Five questions to set up start of playoffs

The state playoffs in high school football begin with 80 games Friday night and Saturday in five classifications. It begins the march to five championship games to be played Dec. 11-12 at the Georgia Dome.

Here are five questions we'll want answered this year:

Are the No. 1 teams worthy? The No. 1-ranked teams are 10-0, but they're highly inexperienced in state titles. Grayson (Class AAAA) is a 10-year-old school seeking its first. Griffin (AAAA) won its only state title in 1978, and that was a tie with Valdosta. Gainesville (AAA) has won 25 region titles but no GHSA state title. Calhoun (AA) won its only state title in 1952. Wesleyan (A) won its first title in A last season.

Is the past a better guide? While they're not ranked No. 1, many state powers are lurking with one loss. Lowndes is favored by many to win its fourth title in six years in AAAAA. Buford, the No. 3 team in AA, is the two-time defending champion. Southwest DeKalb and Carver-Columbus were preseason No. 1 teams in AAAA and AAA, respectively. Their only losses came to teams in higher classifications. Lincoln County, the No. 3 team in A, has won 14 state titles and is itching for a rematch against Wesleyan.

Who are the best players? There's no clear-cut player of the year in Georgia, so the playoffs might decide it. Among the top contenders are Lassiter quarterback Hutson Mason, Newnan safety Alec Ogletree, Gainesville quarterback Blake Sims, Calhoun receiver Da'Rick Rogers and McEachern running back Rajaan Bennett.

What human-interest stories will emerge? Fans are rooting for Greenville coach Jeremy Williams, who is battling Lou Gehrig's Disease. His team is 10-0 in Class A. Rick Tomberlin has led Valdosta to the playoffs, despite being fired at midseason, effective at the end of the season. Cook found a way to clinch a playoff berth last week despite a tragic off-season in which one of its players collapsed and died at practice. T. McFerrin, with more than 300 career victories, is out of retirement and 10-0 at Jefferson.

Which teams will be Cinderella? In 2008, eight No. 4 seeds stunned region champions in the first round. Two-loss teams such as Peachtree Ridge, Flowery Branch and Wesleyan raced to the finals, and a 6-4 team, Woodstock, came within a point of stunning Camden County in the quarterfinals.

Produced by Georgia High School Football Daily