NCAA Football Rankings 2012: Teams That Must Avoid Losses in Trap Games

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIOctober 8, 2012

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 06:  Mike Gillislee #23 of the Florida Gators runs for yardage during the game against the LSU Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on October 6, 2012 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Trap games have been argued to be a media-manufactured myth, but in NCAA football there tends to be an ample supply of strange circumstances to cause a team near the top of the rankings to falter in shocking fashion.

Since 2012 is allegedly the year of the apocalypse, such odd occurrences and imbalance in the college football order should be monitored with even greater expectation than usual.

Here are some of the top-ranked teams in the latest AP poll that must avoid road letdowns in relatively "easy" games sandwiched in the middle of intense conference play against other ranked opponents.


No. 4 Florida Gators at Vanderbilt Commodores

What a stretch for Will Muschamp's program. The former Texas defensive coordinator has instilled his defensive philosophy and has turned the Gators into a hard-nosed, well-coached team.

The victory at home over then-No. 4 LSU this past weekend was definitely his biggest win, and this Gator team is exceeding all expectations after being ranked 23rd in the preseason. All that momentum could be thwarted with a trip to Tennessee to take on the Commodores.

Jordan Rodgers isn't exactly on par with his brother Aaron, but he is a serviceable SEC quarterback capable of running a balanced, conservative offense for Vandy. That said, the Gators are only giving up 11.4 points per game, which is sixth best in the nation, and the Commodores aren't particularly explosive.

A massive game against the Gamecocks follows this one for Florida. They must take care of business at Vanderbilt, where South Carolina squeaked out a four-point victory in Week 1. That proves the Commodores can rise to the occasion, meaning the Gators can't afford to come out flat in what should be a lower-scoring affair.


No. 6 Kansas State Wildcats at Iowa State Cyclones

The Cyclones are psyched after knocking off previously 15th-ranked TCU on the road, who were without suspended starting quarterback Casey Pachall.

Saturday's matchup against the Wildcats will be Iowa State's biggest home game of the year, and a win for the Cyclones would even up the conference standings.

A huge game with national championship ramifications follows this one for Kansas State, when the Wildcats travel to Morgantown to take on No. 5 West Virginia and Heisman front-runner Geno Smith. Iowa State is just outside the Top 25 in the AP, so it should not be overlooked.

Comparatively speaking, though, this one could be dangerous. Sophomore QB Jared Barnett made his first start of the season last week, and his confidence is sky high after burning the Horned Frogs for three touchdowns.

Senior Collin Klein will have to make sure his team is up for the game, and he must continue to make good decisions throwing the football. His dual-threat capability should be enough to get the Wildcats by on the road, but much crazier things have happened.


No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes at Indiana Hoosiers

Sophomore sensation Braxton Miller has placed himself squarely in the Heisman debate with his special dual-threat capabilities at the quarterback position.

Indiana has its own stellar second-year signal-caller in Cameron Coffman, who played a mistake-free game at home against a difficult Michigan State defense. In fact, the Spartans had to rally with 14 unanswered fourth-quarter points to escape with a 31-27 win.

MSU may not be ranked, but it gave Ohio State its toughest game of the year, ultimately falling short by a point.

While Miller may be able to shake loose against the Hoosier defense, his running backs may not be so lucky. Spartans stud running back Le'Veon Bell was held to 3.3 yards per carry last week.

Urban Meyer's team isn't bowl-eligible this season, but it is still in the running for a Big Ten title and an undefeated campaign. Don't be surprised if this frisky Indiana team puts the Buckeyes on upset alert.