WITH TWO weeks (three for some) behind us in the 2012 football season, it seems odd that we would have so many high-impact games this early in the season. A look at this week’s top games:
1. NORTHWESTERN AT BYRNES
The biggest ticket in South Carolina and perhaps the nation will be Northwestern, ranked No. 64 in the country, traveling to Duncan to take on the nation’s No. 4 team, the Byrnes Rebels.
Impact: The two nationally ranked teams are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in S.C., so this 4A matchup will bring valuable points for the playoff seedings.
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Players to watch: Northwestern quarterback Mason Rudolph has put up monstrous numbers in the first three games, exceeding 300 yards each time. A strong wide receiver corps is led by 5-foot-5 Dupree Hart. Rebels quaterback Shuler Bentley joins Rudolph in high offensive production. Bentley’s favorite target is senior receiver Akia Booker, who has six touchdowns in his first two games.
Key matchup: Northwestern defense versus the Rebels offense. The Trojans have been strong this year, playing a much more physical brand of defense, and if they can shut down the big plays by Byrnes and force them to sustain drives instead, the game could favor the Trojans.
The Greenwood Eagles will take their fifth-ranked team to Irmo to take on an improved (albeit 0-2) Yellow Jacket team in a game that could be dangerous for the Eagles.
Impact: Irmo is 0-2, but is dangerous and better than a lot of teams that are 2-0. The Jackets need this game, as they may need the quality points so they don’t have to rely on getting an automatic bid in their region.
Players to watch: Irmo’s Grant Davitt is one of the top senior quarterbacks in the state. Greenwood quarterback Evan Sims and running back Octavious Morgan lead a talented Eagles offense.
Keys to the game: The Irmo offense needs to generate successful drives finishing in points. Greenwood is a physical team whose offense will attack on the ground.
OTHER BIG GAMES
Greer at Union County: The annual battle of the Jackets will pit strong Greer on the road against a rapidly improving Union County team.
South Florence at Myrtle Beach: The No. 1 3A team in the state hosts a strong South Florence team that is off to a good start.
Summerville at Goose Creek: The times are changing as Summerville goes into this game a huge underdog against the state’s No. 3 team.
York at Gaffney: 4A No. 6 at 4A No. 5. Gaffney struggled to get a late winning touchdown against Union County last week and York is going to be an even taller order.
Lexington at Spring Valley: Lexington is staring at the possibility of 0-3 as it travels to the 2-0 Vikings, who boast one of the Midlands’ top defensive units.
Baxter’s Blitz, which appears in The State on Mondays and Thursdays, is written by Jim Baxter, the owner of scvarsity.com.