We’re talking playoff positions, baby. Some of our area teams are looking to solidify their status, while others have their backs against the wall and are hoping to qualify.
Before we dig into this week’s action, yours truly is still seeking that elusive perfect week of picking. I went perfect in the high school ranks last week (6-0), and called the Alabama and Jacksonville State games correctly. My only snafu was that wild Arkansas-Auburn game (this just in, Auburn scored another touchdown).
Anyway, I finished 8-1 and I’m now 57-13 for the year.
On to this week …
Piedmont at Ashville: Piedmont got back on the winning track last week at home against Saks, and it did so with defense.
The Bulldogs (7-1) shut out a talented Saks team, 17-0 behind a breakout performance from junior defensive lineman Quadree Woods (The Herald’s Defensive Player of the Week).
This week, Piedmont travels to Ashville (3-5), which has played the Bulldogs tough through the years. Piedmont holds a slim 8-7 lead in the series, but the two haven’t tangled since 1991 (a 7-2 Ashville victory).
Look for Piedmont to produce another victory this week heading into the regular-season finale against Cherokee County … Piedmont 33, Ashville 6.
Collinsville at Valley Head: Talk about your close rivalries.
The Panthers (8-0) and Tigers (3-5) have tangled 64 times in their history, with the series knotted at 30-30-4.
There’s little more than just bragging rights in this one. Collinsville has already won Class 1A, Region 7 and will host a first-round playoff game. Valley Head has already been eliminated from playoff contention, and is now playing for pride.
Collinsville has had a week off to prepare, and that should be bad news for the Tigers … Collinsville 42, Valley Head 14.
Sand Rock at Fyffe: It’s not exactly a must-win, but Sand Rock (4-4) sure would save us all a lot of trouble figuring out playoff scenarios if they just won at Fyffe (7-1).
But that’s a lot easier said than done.
The Wildcats (3-4 in region play) are battling for the fourth and final playoff spot in Class 2A, Region 6 with Pleasant Valley (5-3, 4-3) and North Sand Mountain (3-5, 3-4). If it comes down to cases, Sand Rock has the head-to-head tiebreaker over Pleasant Valley by virtue of their 17-6 Week 1 victory. Pleasant Valley hosts Ider on Friday.
However, North Sand Mountain has the head-to-head tiebreaker over Sand Rock following its 19-14 win back in Week 5. The Bison play at Section on Friday.
Like I said, Sand Rock would do us all a favor if they won and both Pleasant Valley and North Sand Mountain lost on Friday.
There’s no denying that the Wildcats are hitting their stride at the right time after struggling earlier this season, but I’m afraid the eighth-ranked Red Devils might have a little too much firepower in this one … Fyffe 35, Sand Rock 21.
Cherokee County at Guntersville: Things a little more simpler in this one on paper. The winner clinches the third seed in the playoffs and avoids an almost certain trip to fifth-ranked Deshler in the first round. The loser faces that almost certain scenario.
Guntersville (5-3) has always been a tough team to tangle with at home, but surprisingly the Wildcats are only 2-2 there this season. The Warriors (5-3) are 2-0 on the road, including last week’s 48-22 victory at Douglas.
I think the Warriors will be more than ready for this one, but I still think pulling off a victory at Chorba-Lee Stadium might be asking a little too much … Guntersville 27, Cherokee County 24.
Cedar Bluff at Gaylesville: Much like the Cherokee County-Guntersville game, this one is about playoff positioning. However, the stakes are a tad higher because the winner earns the right to host a playoff game.
The Tigers’ (6-2) offense has been explosive all season, averaging 47 points per game. Meanwhile, the Trojans (6-2) have been winning with a solid rushing attack and a defense that’s averaged giving up 15.6 points per game.
I look for the Trojans to slow Cedar Bluff down just a bit in this one, but I think the Tigers have too much weaponry in their arsenal to defend against … Cedar Bluff 28, Gaylesville 14.
Austin Peay at Jacksonville State: The third-ranked Gamecocks (7-0) are off to their best start since 1991, and they don’t look like they’re going to slow down anytime soon.
This week, JSU welcomes Austin Peay (2-4) for homecoming, and I think it will be a homecoming Gamecock fans will remember fondly … JSU 44, Austin Peay 17.
Alabama at Tennessee: Remember this game from last year? It took two Terrance Cody blocked field goals to preserve the Tide’s 12-10 victory as it marched on to the national championship.
While I don’t think No. 7 Alabama (6-1) will need a pair of blocked field goals in this one, I still think the Vols (2-4) will make the Tide sweat it out for a while. However, I still think an upset is unlikely to happen … Alabama 24, Tennessee 13.
LSU at Auburn: So much is at stake in this one.
The winner takes control of the SEC West and keeps its strong hopes for a conference and national championship alive.
I have to admit I didn’t see Auburn being 7-0 at this point, but its proven it can come up with the big plays when needed (just ask last week’s victim, the Arkansas Razorbacks).
Fifth-ranked Auburn will need some big plays in order to defeat No. 6 LSU (7-0), which is led by a stingy defense. But I don’t think their defense has faced a quarterback the caliber of Auburn’s Cam Newton this season.
Newton is solidifying his Heisman Trophy status every time out on the field. Here’s thinking he’ll have another strong performance … Auburn 34, LSU 21.