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November 11, 2010

Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

There is a reason for rankings.

It's not just to give fans something to cheer - and more often, complain - about.

It's a way to separate the haves and the have-nots.

They are all big games this time of year. So how do you pick a winner? Follow our rankings.

We're taking the higher-ranked team in each of our five games Weekend Watch games this weekend. And, no, we don't always go with the chalk (check out our pick in the Game of the Week).

We go with the better team. And on this list, the rankings rule. We don't not only go with the favorites, but having them winning by an average of more than two touchdowns.

With that, an in-depth look around the nation at some of the top games of the weekend:

Weekend Watch
No. 36 Pittsburgh Central Catholic
vs. Gateway

LB Louis Taglianetti (6-2/185, Jr.)
RB Damion Jones-Moore (5-6/165, Jr.)
WR Dustin Lowman (6-0/162, Sr.)
LB Armstead Williams (6-3/210, Sr.)
RB Sascha Craig (6-2/220, Sr.)
LB Nolan Toran (5-11/180, Sr.)
LB DeMond Haynes (5-10/220, Sr.)

When: Friday 11/12, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: 10/15/10, Central Catholic won, 21-7.
Rankings: Central Catholic (10-0), No. 1 in Pennsylvania
Gateway (6-4), No. 36 in Pennsylvania

WHY IT'S BIG: This is not your older brother's Gateway team, but it is still a tough test and a tough out in the WPIAL playoffs. The Gators, at 6-4, have only won when they have been the favorites - and they won't be here. Central Catholic will have tougher tests as the playoffs progress but the athletic edge that Gateway has will be a unique challenge.

BEST MATCHUP: Central Catholic's defense against the Gateway offense. The same tipping point used in the first game will be the Gateway offense. In its six wins, Gateway has averaged 40 points per game; in its four losses, Gateway has just 28 points total. Central Catholic has only given up 20 points in a game once all season.

GATEWAY WINS IF: It wins the coaching battle. This will need to be the best coaching job of head coach Terry Smith's career if Gateway is to pull the upset. The Gators have often been the team that is upset and not the one pulling the carpet out. It is outmanned and should come out like its back is against the wall. If the team can force a turnover and not make foolish penalties, it can win.

CENTRAL CATHOLIC WINS IF: It is not out hustled. The Vikings swarm to the ball and play good team defense. That points directly to hustle. If the team remains focused on 11-men getting to the ball, it will be effective. Gateway does not have the explosiveness that it has had in the past, so limiting the big plays will keep the momentum on the side of Central Catholic. Being the better team is a major factor in this game.

PREDICTION: Gateway has not had a five-loss season since 2006 and it is staring that fate squarely in the face. The team was expected to do more, but the loss of all-everything Dondi Kirby before the season started derailed its chances. Central Catholic has taken advantage of staying healthy all year and its play has improved each week. Central Catholic is a favorite to win the state so this game should be an expected win. So long as the Vikings do not treat it as a foregone conclusion, it will be a victory. - Central Catholic 23, Gateway 7

-- For more on both teams and Pennsylvania football, visit PaPreps.com

Weekend Watch
No. 27 Miami Central
vs. No. 61 Booker T. Washington

QB Rakeem Cato (6-1/170, Sr.)
RB Devonta Freeman (5-9/178, Sr.)
WR Tommy Shuler (5-9/182, Sr.)
WR Durell Eskridge (6-2/195, Sr.)
WR Charles Gaines Jr. (5-11/181, Sr.)
DT Elkino Watson (6-2/280, Sr.)

When: Saturday 11/13, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: 11/14/09, Central won, 18-12.
Rankings: Central (9-1), No. 5 in Florida Booker T. Washington (8-1), No. 12 in Florida

WHY IT'S BIG: This is for bragging rights. If Central can win this game, it will have a great shot at sewing up the best team in Miami title outright. This year, the games between Central, Northwestern, Booker T. Washington and maybe even Columbus all have been good and had meaning. Last year, all three beat one another, leaving the city with loud booming silence for true bragging rights. If Central can win this game, it will be able to secure that top spot.

BEST MATCHUP: Booker T. Washington's defensive line against the Central offensive line. This is the area of the game the Tornadoes have to win if they want to stay in the game. The Central playmakers are far superior to that of Washington; if the guys in the trenches are not getting pressure on the quarterback, it will be a long night of deep passes.

CENTRAL WINS IF:It doesn't shoot itself in the foot. This shouldn't be a close game, unless Central turns it over or has a 20-plus penalty game. The Rockets are a favorite to get to (and possibly win) a Class 6A title. This is a great tune-up for when the playoffs start. Keeping the emotional level in check will be a barometer for the team.

WASHINGTON WINS IF: It can keep the game close and low scoring. The game can not be in the 30s. The Tornadoes do not have the firepower to make this a track meet with Central. It will need to force a few turnovers and grind out first downs.

PREDICTION: Central has been a team that has bounced between the Top 10 and Top 30 nationally all year. That level of team is expected to beat teams below it. If Washington is able to win this game, then Central should forget about making it to Orlando for the state finals because there are better teams than Washington in its playoff bracket. The Rockets had one tough setback this year at Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County. That refocused this squad and toughened them as well. - Central 41, Washington 19

-- For more on both teams and Florida football, visit FlaVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 20 Wheaton Warrenville South
vs. No. 73 Glenbard West

QB Reilly O'Toole (6-4/215, Sr.)
WR Titus Davis (6-2/188, Sr.)
OL Luke Luhrsen (6-5/275, Sr.)
OL Jordan Walsh (6-3/275, Sr.)
LB Beau Warden (6-1/215, Sr.)
RB Nick Burrello (5-11/185, Sr.)

When: Friday 11/12, 7 p.m.
Last meeting: 11/28/09, Wheaton-Warrenville South won, 31-24.
Rankings: Wheaton-Warrenville South (11-0), No. 1 in Illinois Glenbard West (10-1), No. 2 in Illinois

WHY IT'S BIG: It isn't quite a state final in the quarterfinals, but it is very close in the Illinois 7A playoffs. The winner of this game is all but certain to be in the final - and a favorite to win. Wheaton Warrenville South has been the team to beat in the state all year and has looked better and better each week. The Tigers are on a mission to repeat as state champions in what is the best class in the state this season. Glenbard West would like nothing better than to avenge its tough playoff loss last year in this one.

BEST MATCHUP: Wheaton Warrenville South's offense against the Glenbard West defense. The team that beats the Tigers will need to figure out a way to slow the team down on offense. Only twice this season has an opponent been able to keep Wheaton Warrenville South below 40 points, so it is certainly easier said than done.

WHEATON WARRENVILLE SOUTH WINS IF: It dictates pace. As they have done all season, the Tigers will look to move the ball quickly, score quickly and score a lot. The team is not a traditional plodder team. You won't find three yards and a cloud of dust here. This is a team that slings the ball around the lot; matching up with its athletes is nearly impossible to do.

GLENBARD WEST WINS IF: The weather plays a factor. Yep, rooting for rain in this one. Glenbard West is not well-enough equipped on defense to make this one stand up without some help. The team has given up 31 to Lyons and 28 to Lincoln-Way West in two of the last three weeks. Those teams do not have near the offense of this week's opponent. It will need some help making it tough to pass.

PREDICTION: Despite it being a battle among two ranked teams, there is a big gap between the two. Wheaton Warrenville South is a team that can play anywhere and against anyone; that's why it currently is ranked above the best teams in Ohio. That is a statement in and of itself for an Illinois team. This may be the biggest test facing the Tigers before a trophy presentation in a few weeks.
- Wheaton Warrenville South 49, Glenbard West 18

-- For more on both teams and Illinois football, visit EdgyTim.com

Weekend Watch
No. 89 Iowa City High
vs. Bettendorf

ATH Jeremy Johnson (5-10/180, Sr.)
QB Andrew McNulty (6-2/190, Sr.)
ATH Gage Ridenour (5-9/182, Sr.)
QB Blake Younkin (6-0/177, Sr.)
ATH Nate Shaw (5-11/202, Sr.)

When: Friday 11/12, 7 p.m.
Last meeting: 11/14/09, Central won, 18-12.
Rankings: Iowa City (12-0), No. 1 in Iowa Bettendorf (12-0), No. 3 in Iowa

WHY IT'S BIG: It is the Class 4A semifinal game in Iowa, so it is going to be hard to get much bigger than this one - unless next week Iowa City takes on Dowling Catholic. The Little Hawks are looking to repeat as state winners and maintain a national ranking. Bettendorf, long a power in the state, has its sights set on getting back to a state final.

BEST MATCHUP: Bettendorf's defense against the Iowa City offense. The calling cards of both teams will be squaring off. Bettendorf only has allowed 54 points all season; Iowa City has put up more than 41 points in five straight. Something will need to give on this one. The team that is able to determine the pace of the game is likely to win.

IOWA CITY WINS IF: The team gets up early. It has played one of the most difficult schedules in the state. If it gets ahead early, it's confidence will continue to go up. This will be the best defense it has gone up against this season and that isn't to take anything away from Xavier, Kennedy, Linn-Marr or Cedar Falls.

BETTENDORF WINS IF: Its defense is able to shut down the Little Hawks. The Bulldogs only have allowed seven points in the first three playoff games and enter the game with plenty of swagger. Sometimes believing you can win is a major battle. If this game stays in the teens, Bettendorf will have a nice shot to win this game.

PREDICTION: There have been some legendary battles between two of the more storied programs in Iowa and this could add to that lore. In a big game like this, having experience often plays a major factor. While Iowa City doesn't have A.J. Derby this year, it does enter with a playoff run under its belt and four big-time wins already this season. Bettendorf does not have that pedigree working in its favor. - Iowa City High 24, Bettendorf 16

-- For more on both teams and Iowa football, visit IowaPreps.com

Weekend Watch
No. 25 De La Salle
vs. California

LB Blake Renaud (6-2/233, Sr.)
DE Dylan Wynn (6-3/234, Sr.)
RB Lucas Dunne (5-6/173, Sr.)
RB Devin Williams (5-7/155, Sr.)
RB Kyle Alvarez (6-1/174, Sr.)
OL Joe Pearson (6-3/290, Sr.)
LB Marcus Prenot (5-11/202, Sr.)

When: Friday 11/12, 7 p.m.
Last meeting: 11/13/09, De La Salle won, 49-10.
Rankings: De La Salle (9-0), No. 4 in California California (9-0), No. 22 in California

WHY IT'S BIG: This is being built as a major test for the De La Salle defense and a measuring stick for the California offense. It is certainly the toughest league game for De La Salle, but how difficult the game will be will be determined Friday. The last time the Spartans traveled to California High, it was a difficult 21-14 win; last year at home, the Spartans rolled 49-10.

BEST MATCHUP: De La Salle's defense against the California offense. The Spartans only have allowed 14 points twice this season, while California has yet to be held to less than 35. Both teams like to pound the ball on the ground so this could be a physical test of might and will. That is the type of game De La Salle usually wins.

DE LA SALLE WINS IF: It continues to move the ball. Many folks want to focus on the defense of the Spartans, but what often goes overlooked is that De La Salle is averaging nearly 440 yards of offense each game. The team is able to control the line and the clock going on long, sustained drives, often times breaking the back of the defense.

CALIFORNIA WINS IF: It is able to match the physicality of De La Salle. It has been the story to solving De La Salle for two decades and few have been able to do it. The Spartan resolve and physical play has grown into a self-fulfilling prophecy at times. If California wants to win this game - and make a major national statement - it will need to buckle its chinstrap and get to work.

PREDICTION: A total lunch bucket game is about to take place. It will come down to which team has worked harder all season, not just this week. You can not expect to beat De La Salle with just one good week of practice. California may have it this year. This could be a preview of the NCS Division I championship game, which we would expect De La Salle to win, too. - De La Salle 28, California 13

-- For more on both teams and Northern California football, visit NorCalPreps.com

Weekend Watch
Other Predictions (2010: 79-31)
Game of Week: Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville def. Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, 24-20
No. 5 Hoover def. Spain Park, 20-3
No. 30 Mullen def. Cherry Creek, 31-6
No. 65 Rockhurst def. Blue Springs, 23-20 *E-mail request*
No. 94 Trinity def. DuPont Manual, 33-13 *E-Mail request*
Dutch Fork (S.C.) def. Clover, 33-30 *E-mail request*
Have your game picked next week: E-mail Dallas Jackson
Game of the Week record: 8-4
2010 Record for all games picked: 87-35

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