Top seeds: North Allegheny (9-0) first, Gateway (8-1) second, Upper St. Clair (8-1) third and Seneca Valley (8-1) fourth.
The winner will be: North Allegheny. It's hard to go against a team that has won 25 in a row against WPIAL competition and already owns a 14-3 road victory against No. 2 seed Gateway. Do the Tigers lack anything? They have a strong passing game, a more-than-adequate running game, a staunch defense and some star power in players such as lineman Pat Kugler (Michigan recruit) and quarterback Mack Leftwich. The best hope for opposing teams is to control the Tigers running game and hope Leftwich has an off day throwing.
On the rise: Seneca Valley. The Raiders offense is one of the best in Class AAAA and the defense is good enough to make a playoff run. The team's only loss was to North Allegheny, but Seneca Valley was tied with the Tigers, 3-3, midway through the second quarter before the avalanche hit.
The scoop: Don't overlook Upper St. Clair or Mt. Lebanon. Upper St. Clair Jim Render has a good track record in the playoffs. Mt. Lebanon's Tyler Roth has turned into one of the WPIAL's top quarterbacks. ... When Gateway lost to North Allegheny this season, Gateway coach Terry Smith said afterward he planned on getting to Heinz Field and maybe meeting the Tigers again. ... Bethel Park could be a sleeper team, but don't forget about Central Catholic or Woodland Hills. If either Woodland Hills or Central Catholic has its running game going, they will be tough to beat. ... Best first-round games are Bethel Park at McKeesport, North Hills at Woodland Hills and Central Catholic at Penn-Trafford. Bethel Park knocked off McKeesport in the first round two years ago. ... An interesting coaching matchup in North Hills vs. Woodland Hills. North Hills' Jack McCurry and Woodland Hills' George Novak have 546 wins between them. ... A possible quarterfinal matchup that would be interesting is Central Catholic vs. Upper St. Clair.
Top seeds: Thomas Jefferson (9-0) first, Mars (8-1) second, Central Valley (7-2) third and West Allegheny (8-1) fourth.
The winner will be: Montour. This is a hard one to pick because there are five or six teams that might have a legitimate chance at winning it all. It's hard not pick Thomas Jefferson, but Montour is as good as anyone. Montour's lack of a standout running back could be an issue at some point in the postseason. The Spartans' leading rusher is Devin Wilson, who also doubles as a receiver.
On the rise: Mars. Maybe the 21-0 loss to Knoch should be considered a hiccup. Otherwise, the Planets were terrific. But is Mars' passing game good enough if someone shuts down the run like Knoch did against the Planets?
The scoop: Although Thomas Jefferson quarterback Joe Carroll threw 33 touchdown passes in nine regular-season games, coach Bill Cherpak said the ticket to Heinz Field is earned by running the football successfully in the playoffs. How true. ... Don't discount West Mifflin. Remember, the Titans were undefeated until the loss to Thomas Jefferson in the regular-season finale. Running back Jim Wheeler could carry West Mifflin far. ... At least one team from the Parkway Conference has made the title game the past six seasons. ... Besides Mars, look for some other Greater Allegheny Conference team to make some noise. ... Very interesting first-round matchup is Blackhawk at Mars. The Blackhawk offense is potent with QB Chandler Kincade and RB Cole Chiappialle. But can the Cougars defense stop anyone? ... Likely second-round matchup is West Allegheny vs. Montour. West Allegheny won the first meeting, 5-3.
Top seeds: Aliquippa (9-0) first, South Fayette (9-0) second, Washington (9-0) third and Jeannette (8-1) fourth.
The winner will be: Aliquippa. Picking between the Quips and South Fayette might be worth a coin toss. Both dominated in the regular season and both are capable of winning state titles. If the two get to the championship, Aliquippa's defensive backs and their ability to cover the pass might be the difference in the game.
On the rise: Washington. Many are looking forward to an Aliquippa-South Fayette title game, but Washington might have something to say about that. Junior running back Shai McKenzie led the WPIAL in rushing and, over the years, there have been countless stories of one star running back leading his team to a title game.
The scoop: No one can match South Fayette's passing game. Quarterback Brett Brumbaugh is one reason, but what makes the Lions so tough to stop is their group of outstanding receivers and also their sense or urgency on offense. What will happen to the passing game, though, in bad weather? ... Is Beaver a sleeper? The Bobcats have only one loss to Aliquippa. ... Don't discount Jeannette. The Jayhawks are playoff-tested (in the title game a year ago) and only a blocked punt against Washington kept the Jayhawks from being undefeated and the probable No. 3 seed. ... The Allegheny Conference didn't get much respect from the WPIAL. The top two teams -- Freeport and Burrell -- are seeded 7 and 8.
Top seeds: Clairton (9-0) first, Sto-Rox (8-1) second, Rochester (8-1) third and Jefferson-Morgan (7-2) fourth.
The winner will be: Clairton. Well, duh. How can anyone pick against a three-time defending champion that has won 56 games in a row? Here is what you need to have a chance against Clairton: Horrible weather and at least four Clairton turnovers.
On the rise: Neshannock. The Lancers tied for the Big Seven Conference championship with Sto-Rox and Rochester, but finished third because of tiebreakers. But Neshannock is the only team to beat Sto-Rox and also played Rochester close. The Lancers might not be good enough to win it all, but they could win a few playoff games.
The scoop: The impressive victory at Rochester last Friday vaulted Sto-Rox into the No. 2 seed. A loss to Rochester would have left the Vikings seeded probably anywhere from nine to 12. ... Despite the loss to Sto-Rox, don't overlook Rochester. The Rams are still good enough to get to the semifinals, but that is where they will likely have to meet Clairton. ... The Tri-County South has an 8-1 team (Beth-Center) and three 7-2 teams (Jefferson-Morgan, Carmichaels and Frazier). But will the conference will win a playoff game? ... Brentwood vs. Springdale is an excellent first-round matchup. Springdale's Sean Dugan reached 4,000 career yards rushing last week.