When: Friday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: Dec. 3, 2010 - Don Bosco won, 37-27
Rankings: Don Bosco (3-0), No. 1 in New Jersey
Bergen Catholic (2-1), No. 3 in New Jersey
Why it's big: Like much of the past five seasons, Bergen Catholic is the only team in New Jersey that gets excited to play Don Bosco. And while the Crusaders have not been on the winning side of the final score in a while, the rivalry still burns as passionate as ever. This is really the lone measurement inside the state borders for Don Bosco and it will look to make a statement. But as is the case with any rivalry, it is not played on paper and this game should be intense.
Best matchup: The Bergen offense against the Don Bosco defense. In terms of basic evaluation, the defense for Don Bosco is much better than that of Tampa (Fla.) Plant - and Bergen was only able to score seven points in that loss. It seems unlikely that Don Bosco is going to be shut out, so Bergen is going to have to do something pretty special on offense to get the ball moving.
Don Bosco wins if: It doesn't lose the game. Don Bosco is the much more talented team entering this game and it doesn't need to do anything in particular to win other than not beat itself. Emotions will be running high so getting out early will go a long way to being able to settle in and close the window of opportunity for Bergen to get momentum.
Bergen Catholic wins if: It shuts down the Bosco running game. It is a simple formula for success against the Iron Men this year - it is the difficulty in execution that will pose problems. Bergen must also eliminate turnovers. Too many times since new coach Nunzio Campanile took over at Bergen, it has shot itself in the foot with turnovers. If it can keep the turnover column clean and get a few of its own, that would help.
Prediction: With all the talk of this being a tough test for Don Bosco, it really shouldn't be. Bergen Catholic is incredibly young, and while it is showing improvement, the two teams are pretty far apart this year talent-wise. The intensity level is being turned back up at Bergen Catholic with Campanile at the helm, but at this point, it is not ready to dethrone the king. - Don Bosco 30, Bergen Catholic 7
When: Friday, Sept. 30, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: Nov. 20, 2009 - Central won, 36-7
Rankings: Columbus (3-0), No. 4 in Florida
Central (3-0), No. 6 in Florida
Why it's big: With Central and Columbus not being in the same class anymore, this becomes one of the separation games in the city instead of a potential playoff matchup with a season on the line. Columbus is the favorite to claim a Class 8A title this year; Central is in the mix for a Class 6A crown. Putting them both on the field will be good to grade out teams later in the season.
Best matchup: The Central offense against the Columbus defense. The Rockets are young and had to replace as much or more Division I talent as any team in the country - and it has shown in the slow start to the season. Central was only held under 30 points twice the entire 2010 season, but it has yet to break 30 in three games this year. Columbus' defense has not been spectacular, but it has done its job. Seeing which team can right its weakness could determine the winner.
Columbus wins if: Oddly enough, Columbus would benefit from a higher-scoring game. The Explorers offense is a better product right now and if a team needs to make a drive to win, Columbus would be a better bet to do so than Central. The rushing attack is hard to slow, but the Explorers can pass if needed. Columbus has scored over 30 points each of its first three games. If it makes that number again, its odds of winning go up.
Central wins if: It can keep the game close. In another odd evaluation, Central already has been in three battles - Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington, Cocoa (Fla.) High and Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder - and its level of competition has been higher than that of Columbus. When push comes to shove, the Rockets know what to expect of each other and that brings a level of comfort that Columbus may not have grown into yet.
Prediction: This should be a fantastic game. Kids in the Miami area grow up looking to compete in everything and in a battle of haves versus have-nots, there is an extra chip on the shoulder. Either team winning would not be a surprise, but if this isn't the year for Columbus, when will it be? The team gets the job done this week. - Columbus 27, Central 19
When: Friday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: Oct. 1, 2010 - Warren Central won, 37-27
Rankings: Warren Central (6-0), No. 1 in Indiana
Carmel (6-0), No. 2 in Indiana
Why it's big: It's two top teams each ranked inside the Top 50 playing at Lucas Oil Field. It is hard to get much bigger than that in Indiana, a non-power state. Warren Central has been buoying about the rankings, starting as high as No. 3 nationally before dropping down to No. 17. It is now back in the Top 10 at the same time it prepares to face its biggest test.
Best matchup: The mental toughness of each team. The biggest knock against Warren Central has been its focus and how it tends to check in and check out of games. If the team is not ready to be locked in for the entire 48 minutes, it could get knocked off. Carmel will be the hunter in this contest and wants to prove it is the best team in the state. The talent is clearly on the side of the Warriors, but that has not always guaranteed success in the past.
Warren Central wins if: It can push around Carmel in the trenches and eliminate mistakes. The offensive and defensive lines for Warren Central should be able to open holes and protect the passer and the team will need to take advantage. The team has also come under question by letting teams back into games with special teams meltdowns. It is cliché to say it is one-third of the game, but when looking at game tape, special teams have cost Warren Central points and field position in almost every game. That cannot happen this week.
Carmel wins if: It can handle adversity and fight back. The team has not had its back to the wall in any game this season. That could be because it really is as good as the 304-41 point disparity - or it was playing competition that did not challenge it. We'll figure the later. The team has not faced Ben Davis or Indy Cathedral and it has only played one team with a winning record (Center Grove).
Prediction: This is a fantastic game and one that we would pay to see. Both teams are very good and, while the sum of the parts at Warren Central could indicate a blowout, always-tough Carmel has a solid team in place of its own. A close game keeps both teams in the rankings - a big win for Warren Central would make a statement that this team has a killer instinct. - Warren Central 30, Carmel 20
When: Thursday, Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: Oct. 1, 2010 - Coppell won 31-14
Rankings: Coppell (4-0), No. 12 in Texas
Denton Guyer (3-1), No. 36 in Texas
Why it's big: The winner will have an early leg up in Texas 7-5A, and while both should have no worries about making the playoffs, claiming a district title would be nice. Guyer's offense has gotten back on track as it has increased its scoring the last two weeks. Coppell's rebuild has gone well as it is entering the game undefeated.
Best matchup: The Guyer skill players against the Coppell back seven. The turnover of playmakers in the back seven of the Coppell defense has come with a little confusion in the middle of the field. If Guyer is able to take advantage of a few crossing routes or a shot or two down the seam and make the safeties and linebackers communicate in coverage, it could be a tipping point.
Coppell wins if: Its offense continues to jell - and it scores more than 24 points. The team only returned five starters, but Jake Larson and Jacob Logan as well as Jason Lister have fared well in the early going. The level of competition, however, has not been as tough as it will face on Thursday.
Guyer wins if: Its receivers can get open. The depth out wide is strong for Guyer and it can take advantage of that and score some points. Replacing J.W. Walsh at QB has not been easy, but the team has been competitive. It also has faced some better competition than Coppell has so its confidence is likely higher entering the game.
Prediction: This game is a pretty fair toss-up and could go either way. Following a 1-19 start, Guyer has established itself as a legitimate football program. It is now a regular threat to win the district, which would be a major step in a pretty short time period. Entering the year, Guyer was expected to finish ahead of Coppell in the district. A loss to Cedar Hill (Texas) High tempered some of those expectations, but a win at home would put that loss in the rearview mirror. With two closely evaluated teams, the favor goes to the home team. - Guyer 24, Coppell 21
When: Friday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: Oct. 1, 2010 - Hamilton won, 38-20.
Rankings: Hamilton (5-0), No. 1 in Arizona
Chandler (4-1), No. 7 in Arizona
Why it's big: Think about it. There was a thought around Arizona that Chandler may be the team to knock off Hamilton this year. That was until its defense allowed 58 points in a loss to Chandler (Ariz.) Basha after three straight shutouts to open the season. There also was a thought that Hamilton was going to have a down year after graduating one of the best offensive lines in the country, but that has proven to be a moot point as the defense has led this team to several impressive wins already this season.
Best matchup: The Chandler receivers against the Hamilton secondary. It will be a strength-versus-strength matchup when the two square off. Chandler's Javon Williams, Lloyd Mills and Eddie Wilcox will test the defensive backfield of Hamilton. So far, no team has been able to solve Reggie Daniels, Elijah White and Robert Milus. The winner of this game will likely be traced back to who won on the outside.
Chandler wins if: It gets Hamilton playing a fast-paced game. Coach Shaun Aguano likes to get the ball moving and the team can get into the end zone in a hurry; it is averaging over 40 points per game and has been held under 35 only once in its first five games. Scoring will be the key to this game because it doesn't appear that the Wolves have the bigs on the front to keep this game low scoring and physical.
Hamilton wins if: It dictates the pace of play. The Huskies have the talent to be explosive but prefer to be physical and wear down teams. Its defense is the key to that ability and no team has scored more than seven points against the team all year. Chandler figures to be the first to break double digits, but Hamilton can score as well, being at or over 28 points in all of its games save one. Low and slow is the way Hamilton wins this contest.
Prediction: Hamilton is the more tested team and it has been the class of the state - and one of the best nationally with a 45-game winning streak entering play. The back seven of the Huskies defense is very good and it will make it quite hard for Chandler to move the ball. If this game were played a few weeks earlier, it may have been in favor of Chandler, but this looks like another Hamilton victory in the making. - Hamilton 20, Chandler 7