GRIDIRON GUESSES: Football’s back, and so are our guesses

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Five of the area’s eight — whoops, make that seven — high school football teams kick off their seasons this week.

Only Timberlake and Lakeside will wait a week before making their season debuts.

Kootenai, a 1A Division II team and a one-time perennial power in the North Star League, announced last week it was canceling its season due to low turnout.

Hopefully that’s not a sign of things to come with the smaller schools.

With that said, welcome to Year 3 of Gridiron Guesses.

HIGH SCHOOL

All games Friday at 7 p.m. except where noted

Rigby at Coeur d’Alene

NELKE: Coeur d’Alene had to rally to win 29-26 at Rigby in last year’s opener. Rigby finished 4-5, failing to make the playoffs. Coeur d’Alene won its first nine games last year before losing at eventual state champion Rocky Mountain in the semifinals. The Vikings are breaking in a new quarterback, and several others will have increased roles. But Cd’A has reloaded before.

Coeur d’Alene, 36-13

ELLIOTT: The names and faces might have changed, but the overall plan and goal has not for the Vikings.

Coeur d’Alene, 44-20

Sandpoint at Post Falls

NELKE: Post Falls beat the Bulldogs 34-7 in last year’s opener, moved to Post Falls due to poor air quality in Sandpoint. Both teams made their respective playoffs last year, a bit of surprise for the Trojans considering their youth. Most of the key players are back. Sandpoint could be better, too, in Year 2 under coach Ryan Knowles, a former Bulldog star.

Post Falls, 41-13

ELLIOTT: Post Falls was pretty good offensively late in the season last year. With the starting running back, quarterback and almost everyone else ...

Post Falls, 38-17

St. Maries at Kellogg

NELKE: St. Maries, a 2A team, has beaten 3A Kellogg seven straight times, part of the Lumberjacks’ dominance over the Intermountain League.

St. Maries, 42-20

ELLIOTT: Both teams advanced to the playoffs last year. St. Maries might be a little further along than Kellogg this week.

St. Maries, 28-20

Lake City at Madison, 6 p.m.

NELKE: The Timberwolves get to help the Bobcats open their new $8.8 million football stadium on their campus in Rexburg. There’s no track around this artificial turf football field; the track is right next to the football stadium, with its own bleachers. Madison won 42-6 at Lake City in last year’s opener, and went on to finish 7-4, losing to Rocky Mountain in the 5A quarterfinals. Lake City went 3-6 last year, but has had a full offseason this year under second-year head coach Brian Fulp.

Madison, 42-19

ELLIOTT: Lake City will improve this season in Fulp’s second season. But those bus trips can be brutal.

Madison, 42-6

Lakeland vs. Blackfoot at Holt Arena, Pocatello

Saturday, noon

NELKE: Lakeland returns several experienced players from last year’s 3-5 squad that missed the playoffs. Kudos to the Hawks for taking on a tough opponent (and a long road trip) for its opener. The Broncos finished 4-6 last year, losing at Middleton in the first round of the 4A playoffs. This could be a good springboard game for Lakeland.

Lakeland, 34-28

ELLIOTT: Lakeland played a lot of close games last season, and were just a late score from beating Moscow to advance to the playoffs.

Blackfoot, 28-27

COLLEGE

Idaho at Penn State

Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

NELKE: Penn State says it will honor its contract and pay Idaho the full $1.45 million for this game — an agreement signed when the Vandals were still an FBS school.

Penn State, 52-21

ELLIOTT: In the Vandals media release, it mentioned this could be the largest crowd the team has played in front of at 106,572. No pressure guys.

Penn State, 56-20

New Mexico State at Washington State

Saturday, 7 p.m.

NELKE: Like Idaho, New Mexico State was kicked out of the Sun Belt Conference in football following the 2017 season. Unlike Idaho, New Mexico State opted to remain in FBS, as an independent, hoping to eventually wind up in a conference. The Aggies went 3-9 last year, with wins over UTEP, Liberty and Alcorn State.

WSU, 56-14

ELLIOTT: Washington State might start a little slow after replacing Gardner Minshew, the projected backup quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars behind Nick Foles. It won’t matter in Pullman.

WSU, 55-10

Boise State vs. Florida State (at Jacksonville, Fla.)

Saturday, 4 p.m.

NELKE: Here’s a chance for Boise State to add to FSU’s recent misery. The Broncos, however, are starting a true freshman quarterback, and the Seminoles should still have talent superior to most (if not all other) Mountain West school.

Florida State, 35-27

ELLIOTT: Boise State didn’t get a chance to play its final game of the season last year in Texas due to severe weather. If they get it in before Hurricane Dorian hits ...

Boise State, 31-28

Eastern Washington at Washington

Saturday, noon

NELKE: EWU put a scare into the Huskies in 2015 and in 2011, losing by a touchdown four years ago and by three points in ’11. The Huskies are a better program these days than they were back then, but so are the Eags, so the possibility of an upset still lingers.

UW, 49-42

ELLIOTT: Washington should win this game with Jacob Eason making his debut after transferring from Georgia. If he doesn’t, it could go a long way in telling you everything what you want to know about Eastern Washington going forward.

UW, 44-38

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