All games at 7:30 p.m. Friday unless noted
Pasco at Land O'Lakes: The Pirates were nowhere to be found last week in preseason action. But we know they have great athletes at the skill positions and a coach who has returned a program back to respectability. The Gators looked promising in one half of play last week against Mitchell, highlighted by the nifty footwork of quarterback Stevie Weatherford, who scored on a 51-yard run. His father, Bill, said Wednesday that none of the other Weatherfords has those moves. If the passing game fails, that could be the Gators' savior. Remember, this was the only regular-season game the Gators dropped last season.
Joey Knight: Pasco, 22-21. A conservative pick. Pasco simply is more talented on paper.
Izzy Gould: Land O'Lakes, 22-21. Flip a coin on this one, but I think home field and revenge drive the Gators to victory.
Wesley Chapel at Wiregrass Ranch: The Wildcats were in hiding for the preseason opener, so we haven't had a chance to see if C.J. West or the Joyer brothers are primed for the season opener. Of course, the offense cruised in the intrasquad spring game and the Bulls are still building.
JK: Wesley Chapel, 24-14. This will be closer than many think.
IG: Wesley Chapel, 24-21. Yes, a lot closer but the Wildcats still hold the edge.
Ridgewood at Hudson: In the wake of the Cobras' sobering 21-point preseason loss to Springstead, some began questioning whether quarterback Zack Wynn is being hampered by the brace on his surgically-mended right knee. He isn't, coach Mark Nash insists, adding Wynn may be running better than ever. "He had some jitters, I think, in the Springstead game," Nash said.
JK: Hudson, 27-20. Wynn rebounds against a promising but green Rams defense.
IG: Ridgewood, 21-14. Remember when we ranked the running backs? Well, Sterling Ross thinks we got it wrong so I'm picking him and the Rams to prove it.
Mitchell at Gulf: Gulf showed little in its preseason classic loss to Tarpon Springs except a propensity for penalties (70 yards in the first half) and the breakaway speed of Ridgewood transfer Adrian Golden. We're interested in seeing how Gulf's defense, which remained sturdy against Tarpon Springs, fares against Mustangs tailback Ricky Trinidad.
JK: Mitchell, 28-18. Gulf is 0-3 in openers under coach Jay Fulmer.
IG: Gulf, 28-27. Gulf burned me time and time again last season. This time, I'm buying what Fulmer's selling.
Central at Hernando: The Bears and Leopards were outscored a combined total of 91-7 in their preseason losses, albeit against playoff-caliber competition. Hernando coach John Palmer, making his regular-season debut, is concerned about the Bears' size advantage up front. A key could be special teams. Central opted for "dead" special teams last week against Dunedin, while the Leopards' unit got tons of live practice against South Sumter.
JK: Hernando, 14-13. Emotion and special teams make the difference for the Leopards.
IG: Central, 10-7. Both teams were sluggish in preseason games, but the Leopards did not score a single point.
Bishop McLaughlin at Hernando Christian, 7 p.m.: Unlike HCA, which didn't begin classes until Tuesday, the Hurricanes had a preseason game, defeating Ocala St. John Lutheran 14-7 and impressing HCA coach David Raley in the process. "This is the best-looking Bishop McLaughlin team I have seen in a long time," Raley said. "It's actually the best-looking team coach (Marty) Williams has ever had."
JK: Bishop McLaughlin, 27-13. It's about time these teams played in the regular season.
IG: HCA, 21-7. HCA has the passing game and home field so look for these Hurricanes to miss their target.
River Ridge at Sunlake: The Seahawks, seeking their first win in program history, are stoked about the possibility of making history tonight. Sunlake is physically stronger than the group that lost to the Royal Knights 50-0 last year, but how much stronger?
JK: River Ridge, 17-6. The Knights' size advantage up front makes the difference.
IG: River Ridge, 28-7. River Ridge gets few chances to pour it on, so look for a lot of points on their end.
Dunnellon at Nature Coast: Just when Nature Coast appeared to be a run-dominant offense, it found a quarterback in C.J. Baker and three receivers in Michael Fields, Howie Williams and Braddie Ellison. All the Sharks need is a kicker to replace Nick Allegra — he moved out of state during the offseason — and this is a tough team to beat. The Sharks won 39-7 last year.
JK: Dunnellon, 28-21. The Tigers annihilated Live Oak Suwannee last week in a preseason game.
IG: Nature Coast, 28-21. The Sharks are swimming in talent and confidence.
Crystal River at Springstead: Springstead might have surprised a few folks with a 35-14 preseason win over Hudson. If it helps, even Cobras coach Mark Nash was impressed. "You can print this, Springstead is good," he said. Enough said. Look for James Mahla, Mike Greco and Ben Noury to lead the Eagles this week.
JK: Springstead, 26-21. Eagles can't get intoxicated with preseason success.
IG: Springstead, 21-10. The Eagles haven't stopped rolling since the spring.
Miami Gulliver Prep at Zephyrhills: The Bulldogs were rolled over by Freedom last week to the tune of 37-0. Gulliver Prep won its preseason game at Palmetto Ridge — if you consider only the varsity's three quarters of play — 25-18. Prep had running back Darian Mallary break loose for touchdown runs of 64 and 80 yards, so look out, run defense. Prep won this one last year 20-7.
JK: Gulliver Prep, 20-7. After being shut out by Freedom, how can we pick the 'Dogs?
IG: Gulliver Prep, 35-14. I'm usually wrong when I pick against the Bulldogs, but not this time.