Five things to watch for in Saturday's Burger King State Champions Bowl Series

Booker T. Washington RB running back Mark Walton. / 247Sports

Booker T. Washington RB running back Mark Walton. / 247Sports

Five things to watch for in Saturday’s Burger King State Champions Bowl Series in Boca Raton. The event has three games involving state football champions on ESPNU: No. 22 Eastside Catholic (Sammamish, Wash.) vs. Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) at noon; No. 15 Bothell, Washington, vs. No. 6 Miami Central at 4 p.m.; and No. 8 Bingham (South Jordan, Utah) vs. No. 4 Booker T. Washington (Miami) at 8 p.m.

There may be a talent advantage for the Florida teams

This isn’t a big shock, since Florida is No. 2 in the nation in players who go on to the NFL, but the three teams from Florida have the more heavily recruited athletes. Only one of the three West Coast teams, Eastside Catholic, even has a player ranked in the ESPN 300: running back Brandon Wellington, who has committed to Washington and is listed No. 240. Trinity Christian, on the other hand, has five players in the ESPN 300, led by No. 6 Kevin Tolliver II, who has committed to LSU and was an American Family Insurance ALL-USA first team cornerback. Miami Central wide receiver Da’Vante Phillips is listed as No. 58 and Booker T. Washington has four ESPN 300 players, led by No. 75 Devonaire Clarington.

MORE: Burger King State Champions Bowl Series: The Players to Watch

Of course, just pure top-end talent isn’t as important in football as overall depth. Bingham gave the nation’s No. 1 team, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) a major scare before losing 23-20 in overtime.

Can the Miners win one more for their coach?

Bingham coach Dave Peck announced earlier this month that he would be retiring at the end of the season. In 15 years, Peck won five state titles and had a record of 154-37. His overall record at three different high schools is 181-70. The Miners’ next coach will be the team’s longtime offensive coordinator, John Lambourne. Bingham could get an emotional lift because they want to send Peck out on a winning note.

MORE: Q&A with ESPNU’s Craig Haubert on Burger King champions series, who to watch and more

How big is the home-state edge?

It’s never easy to travel 3,000 miles to play a football game. However, the effects of jet lag are less on teams from the West traveling East, than vice-versa, according to several studies. But there are other factors to figure in besides jet lag. The high temperature for Saturday in Boca Raton is expected to be 82, not especially hot, but a little warm if you are leaving for Salt Lake (high of 25 on Wednesday) or the Seattle area (high of 41 on Wednesday).

Will players, coaches treat these as all-star games?

One downside of national high school all-star games is it doesn’t matter that much who wins. It’s all about looking good and not getting hurt. One person (not me) who puts together national football rankings wondered on Twitter if players, many of whom will be enrolling early in college in a week or so, would play that hard since they’ve already won state titles. While it is hard to get in the heads of individual football players, the outcome of the games will affect national rankings and bragging rights and all of these teams got here by playing with a lot of pride. Plus, most of the players on the teams have not yet committed to a college and this is a national tryout of sorts.

Unlike the national all-star games next week, no hat dances are planned.

Event organizers say, that unlike the Under Armour All-America High School Football Game and U.S. Army All American Bowl, players are not being encouraged to announce their college choices at the Burger King State Champions Bowl Series. However, the lure of TV is strong, so don’t be surprised if a player pulls out a hat or other symbol of their future college choice after making a touchdown, sack or whatever.

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