It’s starting to feel more and more like football season. Each day you can feel the breeze getting cooler, which I can’t help but think will turn into freezing kickoff weather before we know it. Well, until then …
One of the deepest districts in Nebraska, C1-5, begins play this week. It includes the top three Class C teams in Pierce, Boone Central and Battle Creek plus a Wayne team that’s looked awfully impressive so far. Each of them has the tools to be playing deep into November, and we’re going to learn a lot more about them in the next month.
We’re also going to learn a lot more about Nebraska. There’s one of two ways you can look at last Saturday’s Oklahoma game; it ended up better than the Huskers expected or they blew every chance they had to win. You think Scott Frost is considering taking his kicking game out of the playbook? Crazier things have happened in Lincoln.
I’m off to a slow start with NFL picks. Of the five games I’ve predicted, only two have been right. I guess things are even more topsy turvy in the league than they usually are, which is saying something.
Record last week: 7-3, 29-12 (.701) overall
How city teams fared: Norfolk High’s defense was hammered for the second straight week in a loss to Papillion-La Vista (38-10 predicted, 51-0 final) Lutheran High Northeast survived a late comeback to beat Wakefield (45-24 predicted, 44-40 final) Norfolk Catholic came out on top of a thriller against Oakland-Craig (28-20 predicted, 20-14, overtime final)
Highlight: Finally. A Norfolk Catholic game I got right. (28-20 predicted, 20-14, overtime final)
Lowlight: Should’ve put my faith in Derek Carr. That guy can play. (22-17 Steelers win predicted, 26-17 Raiders win final)
Other results (predictions in parentheses): Pender 70, Bloomfield 44 (32-26 Bloomfield win predicted); Stanton 22, Clarkson/Leigh 8 (36-34 predicted); Oklahoma 56, Nebraska 24 (23-16 final); Wayne State 48, Minot State 0 (53-7 predicted); Alabama 31, Florida 29 (42-20 predicted); Ravens 36, Chiefs 35 (32-21 Chiefs win predicted)
Class C No. 1 Pierce at No. 2 Boone Central
Two of the top remaining undefeated teams in Class C1 go head to head west on Highway 91. Both of these teams love to run the ball and have the depth to wear down the opposition. They also have playmaking quarterbacks under center and a deep threat to go over the top. We’ll see a lot of points on the board in Albion, but I think Pierce will have the most. The Bluejays are deeper on both ends of the ball, and I think they’ll make more plays on defense.
Pierce 49, Boone Central 37
Class C No. 3 Battle Creek at Wayne
I look at this contest and see two similar teams. Defensively, both are good at stopping the run. Offensively, both like to run, and both have work to do in the passing game. They’re also coming off losses to strong Class C1 teams and are eager to prove they belong in that same echelon as them. This will go back and forth all night, but I think Wayne makes a big play late to come back and win.
Wayne 23, Battle Creek 21
Norfolk at Omaha Benson
It’s never a fun time when your defense gives up over 100 points in two games or when you’re held to 130 team rushing yards and seven points in those same games. What’s next for the Panthers is an Omaha Benson team that at 3-1 has its best record since finishing 4-6 in 2009 and has wins on its record for the first time since 2017. However, the Bunnies haven’t played a single team currently over .500. Meanwhile, Norfolk is more battle tested and, more importantly, angry. I’ll take the Panthers to win a gritty upset.
Norfolk 22, Omaha Benson 21
Class C No. 4 Norfolk Catholic at Ponca
This has the feeling of a trap game in my eyes. After wins against Ord and Oakland-Craig, the past two state champions, a lot of teams would take their foot off the gas against a team like Ponca. However, Jeff Bellar’s the last guy to allow his team to do that. The run game hums and the Knights dominate the trenches on both sides of the ball. Is this the week we see Brandon Kollars come back?
Norfolk Catholic 42, Ponca 21
No. 9 Clarkson/Leigh at Guardian Angels Central Catholic
District C1-5 isn’t the only one that’ll be a meat grinder for all teams involved. The Patriots got a taste last week against Stanton and look to bounce back against a pesky Bluejays team. Last year it came down to who had the better running back, which in that case was Cody Steffen of GACC. This year, I think it’ll be Eli Hays, who leads the red and blue to a much-needed win.
Clarkson/Leigh 32, Guardian Angels Central Catholic 28
Nebraska at No. 20 Michigan State
I want to believe that Nebraska will win so badly. I say this not only as a citizen of the state, but as a fan of the archrivals of the team they’re playing against. My head says that since the Huskers hung around against Oklahoma, they should have few problems with the Spartans. However, a voice within me says otherwise. It speaks on behalf of all the Husker fans who have suffered through years of pain that can only be compared to an extreme form of Murphy’s Law (yes I realize the irony in saying that). I don’t know if this voice is a wise one, but there’s only one way to find out.
Michigan State 15, Nebraska 13
Wayne State at Minnesota Duluth
Apparently the school whose hockey program has three national championships and eight Frozen Four appearances has a football team, too. It’s a pretty good one at that. It’s dominated the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and hasn’t lost a game within it since 2015. Wayne State will look better, but the Bulldogs overwhelm them.
Minnesota Duluth 41, Wayne State 21
No. 12 Notre Dame vs. No. 18 Wisconsin
Jack Coan has to have had this game circled on his calendar, right? I know players go on about being on good terms with their former teams, but come on. I’m sure he’s eager to prove that the Badgers picked the wrong guy. He’ll do pretty well, but I think Paul Chryst will do just enough and Wisconsin muscles out a win. That said, the biggest winners are the people of Chicago. They finally get to see some decent football.
Wisconsin 18, Notre Dame 16
Buccaneers at Rams
The blue and gold were one of the few teams to knock off the Bucs before they got on a hot streak that took them all the way to the Super Bowl. Tampa is better now than they were then, but so is L.A. and it’s largely thanks to Matt Stafford, who’s added a deep passing attack that the Rams were sorely lacking until he came. That said, this is a tough Tampa defense to get through, and I think that will make the difference.
Buccaneers 28, Rams 25
Packers at 49ers
My dad grew up not far from Milwaukee, so I’ve gotten an insider’s look at the whereabouts of the green and gold, especially in recent years. Through that look, I’ve learned that NFC West teams often have a leg up on the Packers. Sometimes they have better athletes, other times you wonder how much they’re paying the refs under the table. In this case, we’ll go with the former. Green Bay looked better last week, but most teams playing at home against the Lions do. The Niners, when healthy, have the kind of roster that can make it to a Super Bowl, and that’ll be on full display here. Sorry, Dad.
49ers 38, Packers 14