington at Cedar Hill (Texas) High
Buzz: Booker T. Washington is expected to be one of the most talented teams in the country and this trip to Texas will test its discipline and depth. Cedar Hill has a slighly down season than its expectations from last year and figures to be back in the thick of things in Texas. A great game for both teams.
Friday: Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier at Louisville (Ky.) Trinity
Buzz: There is no love lost between the two schools seperated by a mere 90 miles. Trinity won last season 17-7 but the game was never in doubt with St. X scoring a touchdown in the closing minutes after never crossing the 40 yardline until the fourth quarter of the game. The Bombers figure to have a better showing in 2012.
Friday: Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee at Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline
Buzz: This is a great game to showcase two of the top quarterbacks in the country as Manatee's Cord Sandberg will dual it out with Skyline's Max Browne. Each are near the top of their position rankings as this cross country battle approaches more people will start talking about the battle for respect from Washington schools.
Friday: Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco at Sandy (Utah) Jordan
Buzz: There are increasing expectations on St. John Bosco, and the team could find itself nationally ranked entering this contest. Jordan is a team on the rise and will have had a couple of tests prior to this game. Sophomore quarterback Austin Kafentzis has this team pointed in the direction of being the favorite in the state as the season starts.
Friday: Batesville (Miss.) South Panola at Bentonville (Ark.) High
Buzz: This is a positive step in the right direction for both programs. South Panola is continuing its commitment to out-of-state games while Bentonville is starting to get more aggressive with its scheduling. Both teams figure to compete for a state title in its respective states and this will be a good sorting game for regional and national rankings.
Friday: Ramsey (NJ) Don Bosco at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas
Buzz: This game may be a few years too late (or one too early) but it is fantastic to see the pair on the same field. Don Bosco has elevated itself to rare air on the high school football landscape finishing inside the Top 10 each of the last three seasons - winning a national title in 2009. Aquinas also has a national title on its mantle and numerous RivalsHigh 100 finishes.
Saturday: Westwood (Mass.) Xaverian Brothers at Montvale (N.J.) St. Joeseph Regional
Buzz: Xaverian Brothers has finished inside the RivalsHigh 100 each of the last two seasons but graduates a lot of its talented offense. St. Joe's is an experienced team that is ready to take its next step with the schedule it has assembled. This is a good Northeast Regional game.
Week Five: Weekend of Friday, September 21
Friday: Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman at Anaheim (Cali.) Servite
Buzz: The second end of a two-year contract has Bishop Gorman traveling to Southern California to take on Servite. Last year Servite lost by a field goal but felt like it left enough points on the field to have come away with the win. Both teams will need this game for positioning in the West and national rankings.
Friday: Louisville (Ky.) Trinity at Indianapolis (Ind.) Cathedral
Buzz: This was one of the toughest tests for Trinity in its national championship season as the game was tight for the first half. Heading to Indianapolis this year could make for a different result as both teams know what to expect from one another.
Friday: Cooper City (Fla.) High at Lexington (S.C.) High
Buzz: Cooper City gained its first taste of national recognition last year when it beat St. Thomas Aquinas to win the District title over the nationally known program. Lexington is generally a high scoring team and so the contract of styles will be interesting as Cooper City is an agressive defense team that can cause plenty of errors.
Saturday: Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco at Sandy (Utah) Alta
Buzz: The Ironmen will make their first trip to Utah and take on one of the better teams in the state. The Hawks had been nationally ranked just a few years back but has fallen a little off that pace.
Week Six: Weekend of Friday, September 28
Saturday: Boston (Mass.) Boston College High at Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's Prep
Buzz: Both teams have had a hard time living up to expectations in recent season and so this will be a solid resume builder for whichever team is the victor. Boston College High did not fair well in its games against its two New Jersey opponents last year - including a loss to St. Peter's.
Week Seven: Weekend of Friday, October 5
Friday: Oradell (NJ) Bergen Catholic at Washington (DC) Friendship Collegiate
Buzz: The two teams played an exciting game last year as the scoreboard continued to roll. Filling a gap left in the schedule they will lock horns again in 2012 but much later in the season. By this time each should be more fine tuned and the scoring could be down.
Week Eight: Weekend of Friday, October 12
Friday: Cocoa (Fla.) High at Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic Buzz: A small-school power from Florida is headed North to continue its effort to gain national respect. Bergen Catholic has taken an "anyone, anywhere" mentality and could be the story of the year in a good or bad way depending on how the results fall.
Week Nine: Weekend of Friday, October 19
Friday: No games currently scheduled
Buzz: No games currently scheduled
Week Ten: Weekend of Friday, October 26
Saturday: Louisville (Ky.) Trinity at Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller *Lockhart Stadium*
Buzz: A playoff tune-up for both teams will close the season with national rankings and pride on the line. Moeller was embarassed by Trinity last season to end its regular season. Trinity could be again pushing towards a Top 10 national finish and this can be an exclamation game.
Saturday: Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage at West Monore (La.) High
Buzz: An interesting game that fills the schedule for West Monroe - who last year defeated Cocoa (Fla.) High this same weekend - and gets American Heritage a tast of out-of-state play. Greg Bryant will lead American Heritage into Cajun country as the team attempts to take a step to the next level nationally.
Week Eleven: Weekend of Friday, November 2
Friday: No games currently scheduled
Buzz: No games currently scheduled