For the third year in a row, staff writers Jim Paulsen and David La Vaque square off in predicting metro-area football games. This weekend is also the only time all year that they will predict them all. All four of them. While most of the teams in the state open play on Aug. 30 and 31, six are getting a one-week jump on the season.
Jim says: Getting out of the North Suburban Conference will be a boost for a program that has gone 3-34 since 2008. Just knowing they will be competitive is a certain confidence-builder for the Hylanders. Playing on home turf doesn't hurt, either. Pick: Columbia Heights 20, St. Paul Humboldt 16
David says: Just two seasons removed from a respectable 5-5 showing, the Hawks have 14 returning starters and new coach Steven Elizondo who want to turn back the clock. Pick: St. Paul Humboldt 16, Columbia Heights 13
Jim says: Playing a Lake Conference team is a nice barometer for Holy Angels, fielding its finest team since losing to Mahtomedi in the 2005 Prep Bowl. A victory -- even a close loss -- could be a springboard to success. Do I smell an upset? Pick: Holy Angels 33, Edina 27
David says: This is the first of a two-season agreement between teams with no previous football meetings. The Hornets, a Class 6A school, will leave the Class 4A Stars with something to remember for the rematch. Pick: Edina 28, Holy Angels 14
Jim says: 'Tonka clearly isn't playing it safe with its opener. Arrowhead is one tough bunch, with three state championships to its credit. The Warhawks are ranked No. 2 in the preseason poll for Class 7, Wisconsin's largest class. Winning there seems a lot to ask. Pick: Arrowhead 26, Minnetonka 14.
David says: This is projected to be one of coach Dave Nelson's strongest teams in several years. What better way to establish a tone than to cross the border and beat an equally tough Wisconsin team? Other than WR Malcolm Moore (foot injury) the Skippers will have all other hands on deck. Pick: Minnetonka 21, Arrowhead 19
Jim says: Episcopal, a small-school Texas powerhouse, won a state championship in 2010. Coach Steve Leisz, a Minnetonka native, and several players and coaches have local ties. But Episcopal has 600 students; Hopkins has three times as many. Go with numbers. Pick: Hopkins 37, Houston Episcopal 28
David says: You just don't pick against Texas in football. What Episcopal lacks in program size, it more than counters with a potent spread offense and quick defensive line. Both elements will torment Hopkins and send the visitors home with a Texas-sized grin. Pick: Houston Episcopal 28, Hopkins 20