The Week 8 slate has arrived, and there's a lot to tackle.
Every team in The Times' coverage area — with the exception of Good Hope, which corralled a forfeit victory over Dora on Tuesday due to COVID-19 issues — is scheduled to play Friday night, and many of those contests will go a long way toward clearing up a foggy playoff picture.
What an exciting time, despite the impending cold weather. (I do not like cold weather, and the months I'm subjected to it crawl about as quickly a snail with a nagging hamstring injury.)
But enough of my shopworn bellyaching, we've got football games to discuss.
Before we begin talking, though, remember to cast your vote in "The People's Pick," a series of Twitter polls posted on my timeline (@winfreyjake) each and every Monday afternoon.
Class 2A, Region 5
% Cold Springs (4-3, 2-2) at Winston County (5-2, 3-1): The Eagles return to action following a bye week in which they recorded a forfeit victory over Midfield.
They'll now face off against the Yellow Jackets, who can earn a playoff spot with a win on Friday night.
Winston County leads the all-time series 6-2, but Cold Springs won last year's matchup 20-14 and will no doubt be looking to make it two in a row.
The Yellow Jackets, though, have been much better on defense this season, allowing only 15.8 points per (played) game compared to the Eagles' average of 35.7 — a sizable difference.
% My Pick: Winston County
% People's Pick: Winston County (71 percent — 94 votes)
Class 3A, Region 6
% Holly Pond (2-5, 1-4) at Susan Moore (2-5, 2-3): The Broncos, like Cold Springs above, are back this Friday night following a forfeit victory (Tarrant) last week.
Holly Pond has won two consecutive contests against the Bulldogs (36-20 in 2017 and 34-28 in 2016), but Susan Moore leads the all-time series 30-11.
Both teams have had trouble scoring this season, although the Bulldogs have faired slightly better.
I'll lean with the home squad here.
% My Pick: Susan Moore
% People's Pick: Susan Moore (61 percent — 100 votes)
% Oakman (5-2, 4-1) at Vinemont (4-3, 3-2): Here's the deal for the Eagles.
Vinemont needs just one more region win to secure its first postseason berth since 2014.
The Eagles will get their first chance on Friday night against the Wildcats, who lead the all-time series 2-0 and enter the matchup riding a three-game win streak.
Oakman's two losses this season have come against Winfield and Gordo, two pretty good programs.
Having said all that, Vinemont can certainly win this game.
But even if the Eagles fall short, I think they'll earn that playoff spot next week against Holly Pond.
% My Pick: Oakman
% People's Pick: Oakman (80 percent — 94 votes)
Class 4A, Region 6
% Hanceville (1-6, 1-4) at Ashville (2-5, 0-4): It's another — you guessed it — Battle of the Bulldogs.
Hanceville enters the matchup having dropped five straight games, while Ashville's two victories have come against programs (Oak Grove and St. Clair County) with a combined 2-12 mark.
I don't really have a good feel for this one.
However, if Hanceville can find a way to pull it out, it has a chance to close the season strong.
In the first-ever meeting between these schools, give me the road team by a hair.
% My Pick: Hanceville
% People's Pick: Hanceville (52 percent — 93 votes)
Class 5A, Region 7
% Douglas (3-4, 1-3) at West Point (2-5, 2-2): It's real simple for the Warriors.
A win over the Eagles, and they're in the playoffs for the fifth time in eight seasons under Don Farley.
I like the odds of that happening.
West Point leads the all-time series 6-0, including a 44-7 victory in the most recent meeting (2005) — yours truly was a junior at Douglas back then (has it been that long?) but didn't attend that particular game.
Additionally, the Warriors have won two straight following an 0-5 start, while the Eagles have dropped four straight following a 3-0 start.
Two teams going in two different directions.
Like Kurt Angle in the 2000 King of the Ring tournament, West Point wins.
% My Pick: West Point
% People's Pick: West Point (62 percent — 104 votes)
Class 6A, Region 8
% Cullman (6-1, 4-0) at Athens (5-2, 4-1): This has the potential to be the Game of the Week.
The Bearcats are coming off an unexpected bye, while the Golden Eagles dismantled Buckhorn 47-14.
Athens leads the all-time series 32-23-1 and won last year's meeting 31-17.
Additionally, the Golden Eagles' losses have come to 7A James Clemens and Muscle Shoals.
Cullman boasts the better defense, while Athens boasts the better offense — statistically speaking.
When it's too close to call, pick the home team.
However, don't be surprised if the defense leads Cullman to a crucial victory — one that could aid a potential region title.
% My Pick: Athens
% People's Pick: Cullman (72 percent — 139 votes)
% Addison (5-3) at Hamilton (3-5): The Bulldogs will step up in class to face the 4A Aggies.
It's the first meeting between these two schools.
Addison has won four of its past five games, while Hamilton has dropped four straight after a 3-1 start.
Those four losses, however, have come against programs (Northside, Walter Wellborn, Haleyville and Gordo) with a combined 23-5 record so far this season.
I think the Bulldogs will do enough to win this game, but it's definitely one to watch closely.
Like Lost, the greatest TV show of all-time.
% My Pick: Addison
% People's Pick: Addison (77 percent — 92 votes)
% Fairview (6-1) at Brewer (0-7): I'll keep this one short.
The Aggies are good, and the Patriots are ... not so good.
Brewer does lead the all-time series 13-11 and has claimed five straight wins over Fairview, including a 29-26 victory in 2005.
But none of that will matter on Friday night, and here's why.
The Patriots are surrendering 43.1 points per game defensively.
Parker Martin, Tyler Simmons and the rest of Fairview's high-powered offense should feast.
% My Pick: Fairview
% People's Pick: Fairview (95 percent — 98 votes)
% My Record: 42-10
% People's Record: 44-7-1