STATE SEMIFINALS PREVIEW: Breaking down ALL of the Texas high school football playoff games

Lake Travis (Photo by Alonso Ramirez)

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Duncanville (14-0) vs Rockwall (12-2), 2:30 p.m. Saturday at McKinney’s McKinney ISD Stadium: Duncanville took care of Southlake Carroll in the regional finals for the second straight season, this time with a hard fought 49-35 win. QB Ja’Quinden Jackson put on a show for his future college head coach Tom Herman, accounting for 312 yards of total offense and five touchdowns to lead a Panthers offense that rolled up 517 yards on the day. Although the defense did allow Southlake Carroll to tally 500-plus yards, they were able to shut Carroll out in the third quarter and that proved to be the big difference. Rockwall’s offense continues to be the story and WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba will look to break the state’s career receiving yardage record on a big stage in the semifinals this week. Last week the Ohio State pledge had another monster game as he had eleven receptions for 218 yards and four touchdowns, while also rushing for two touchdowns in Rockwall’s 59-42 win over Prosper. Rockwall’s defense, which at times has struggled, will be put to the test in a major way against a Duncanville offense that is big, fast and extremely physical. It starts with the QB who is one of the most difficult players in the country to bring down in space. Duncanville’s defensive dominance in the trenches will be enough to slow down the flamethrower Rockwall offense and the ‘Jackets defense has no answer for Duncanville’s speed and physicality.

Stepp’s Pick: Duncanville by 24


Galena Park North Shore (13-1) vs Lake Travis (13-1), 4 p.m. Saturday at Round Rock’s Reeves Stadium: North Shore rolled past Lake Travis in the state semifinals a year ago on their way to a state championship. But that game was in Houston. This time the Mustangs have to travel to the Austin area to take down the area’s top program. Last week North Shore tied a state semifinal record scoring 76 points in a 76-42 win in front of a sold out crowd on the eastside of Houston. The Mustangs offensive output was downright incredible as they rolled up 804 yards of offense on Atascocita. The numbers for the Mustangs were eye popping as Zach Evans had 273 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns, while QB Dematrius Davis tallied over 600 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns. Lake Travis got pushed by Converse Judson last week, but the Cavaliers, bolstered by the return of Texas commit QB Hudson Card, took the Rockets down, 48-35. Card, who missed the previous six weeks with a foot injury, threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns and added a rushing touchdown. Junior running back Weston Stephens had a career day with 306 yards total yards and three touchdowns. North Shore’s defense isn’t the lockdown unit they were a year ago, especially in the secondary. There are yards to be had in this matchup, but the Mustangs are on an absolute tear on the offensive side of the ball with Davis and Evans just in a zone. Lake Travis plays this game much closer than last year, but North Shore’s speed and front seven prove to be the difference.

Stepp’s Pick: Galena Park North Shore by 10


Denton Guyer (13-1) vs Spring Westfield (13-1), 1 p.m. Saturday at Houston’s Sheldon ISDS Panther Stadium: Denton Guyer had a tough test last week slowing down the flexbone offense of Amarillo Tascosa, but the Wildcats passed it with flying colors in a 48-7 rout on Saturday afternoon. QB Eli Stowers was flat out sensational for the Wildcats in the win. The Texas A&M verbal commit threw for 233 yards and four touchdowns, while bruising RB Kaedric Cobbs ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns. But it was the Guyer defense that stood tall, holding one of the state’s most potent rushing attacks to just 2.9 yards per carry. They’ll have a true road test this week as they head south on I-45 to battle with one of the top teams from the Houston area in Spring Westfield who last week took care of one team from the DFW in a 38-28 win over Dallas Jesuit. The Mustangs got 204 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns from RB Kendal Taylor in the win and down the stretch they got some key defensive stops that proved to be the difference as Jesuit tried to rally late. Westfield’s defense forced three turnovers last week, but the Mustangs also turned the ball over three times as well. They can’t do that this week as Guyer, especially on the offensive side of the ball is too dynamic the Wildcats can line up and simply mash you with a big offensive line and a punishing running back. The play-action passing game when it is working is absolutely lethal. Guyer’s offensive balance and versatility, combined with a defense peaking at the right time will be the difference in what will be a tough road environment.

Stepp’s Pick: Denton Guyer by 8


Katy Taylor (9-5) vs Austin Westlake (13-1), 2 p.m. Saturday at Waco’s McLane Stadium: This year’s state semifinal mystery guest has to be the Katy Taylor Mustangs, who, after finishing the year at 5-5, have rattled off four straight playoff wins and are the final fourth place team left standing in the state. Taylor is saving their best for last as the Mustangs played their best game of the year last week in a 58-20 rout of Cypress Creek a week ago. Two defensive touchdowns in the first quarter staked the Mustangs out to a 24-0 lead after one quarter and they never looked back. They may need more of that magic this week as there’s no doubt they are heading into this matchup with Austin Westlake as a heavy underdog. Westlake has been dominant all season long (minus the close loss to Lake Travis) and last week the Chaps went on the road and dismantled a 13-0 San Antonio Brandeis squad 42-14 behind 278 yards of offense and four touchdowns total from QB Kirkland Michaux. The key to Coach Todd Dodge’s squad and their success has been a shutdown defense that’s simply suffocated teams all year, they consistently put their offense in favorable field position and simply make life incredibly difficult for the opposing offense. That unit again leads the way for Westlake and puts them in the state title game for the first time since 2015 this week.

Stepp’s Pick: Austin Westlake by 21


Denton Ryan (14-0) vs Frisco Lone Star (14-0), 2 p.m. Saturday at Allen’s Eagle Stadium: The premier game in Class 5A Division I is finally happening as the area’s two top teams collide in a showdown of 14-0 teams at Allen. We all know Denton Ryan is really good, but how good is this Raiders team that hasn’t played a game closer than 21 points all year and who just destroyed Colleyville Heritage 56-10 a week ago. RB Emani Bailey had a career game for the Raiders rushing for 275 yards and three touchdowns and adding in 56 receiving yards and a touchdown as Ryan raced out to a 35-3 halftime lead and never looked back. Frisco Lone Star emerged from a brutal Region II after Friday night taking down a strong Lancaster squad, 38-20. Oklahoma commit WR Marvin Mims is the state record holder for single season receiving yardage and he kept that incredible pace up Friday with ten receptions for 214 yards and two touchdowns against an outstanding Lancaster secondary. Lone Star’s underrated defense continues to rise to the occasion in key moments and they did it again last week holding an explosive Lancaster attack in check. On paper, this is a straight up pick’em game, the only real edge may go to Lone Star just pure depth as Ryan plays several players on both sides of the ball. I’ll give the edge to Denton Ryan in this one, this is the Raiders fourth straight semifinal appearance and it may finally be their time.

Stepp’s Pick: Denton Ryan by 2


Alvin Shadow Creek (14-0) vs San Antonio Wagner (13-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday at San Antonio’s Alamo Stadium: It’s a state semifinal rematch as unbeaten Shadow Creek, who holds an incredible 29-1 overall record as a varsity program, looks to make it two-straight over San Antonio Wagner. After a slow start against Manor last week, the Sharks got rolling late in the second quarter and never looked back in a 59-14 win. QB Kyron Drones accounted for five total touchdowns and a 21-point explosion in the final 3:36 of the first half turned a four-point deficit into a 17-point lead and the Sharks never looked back. San Antonio Wagner put on a record setting performance a week ago in their 74-14 road demolition of Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial. The Thunderbirds rolled up an incredible 679 yards rushing as they raced out to a 33-0 lead at the end of one quarter and never looked back. Seven different Wagner players found the end zone with LJ Butler leading the WHS attack with 179 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Wagner’s much maligned secondary was up to the task last week in the win and their defensive line provided a big lift constantly putting pressure on the Veterans Memorial QBs. They’ll need that type of effort and then some this week against a Shadow Creek squad that features the type of speed and athleticism they only see in their annual matchup with Converse Judson. Wagner’s ball control offense keeps it close and the T-Birds have the edge of the game being in the Alamo City. This Shadow Creek squad is just too much. The Sharks playmakers get loose in the second half and lead SCHS back to AT&T Stadium.

Stepp’s Pick: Alvin Shadow Creek by 16


Lubbock Cooper (13-1) vs Aledo (13-1), 3 p.m. Saturday at Abilene’s Anthony Field: Early on, Lubbock Cooper looked like it would become fourth-round fodder for district rival Wichita Falls Rider for the second year in a row. Rider jumped out to a 17-7 lead in the second quarter and held a touchdown lead, before the Pirates took charge of the game in the second half outscoring Rider 28-0 in the second half. RB’s Isaiah Johnson and Nehemiah Martinez each topped the century mark rushing combining for 238 yards on the ground, while the Cooper defense held Rider to just 142 yards offense. Aledo was pushed to the brink last week but managed to survive a strong challenge from Ennis in a 43-36 win that went into overtime. The Bearcats were minus-three in turnover margin and needed a 17-yard touchdown run from Jake Bishop and a defensive stand to escape the Ford Center with the win. Bishop accounted for 350 yards of offense and three touchdowns, while RB Jase McClellan battled through pain to run for 212 yards and three touchdowns. Lubbock Cooper is an outstanding team, but coming out of Region I there’s not much of a frame of reference on how this team matches up with Aledo. Aledo has shown signs of being mortal this year and Cooper’s defense and running game is good enough to keep them in it for a while, but the Bearcats just have too many playmakers for the Pirates to keep up.

Stepp’s Pick: Aledo by 17


Fort Bend Marshall (13-1) vs Boerne Champion (13-1), 3 p.m. Friday at College Station’s Kyle Field: Fort Bend Marshall played what most believe to be their most complete game of the season last week as the Buffs absolutely decimated previously unbeaten Manvel, 40-10, avenging a regular season loss to the Mavericks. RB Devon Achane continued his torrid pace in the playoffs rushing for 132 yards and four touchdowns, while adding in 32 yards receiving as well. QB Malik Hornsby had his best game of the playoffs throwing for 264 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while also rushing for 135 yards. Marshall’s defense, which often goes overlooked, had another banner day by forcing two Manvel turnovers and pitching a second half shutout in the victory. Boerne Champion earned their first ever regional title last week with a thrilling 49-42 win over perennial powerhouse Corpus Christi Calallen. The Chargers got 286 yards passing and three touchdowns along with 63 yards on the ground and a touchdown from QB Luke Boyers. Champion returned a kickoff for a touchdown and blocked a punt that set a touchdown up, and the Chargers game clinching score was a defensive touchdown. Champion has had a magic carpet ride run, but they are facing a team with speed they just haven’t seen before and when you haven’t faced that kind of speed it’s nearly impossible to replicate it. The big plays could come fast and furious this week as Fort Bend Marshall books their second straight trip to AT&T Stadium.

Stepp’s Pick: Fort Bend Marshall by 23


Springtown (13-1) vs Waco La Vega (13-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Midlothian’s Midlothian ISD Stadium: Springtown’s offense was a literal machine last week as the Porcupines rolled to a Region I title taking down previously unbeaten Dumas 56-39, out in Midland. Ironically in the state semifinals POJO will have their closest trip of the playoffs as they’ll tangle with defending state champion Waco La Vega. Springtown was led by RB Cameron Rickett, who ran for 283 yards and three touchdowns, but it was the Springtown defense that was the key forcing four Dumas turnovers, which helped blow the game wide open in the second quarter. Waco La Vega for the second year in a row avenged a regular season loss to Argyle and this time in emphatic fashion as the Pirates dominated from start to finish in a 44-20 victory. Four different Pirates ran for touchdowns in the win, with Jar’quae Walton leading the way with 198 yards and a touchdown rushing. QB Landry Kinne ran for a score and tallied 182 yards of total offense as well. The story of the game was the Pirates front seven, which dominated from the start and simply took Argyle’s running game away. That formula very well could repeat itself this week as La Vega’s just an incredibly tough matchup because of the talent they bring to table, the effort with which they play and the job their coaches do. It’s a winning formula and it may come to pass again this week as La Vega could roll in a state semifinal much like they did a year ago against Springtown’s district rival Decatur.

Stepp’s Pick: Waco La Vega by 28


Carthage (14-0) vs Lampasas (13-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Porter’s Texan Drive Stadium: Unbeaten Carthage, whose defense allows just over 10 points per game, will face their biggest test of the year as they tangle with Lampasas, who boasts one of the state’s most explosive offensive attacks. The Badgers offense is averaging over 49 points per game and showed no signs of slowing down last week in beating Liberty Hill for the second time this season, this one a 49-34 victory on Saturday. Junior QB Ace Whitehead, who has accounted for an incredible 72 total touchdowns this season, kept up his torrid pace last week throwing for 401 yards and five touchdowns, rushing for two touchdowns and for good measure he kicked all seven PATs for the Badgers as well. Carthage knocked off Midlothian Heritage last 24-7, but the Bulldogs offensively were far from sharp. The Bulldogs started out quickly with touchdowns on their opening two drives to race out to a 14-0 lead, but the offense was stuck in neutral for most of the remainder of the day. QB Kai Horton and ATH Kelvontay Dixon are the two gamebreakers for the Bulldogs and they’ll need big games from both as Lampasas will likely put some points up. Carthage’s versatility and ability to play just about any type of game will be big. In key moments, the Bulldogs defense will be the difference. Lampasas hasn’t a seen a team that has the ability to physically dominate up front and still has the athletes to content with their dynamic receivers.

Stepp’s Pick: Carthage by 13


Midland Greenwood (14-0) vs Texarkana Pleasant Grove (13-1), 6 p.m. Friday at Frisco’s Ford Center: Midland Greenwood needed some late heroics last week to win their first regional title since 2002 with a 36-33 win over Iowa Park to avenge a playoff loss to the Hawks a year ago. RB Trey Cross, who finished with 193 yards rushing and three touchdowns, scored with less than a minute left in the game to lift Greenwood to the thrilling victory. This week, the Rangers get their toughest test of the season as they battle with a playoff-tested Texarkana Pleasant Grove squad that’s looking to make their third straight appearance in the state title game. Last week, after a close first half, the Hawks blew past district rival Gilmer, 55-21. KJ Hicks ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns to lead the PGHS offense, but there were plenty of others who played a key role, including Nick Martin who had an interception, 68 yards rushing and a touchdown, and BYU commit RB Bruce Garrett ran for 120 yards and a score. It’s the Pleasant Grove defense, led by Landon Jackson and Marcus Burris, their two FBS recruits on the defensive line, that really separate this team from the field in 4A-Division II. That unit has the ability to dominate the Greenwood offensive line and completely disrupt the Rangers offensive attack.

Stepp’s Pick: Texarkana Pleasant Grove by 20


Silsbee (9-4) vs Wimberley (11-3), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Katy’s Legacy Stadium: After a slow start to 2019, Silsbee has found their stride winning the Region III title for the second straight season. The Tigers, also for the second straight year, avenged a regular season loss to West Orange-Stark with a playoff win in the regional final. The Tigers trailed WOS 28-17 in the fourth quarter and were left for dead, but Silsbee rattled off 18-straight points to stun the Mustangs, 35-28. Chris Martin and Dralyn Taylor both had fourth quarter touchdown runs, with Taylor’s 23-yard run being the game winner with less than two minutes remaining. Wimberley was also able to avenge a regular season loss last week as the Texans raced out to a quick lead and never looked back in a 42-12 win over Geronimo Navarro. QB Cooper McCollum torched the Navarro secondary with five touchdown passes and the Texans never came close to being threatened in the win. Silsbee’s speed and multiple weapons in the running game will be a major test for Wimberley’s defense, but the Wimberley passing game and size with their outside receivers could be a real test for the Silsbee secondary. The Tigers get the edge in what should be a high scoring and entertaining affair.

Stepp’s Pick: Silsbee by 9


Brock (12-2) vs Pottsboro (14-0), 7 p.m. Thursday at Frisco’s Ford Center: It’s an all North Texas affair in the state semifinals as surging Brock tangles with Pottsboro for a spot in the state title game. Brock avenged a regular season loss to Pilot Point with a dominant defensive performance in a 31-21 win last week. Brock’s defense held Pilot Point to just 30-yard rushing, while RB Cash Jones again kept his magical playoff run going with 221 yards rushing to pace the Eagles’ attack. Pottsboro needed two overtimes to escape an absolute heart stopper of a game as they defeated Gladewater 35-34. The Cardinals held a 21-7 lead midway through the fourth quarter before a late rally by GHS tied things up. It was Pottsboro’s defense in the second overtime that made the play on a Gladewater two-point conversion attempt to lift the Cards to the brink of a state title appearance. It’s their first regional title since 2008. WR Titus Lyons was a handful last week hauling in six passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns. His size on the outside is a real matchup problem for many 3A defenses. QB Braden Plyler ran for a touchdown and added three touchdown passes as well. Brock seems to be really rounding into form late in the year and the Eagles aggressive defense will give Pottsboro’s downfield passing attack fits in this matchup.

Stepp’s Pick: Brock by 7


Grandview (13-1) vs Columbus (12-2), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Round Rock’s Reeves Stadium: Defending state champion Grandview looks to be rounding into form with two straight absolutely dominating performances to win the Region III title. Last week the Zebras rolled past Troy, 34-13, as QB Dane Jentsch ran for four touchdowns and accounted for 228 yards of offense in the win and for good measure he picked off a pass while playing defense as well. Grandview’s defense has been sensational as well holding some high-powered offensive attacks in check. They’ll have another test this week down in the Austin area as they tangle with a red-hot Columbus squad. The Cardinals punched a ticket to the state semifinals last week avenging a regular season loss to Hallettsville with a 48-25 win. Tough running Tyree Simcik continued his stellar playoff run with 282 yards rushing and five touchdowns to lead the Cardinals offensive attack. Grandview is going to load the box and force Columbus’ WR’s to beat man coverage. It’ll be a similar game plan to what Industrial rolled out in the third round of the playoffs. The difference is Grandview’s athletes are better and can holdup in space against speedy receivers.

Stepp’s Pick: Grandview by 10


Canadian (14-0) vs Gunter (13-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Vernon’s Lion Stadium: It’s “Hello again” for Canadian and Gunter who meet up for the fourth straight season in the state semifinals and for the third straight time in Vernon. Gunter won in a close one in 2016, blew Canadian out in 2017 and then last year Canadian got a measure of revenge in a 17-7 victory. Canadian comes into this one as a favorite, but the Wildcats got all they wanted and then some in a 35-31 win over Abernathy last week. The Wildcats overcame four turnovers as QB Grant McCook ran for three touchdowns and threw for another while totaling over 200 yards of offense in the win for Canadian, who raced out to a 28-12 halftime lead and then held off a late Abernathy rally. Gunter hasn’t been flashy this year, but the Tigers have been flat out efficient during the playoffs. Last week’s 27-9 win over Holliday embodied that tough football the Tigers like to play. Gunter’s three-headed monster of Bryson Rigsby, Hudson Graham and Peyton Lowe all ran for at least 81 yards and allowed Gunter to grind out yards and clock. After Holliday scored on the game’s opening drive, the Tigers defense clamped down and allowed just a field goal the rest of the way. Gunter’s run defense is sensational, but if there is a weakness it’s against the pass. Look for Canadian and their versatile offense to try to capitalize on that and put the ball in the air a lot. Canadian’s passing game and ability on defense to slow the run should be enough, but if the Wildcats continue to turn the ball over that could even the odds.

Stepp’s Pick: Canadian by 6


Omaha Pewitt (13-1) vs East Bernard (14-0), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Waco’s Waco ISD Stadium: A week ago in a hotly contested rivalry game, Omaha Pewitt rallied from a 30-13 halftime deficit and a 42-31 fourth quarter deficit to stun Daingerfield 45-42 avenging a regular season loss to the Tigers. QB Cross Holder normally isn’t asked to throw much in the Brahmas Slot-T offense, but he stepped up when it counted throwing three touchdown passes and running for another score in the victory. While Kadrien Johnson’s 29-yard scoring jaunt with 1:48 left completed the PPHS comeback. They’ll take on a team very similar in style this week in East Bernard who knocked off district rival Ganado 30-10 last week to win the regional title for the second straight season. The Brahmas have been without one of their top running backs for most of the playoffs due to an off-field issue, but they’ve gotten it done with a grinding Wing-T attack and a defense that is among the state’s best. This one is going to be quick. The key is East Bernard’s experience in these late playoff rounds and their suffocating defense.

Stepp’s Pick: East Bernard by 11


Post (14-0) vs Valley View (12-2), 7 p.m. Thursday at Brownwood’s Gordon Wood Stadium: Unbeaten Post passed another big test last week as they knocked off previously undefeated Hawley, 52-42, in an absolute thriller at the Mustang Bowl in Sweetwater. Post trailed by nine in the second half but turned the jets on down the stretch. Ashton Jefferson led a balanced offensive output with 125 yards rushing, while Nathan McDaniel ran for 66 yards and a touchdown and also hauled in a touchdown pass. Post never punted in the game. Valley View’s defense totally stymied a powerful San Saba offense and the Eagles special teams came up big in a 14-12 upset of the previously undefeated Armadillos. The defense set the offense up with short fields and held a San Saba team averaging 56 points per game to just 12. Valley View will lean heavily on RB Clint Epperson as they do have a freshman signal-caller who they would prefer to not put in obvious passing downs. Both teams love to run the ball, but Post has really shown efficiency in the passing game. The Antelopes are excellent up front and they’ll do enough to hold off a very underrated Valley View squad and punch a ticket to the state title game.

Stepp’s Pick: Post by 7


San Augustine (13-0) vs Refugio (14-0), 7 p.m. Thursday at Cypress’ Cy-Fair FCU Stadium: San Augustine has been a terror in Region III the past two years, but the Wolves have been on the short end in the state semifinals losing by an average of 43 points. They’ll look to reverse that trend as they tangle with Refugio in a rematch of a 2017 semifinal game. The Wolves got a bit of a push last week from Groveton, but the offense led by QB Jayden Hicks was just too much in a 48-28 win. Hicks tossed three touchdown passes in the victory, but he also had a punt return for a touchdown and had an interception return for a score. Refugio raced out to a big lead on a shell-shocked Holland squad and never looked back in an easy 49-12 win. QB Austin Ochoa spread the ball around to his playmakers in the passing game throwing three touchdowns and rushing for two more scores in the win. The big concern for Refugio going into this one is Ochoa’s health as he finished the Holland game with his knee wrapped and a noticeable limp. If he’s 100 percent and playing Refugio rolls to another state title appearance. But if he’s struggling with his health, a speedy San Augustine defense could take full advantage.

Stepp’s Pick: Refugio by 13


Stratford (13-1) vs Hamlin (11-2), 7 p.m. Thursday at Plainview’s Sherwood Memorial Stadium: Stratford will look to return to the state title game for the first time since winning it all in 2008 as they take on a Hamlin squad that they handled with relative ease in the regular season. The Elks rolled in the regional final last week blasting past Wink, 42-13. Iuden Romero had 177 yards of offense and a touchdown for Stratford, while QB Walker McBryde threw for 243 yards and a pair of scores. Hamlin ended Wellington’s season for the second straight year as the Pied Pipers rolled to a 43-22 victory. QB Braydin Warner led the Pipers offense throwing for 257 yards and four touchdowns, including a stretch of three touchdown passes in five minutes that turned a close game into a blowout. Turnovers were the big difference in Stratford’s dominant regular season victory. Since then, Hamlin has made some personnel adjustments as well. Expect a close one. Both teams playing at their peak on paper look evenly matched, but Stratford’s new found balance has impressed me all season and I think the Elks punch a ticket to AT&T Stadium.

Stepp’s Pick: Stratford by 8


Mart (11-3) vs Falls City (13-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Pflugerville’s The Pfield: A year ago en route to a state championship, Mart absolutely annihilated five of their six playoff opponents. The one team that gave the Panthers fits was this same Falls City squad. Mart is fresh off back to back blowouts of Grapeland and Muenster, including last week’s 53-7 rout of the Hornets. The Panthers rolled up over 500 yards on the ground in the victory with junior Roddrell Freeman totaling 200 plus yards and three touchdowns. Falls City got pushed in a major way last week but survived a late charge from Bremond in a 35-28 victory. The Beavers were led by a heroic effort from Brady Lyssy who rushed for 353 yards and all five touchdowns. Expect Falls City to employ similar tactics to last year as they try and shorten the game and keep the explosive Mart offense off the field. They’ll run the play clock down, try to grind out three to four yards per carry and see if the defense can come up with a stop or two and put pressure on Mart. It worked last year for three quarters, but Mart exploded down the stretch and pulled away. I see a near repeat of that this year. This will be a big test for Mart, but the Panthers just have too much speed and playmaking ability.

Stepp’s Pick: Mart by 13

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