For the third year in a row, staff writers Jim Paulsen and David La Vaque square off in predicting key metro-area football games. Jim got a jump on David during Zero Week, taking a 3-1 lead thanks to some last-minute heroics by Hopkins quarterback J.T. DenHartog. Thursday's picks include a first-time occurrence: They actually agree on a game.
Eden Prairie at Champlin Park, 7 p.m.
Jim says: The timing is perfect for Champlin Park to upset the defending Prep Bowl champion: First game of the season, at home, talented and hungry team looking to prove itself. Pick: Champlin Park 20, Eden Prairie 14
David says: The Rebels are a fashionable pick to rise up and challenge but high school football is Eden Prairie's world. Several members of a smothering defense return to shut people down. Pick: Eden Prairie 28, Champlin Park 13
Lakeville North at Lakeville South, 7 p.m.
Jim says: Unlike 2011, the Panthers aren't flying below the radar. With their fast and physical defense, they don't need to. In a rivalry game, no chance of a letdown. Pick: Lakeville North 26, Lakeville South 13
David says: Lakeville North has questions to answer on offense. And Lakeville South is a rival capable of anything. But the Panthers should be favored until proven otherwise. Pick: Lakeville North 20, Lakeville South 7
Centennial at Osseo, 7 p.m.
Jim says: Season openers are full of unknowns, so it makes good sense to stick with the basics, like a sound ground attack. Osseo features one of the metro's best running backs in Bridge Tusler. Pick: Osseo 28, Centennial 20
David says: Centennial scored an upset in this game last season. This time around the Cougars and their potent offense are the favorites, especially against a rebuilt Osseo defense. Pick: Centennial 22, Osseo 14