Editor's note: ESPN will release the ESPN RISE FAB 50 national football rankings to start each week of the regular season. The rankings combine three previously independent polls and are compiled by a panel of voters, including Doug Huff (Wheeling, W.Va.), Jon Mahoney (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Sheldon Shealer (Myersville, Md.), Brian Stumpf (Torrance, Calif.) and Mark Tennis (Stockton, Calif.). Kynon Codrington, Christopher Lawlor, Mike Loveday, Bob Masajo and Paul Muyskens also contributed to the poll.
One of the best aspects of releasing the ESPN RISE FAB 50 each week is introducing the nation to a football program like Grayson County High of Loganville, Ga.
Few people outside the greater Atlanta area had heard of the Rams before Grayson knocked off FAB 50 No. 3 Lowndes County (Valdosta, Ga.), 17-7, Friday night in the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
Grayson is a relatively new school -- not even 10 years old -- and plays in a very strong region within Georgia football. Even though the Rams were unbeaten this year entering the playoffs, they were still looking to get over the hump and beat a perennial power. Grayson began answering critics' questions two weeks ago by defeating Brookwood, 10-7, and followed that performance with the win against Lowndes. In four previous state playoff meetings against Brookwood, Grayson County had gone 0-4.
Diminutive 5-foot-3 running Ean Pemberton led a punishing, clock-eating ground attack against Lowndes with 188 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
The defeat ended Lowndes' attempt to win back-to-back state titles and its fourth title in five years.
With the win, Grayson jumped to No. 27 in this week's FAB 50. With the loss, Lowndes nearly dropped out entirely, but received enough votes to land at No. 41.
With still three weeks left in the season, the race for the final No. 1 national ranking could come down to Trinity (Euless, Texas) and St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla). Both teams, if they continue to win, would play for their respective state championships on the same weekend (Dec. 19-20).
St. Thomas Aquinas could face FAB 50 No. 13 Lakeland in the Class 5A championship, but would not play FAB 50 No. 3 Armwood, which is in Class 4A.
Armwood's toughest test in its state playoff bracket, in fact, might come this week against Tampa-Orlando rival Plant.
In addition to Grayson County, we welcome three other newcomers to the FAB 50, highlighted by No. 48 Trinity (Louisville, Ky.). This week, the Shamrocks take on archrival St. Xavier (Louisville), which is unbeaten and has been in the top 10 of the FAB 50 for several weeks, in the Kentucky state title game at Papa John's Stadium. St. Xavier won the regular season matchup between the two, 30-6, but anyone who follows this rivalry knows that anything can happen when these teams get together.
Results as of Nov. 29.
Also Receiving Votes: Grant (Sacramento, Calif.) 11-0, Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.) 11-1, Lake Oswego (Lake Oswego, Ore.) 12-0, Longview (Longview, Texas) 11-2**, Lutheran (Orange, Calif.) 10-2, Oakton (Vienna, Va.) 13-1*, Timpview (Provo, Utah) 14-0*.
Dropped Out: : Previous No. 20 Stone Bridge (Ashburn, Va.); No. 21 Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, Calif.); No. 49 State College (State College, Pa.); No. 50 Oakton (Vienna, Va.).
*Ties in points are broken according to which team was ranked higher by a majority of panelists. Asterisk by win-loss record indicates season is complete.