Even in the preseason, when football coaches are particularly cagey about discussing their team's prospects, a general consensus usually emerges about which squads will succeed and which will struggle.
That's not the case this year in the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division, where coaches are forecasting a completely wide-open season absent of any clear favorites or definite doormats.
"I don't think anyone in their right mind can predict the Ocean Division this year," longtime Aragon coach Steve Sell said. "I think this will be an extremely balanced league this year. I guarantee we won't see anyone go undefeated."
Because the top team from the Ocean Division annually is moved up to the historically more-competitive Bay Division, Burlingame, which dominated the league en route to an undefeated regular season, will not be returning, leaving big questions about which team will step up to replace the Panthers as favorites.
ARAGON (7-4, 3-2): With 120 kids in its football program, Aragon is always a contender in the PAL Ocean and returns its entire secondary from last year -- a huge asset in a league that continues to become more pass-oriented. Sell also brings most of his defensive and offensive line units from last season, as well as James Fononga, a dynamic tight end-linebacker.
SAN MATEO (3-7, 0-5): San Mateo, which finished 4-6 last season, returns two dynamic running backs in seniors Watson Filikitonga and Line Latu, who combined for over 1,000 yards rushing in 2013.
WOODSIDE (3-7, 3-2): Woodside, which tied for second with Aragon with a 3-2 league record last season, will rely on senior quarterback Robert Tang, a first-team All-PAL Ocean pick who tossed 13 touchdown passes last season, and his backfield mate David Teu, who gained 977 yards on the ground.
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO (3-7, 0-5): After finishing last in the Bay Division in 2013, South San Francisco swaps places with Burlingame, but first-year coach Jay Oca has a veteran team coming back, led by Terrell Townsend, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound left tackle-defensive end who is drawing plenty of interest from Division I teams. Townsend garnered the Ocean Division's Lineman of the Year award as a sophomore in 2012.
HILLSDALE (7-4, 5-0): Hillsdale is returning to the Ocean Division on a high after going undefeated in the PAL Lake Division last season.
HALF MOON BAY (3-7, 2-3): Half Moon Bay will look to get back to its traditional spot among the conference's top teams after rare back-to-back losing seasons.
"The league is going to be very tough," Oca said. "There will be no gimme games this season. Every team in this league will be capable of beating the team they're playing that day."
San Mateo coach Jeff Scheller said the parity in the PAL Ocean will certainly make each week's slate of games interesting.
"Any team in the PAL Ocean could win this league," Scheller said. "The games are going to be competitive, they're going to be well-coached, and they're going to be a grind. But it's gonna be fun."