Tucker (AAAA): Coach Franklin Stephens knows his team better than anyone else. That's why he publicly requested that his team not be ranked No. 1 to start the year. Nevertheless, perhaps as a courtesy for defending champions, Tucker (8-2) started off No. 1, holding until a 32-7 loss to Marist. Tucker is too young and inexperienced to make a title run. However, winning a couple of playoff games would set up the Tigers nicely as one of the top contenders for next season.
Cairo (AAA): It's a safe bet that the team with the state's best nickname -- the Syrupmakers -- won't be making its third consecutive appearance in the state finals. Cairo (7-3) lost too much firepower on offense with the graduation of quarterback Angelo Pease and running back Reginald Bryant and ranks as the classification's lowest-scoring team at 15 points per game. If Cairo wins its first two playoff games, it likely will face No. 1-ranked Gainesville in the quarterfinals.
Buford (AA): The sky is not falling for Buford (9-1), which some would have you think after its 28-21 loss to Lovett -- the Gwinnett program's first region loss since 2000. If anything, the Wolves needed a wake-up call to avoid complacency. How did Buford respond? By winning its next seven games, including three by shutouts. Calhoun is the state's No. 1 team, but No. 3 Buford is the team everyone fears. Buford had a terrific playoff draw, and it would be surprising not to see the two-time champs reach the semifinals.