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COLUMN: This week's high school and college football predictions

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I think I’m starting to get the handle of this whole predictions thing. That said, there’s still a lot of moving parts in every level of the game throughout the area and the country.

Classes C1 and C2 got a whole lot more interesting last week, with Wayne and Norfolk Catholic’s wins being a big part of that. Meanwhile, a district I’m really interested to see play out gets underway this week in D1-5 with Stanton traveling to face a Clarkson/Leigh team that could have sky-high upside.

I will not let recent upsets in college football convince me that parity has returned to the sport. Ohio State and Clemson may have started slowly, but two months from now, we’ll be talking about both C.J. Stroud and D.J. Uiagalelei as potential Heisman winners. All while Alabama parades the streets of Tuscaloosa with what seems like its 50th national championship trophy. Now if Michigan can beat the Buckeyes ... you know what? Never mind.

The NFL started its season with a bang. The Saints, Steelers and Cardinals all had big upset wins while the Raiders and Chiefs gave us thrillers as well. I’ve got to say, this league has a thing for creating exciting headlines throughout the year, even if you root for a lowly green and white team from New Jersey like me. And we get 16 more weeks of the regular season? No complaints from me.

Record: 10-3 last week (22-9, .710 overall)

How city teams fared: Norfolk High was no match for a Lincoln East team with some of the best playmakers in the state (33-17 predicted, 56-7 final). Norfolk Catholic walloped Ord and proved to people that it, too, can compete for a state title (34-28 loss predicted, 30-7 win final). Lutheran High Northeast used clutch defense and new contributors to squeak past Guardian Angels Central Catholic (42-30 predicted, 22-20 final)

Highlight: One point off on the margin of victory for Wayne State. Not bad. (35-24 predicted, 38-28 final)

Lowlight: Someday I’ll get a Norfolk Catholic pick right. Someday. (34-28 loss predicted, 30-7 win final)

Other results (predictions in parentheses): Oakland-Craig 42, Crofton 13 (28-21 predicted); Bloomfield 40, Allen 12 (44-21 predicted); Howells-Dodge 40, Cross County 38 (18-16 Cross County win); Burwell 58, Neligh-Oakdale 12 (46-35 predicted); Nebraska 28, Buffalo 3 (38-10 predicted); Bemidji State 38, Wayne State 28 (35-24 predicted) Iowa 27, Iowa State 17 (19-10 predicted); Chiefs 33, Browns 29 (28-24 predicted); Rams 34, Bears 14 (19-14 predicted); Cardinals 38, Titans 13 (24-16 Titans win predicted).

High school

Norfolk at Papillion-La Vista

The Panthers’ defense was humbled against Lincoln East and Chris Koozer faces one of his first real tests as a result. He’ll need to work on making sure his defense can execute and avoid giving up big plays. The Panthers travel to face a Monarchs team that also has a 1-2 record, but those losses were to Omaha Westside and Creighton Prep. Both are capable of playing deep into November. Norfolk plays a good game, but the Monarchs pull away late.

Papillon-La Vista 38, Norfolk 10

No. 6 Lutheran High Northeast at Wakefield

Revenge is on the minds of the Eagles, who lost to the Trojans 40-8 in what ended up determining first place in their district last year. Thankfully, this is far from the same Wakefield team that ran the table that season, as it’s off to an 0-3 start now. Still there are interesting pieces on that team, such as running back Logan Bokemper and quarterback Cade Johnson. That said, they won’t be nearly enough to stop an Eagles team that’s becoming more complete by the day.

Lutheran High Northeast 45, Wakefield 24

No. 8 Bloomfield at No. 10 Pender

Week by week, the Bees have established themselves as a team to watch in Class D2. However, they must continue to do so against a Pender team with a lot of explosive athletes on offense. For Bloomfield to win, the best kind of defense will be keeping the ball out of the Pendragons’ hands, which I feel Cody Bruegman can do. Combine that with an efficient quarterback in Braeden Guenther and I think the Bees can make it out of this one.

Bloomfield 32, Pender 26

No. 3 Stanton at No. 9 Clarkson/Leigh

I’ve been saying in past articles how intrigued I am with what happens in District D1-5, which has four potential playoff teams and a few with the tools to make deep playoff runs. The Mustangs and Patriots are two of those teams. Both have strong fronts, deep running back stables and just a great collection of athletes. This will be a back-and-forth affair, but I think Stanton pulls out late with a win.

Stanton 36, Clarkson/Leigh 34

No. 2 Oakland-Craig at Norfolk Catholic

Three times I have made a prediction on Norfolk Catholic and three times I’ve been wrong. You can understand my need to get this one right. I imagine I’ve already drawn enough ire from the folks on West Madison Avenue.

With these teams, it’s almost like looking in a mirror. Both emphasize physicality. Both have great offensive and defensive lines. Both have a strong run game, and both have capable quarterbacks. They even share a nickname.

This is another contest that could go either way. For me it comes down to those linemen. Oakland-Craig has the best single lineman in this game in J.T. Brands, a sophomore who has already made a name for himself as one of the best players in C2. However, as a whole, I like Norfolk Catholic’s unit, which has more experience, a little bit better. The Knights from Norfolk win a slugfest.

Norfolk Catholic 28, Oakland-Craig 20

College

Nebraska at No. 3 Oklahoma

The wind will be sweeping fast down the plains on the 50th anniversary of the “Game of the Century.” The Sooners and Cornhuskers got off to slow starts but are looking more composed since. The Huskers might have something special in receiver Samori Toure, but Oklahoma has five of him, along with a first-round quarterback who can find them. Nebraska can keep this a close game for a little bit, but over the course of 60 minutes, the Sooners’ firepower is too much to handle.

Oklahoma 56, Nebraska 24

Minot State at Wayne State

Turnovers haunted the Wildcats in their loss at Bemidji State last weekend. They had three against the Beavers along with 11 penalties. Certainly not ideal, but such growing pains will emerge in the first year of a coach’s tenure. Now comes a Minot State team looking for its first win of the season. I think Tavian Willis and the black and gold use this as an opportunity to get their feet back under them and secure their first statement win of 2021.

Wayne State 53, Minot State 7

No. 1 Alabama at No. 13 Florida

The last time these teams met was a shootout that made up one of the best games in the country in the SEC championship game. These teams could very well meet in December again, assuming Florida can once again get past Georgia. However, I think Alabama’s much too far ahead of everyone else in college football right now. As always, everything looks stout and at a championship level. The game starts at 2:30 p.m. Crimson Tide fans will be having Gator burgers by 6.

Alabama 42, Florida 20

NFL

Raiders at Steelers

Both teams pulled out surprising wins to start their seasons and hope to keep things going. These are not your grandpa’s Raiders or Steelers. Both teams will pass the ball a lot, or at least they’ll try to. I’ll take the Steelers, who use better coaching and a better defense to win at home.

Steelers 22, Raiders 17

Chiefs at Ravens

The Legion of Zoom survived an opener against a Browns team that loves to run the ball but couldn’t quite make the switch when Patrick Mahomes took over. The Chiefs now travel to face a Ravens team with a similar offensive approach. But I think Baltimore will struggle with the injuries to their running back room. Chiefs establish themselves early and never look back

Chiefs 32, Ravens 21

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