Biggest Trap Game for Every Top 25 College Football Team in 2013

Randy ChambersAnalyst IAugust 21, 2013

Biggest Trap Game for Every Top 25 College Football Team in 2013

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    A trap game is the one contest on every team's schedule that is easy to overlook. Either the opponent is not impressive or the game precedes or follows a more highly publicized test against a marquee foe.

    It's tough for a powerhouse such as Alabama to wake up for a trip to Starkville to take on Mississippi State a week after its SEC showdown against LSU in Tuscaloosa. You really think Oregon wants to travel to Colorado?

    Some games simply don't motivate players, and that's when the opponent that everybody has counted out sets the trap.

    Note: Rankings are in order of the latest AP poll.

25. Oregon State

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    Matchup: At Cal

    When: Oct. 19

    Where: California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.

    Oregon State takes on Cal right before beginning a brutal stretch that includes Stanford, USC, at Arizona State, Washington and at Oregon. It's easy to see why the Beavers might overlook the Golden Bears, a team that only won three games last season.

    But Cal has a chance to be better than most expect.

    Sonny Dykes is a terrific head coach who will get the most out of his players. While it will take time for Cal to find the right pieces, this matchup will take place toward the latter part of the season. By then, Cal should have established a little consistency.

    Cal has lost six of the last eight meetings against Oregon State, but it does have a slight chance in this contest.

24. USC

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    Matchup: At Hawaii

    When: Aug. 29

    Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii

    Nearly all USC fans probably already have penciled in a victory against Hawaii. The Warriors have lost all six meetings against the Trojans, and only two of those games have been decided by fewer than than 29 points.

    Still, don't count the Warriors out just yet. This game is their Super Bowl, and they would love to shock the world. Do they have as much talent as USC? Absolutely not. Should USC win by 40-plus points? Yup.

    But who would have thought USC was going to lose to Georgia Tech 21-7 in the Hyundai Sun Bowl? USC also has to break in a new quarterback and has concerns in the secondary.

    The Trojans lost five of their last six games and fell apart before everyone's eyes. A road trip across the water could be a tricky season opener for USC.

23. Wisconsin

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    Matchup: At Minnesota

    When: Nov. 23

    Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn.

    Minnesota has lost the last nine meetings against Wisconsin, including a terrible 38-13 beating last season.

    Still, the Golden Gophers are coming off a solid 6-7 season and their first bowl appearance since 2009. That momentum should make them a scarier Big Ten opponent than before.

    Minnesota returns 10 starters on offense and six starters on a defense that includes potential breakout defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman. Work still needs to be done before Minnesota can become a contender, but it has the potential for a few upsets this season.

22. Northwestern

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    Matchup: Vs. Syracuse

    When: Sept. 7

    Where: Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.

    Northwestern battled for its life in last year's meeting, which produced more than 900 yards in a 42-41 Wildcats win. Just because Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib graduated doesn't mean this year's game will be any easier.

    In fact, Syracuse will be out to prove itself in its first season as a member of the ACC, and a victory over a rising Big Ten team would be a nice start to the season. The Orange return 1,000-yard rusher Jerome Smith and seven starters from a defense that produced 103 tackles for loss.

    Northwestern will be pumped up for the home opener, but it can't get too excited with a veteran Syracuse team as the opponent.

21. UCLA

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    Matchup: Vs. Colorado

    When: Nov. 2

    Where: Rose Bowl, Los Angeles, Calif.

    It's easy for any team to skip past Colorado, a team that hasn't qualified for a bowl since 2007 and is coming off a 1-11 season. But with new head coach Mike MacIntyre and 17 returning starters, t\the team has changes in store. 

    MacIntyre did a wonderful job of coaching San Jose State for three seasons and should have greater success with more talent in Colorado. The Buffaloes did little correct last season, but running back Christian Powell looked great as a freshman and defensive lineman Chidera Uzo-Diribe had seven sacks.

    This team has the pieces in place to surprise people.

    UCLA will play Colorado in between road games against Oregon and Arizona. This is a perfect trap game for the Bruins.

20. TCU

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    Matchup: At Kansas State 

    When: Nov. 16

    Where: Bill Snyder Family FB Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.

    A lot of folks won't give Kansas State enough respect because it has a lot of new faces. However, the talent in place will trip up a few teams that are not paying attention.

    Having only one returning defensive starter isn't wonderful news for the Wildcats, but that one starter is safety Ty Zimmerman, one of the team's better defenders.

    On offense, Jake Waters and Daniel Sams provide Kansas State with stability at quarterback, which should increase the effectiveness of potential game-changers Tyler Lockett, a wide receiver, and John Hubert, a running back.

    As a result, a road game at Kansas State won't be easy for the Horned Frogs.

19. Boise State

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    Matchup: Vs. Wyoming

    When: Nov. 16

    Where: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho

    Wyoming struggled to play a lick of defense, allowing 33.4 points per game last season. However, Brett Smith, one of the nation's better dual-threat quarterbacks, leads the offense. The junior completed 62.1 percent of his passes, threw for 27 touchdowns and rushed for an extra six TDs.

    A team always has a chance to win when it's led by a dangerous quarterback capable of taking over a game.

    Boise State knocked off Wyoming last season 45-14, but Smith did complete 68.6 percent of his passes and rushed for the Cowboys' only two scores. If the defense can improve just a little, Wyoming could be a BCS buster toward the end of the year.

18. Nebraska

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    Matchup: At Penn State

    When: Nov. 23

    Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.

    It isn't often that Penn State is considered a trap opponent, but with the sanctions continuing to squeeze the program, this is one of those years. Few people expect the Nittany Lions to win eight games like they did last season, but that doesn't mean Nebraska can expect a cakewalk.

    Winning in Happy Valley is never easy, and not all of the talent has left Penn State. Eight starters return on offense, and freshman Christian Hackenberg represents an upgrade at quarterback. The defense has major question marks, but this team will continue to play with a chip on its shoulder and won't give up anything easily.

    Penn State will be eager to snap its three-game losing streak to Nebraska.

17. Michigan

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    Matchup: At Connecticut

    When: Sept. 21

    Where: Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Conn.

    Michigan will be two weeks removed from its intense matchup against Notre Dame and looking forward to a bye week after a trip to Connecticut. Wait. A trip to where?

    Rentschler Field only holds 40,000 people, and the Huskies are mostly known for basketball. They actually have a football team? Yes, and they return 13 starters from a team that upset Louisville 23-20 last season.

    The Huskies don't do anything flashy, but they do a wonderful job of grinding out games and making it tough on their opponent. If Connecticut comes out swinging in front of its home crowd, this game could result in an upset.

16. Oklahoma

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    Matchup: Vs. TCU

    When: Oct. 5

    Where: Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.

    A true trap game is usually right in the middle of two high-profile matchups. That makes Oklahoma vs. TCU a game that should scare Sooners fans.

    Oklahoma will play TCU after a road trip to Notre Dame and before the annual rivalry against Texas. Good luck to Bob Stoops in trying to keep his team focused when it plays the Horned Frogs. TCU should be much more prepared in its second season in the Big 12. Its feisty defense returns nine starters, and the offense returns quarterback Casey Pachall.

    This game won't come easy for Oklahoma.

15. Texas

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    Matchup: At West Virginia

    When: Nov. 9

    Where: Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, W.Va.

    When comparing the depth charts, many would assume this game will be a blowout. West Virginia lost nearly every key player, while Texas returns 19 starters. 

    How will the Mountaineers replace quarterback Geno Smith and wide receiver Tavon Austin?


    By this late in the season, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen, a bright offensive mind, will have figured out the pieces. And with the game in Morgantown, he'll also have the support of a boisterous home crowd.

    It doesn't matter if West Virginia lost every starter from last year—Mountaineer Field gets loud and provides one of the best home atmospheres in college football.

    West Virginia is always tough to beat at home.

14. Notre Dame

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    Matchup: Vs. Arizona State

    When: Oct. 5

    Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

    Due to its strength of schedule, it's tough to pick a trap game for Notre Dame. Nearly every Irish opponent deserves attention and will be a tough out. 

    But one team that isn't getting enough respect is Arizona State.

    The Sun Devils have one of the best defenses in the Pac-12 and a solid offensive duo in quarterback Taylor Kelly and running back Marion Grice. They have a decent shot of winning their conference and will have an even better chance of knocking off Notre Dame on a neutral field.

    Arizona State could have its best season in program history.

13. Oklahoma State

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    Matchup: At Iowa State

    When: Oct. 26

    Where: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa

    Iowa State has built a reputation of being the trap team for everybody it plays. Often the overlooked team on the schedule, the Cyclones upset TCU last season, Oklahoma State in 2011 and Texas in 2010. It's become a trend that they will upset a ranked team each season.

    In fact, the 37-31 victory over Oklahoma State in double overtime prevented the Cowboys from participating in the BCS National Championship Game. 

    Iowa State only returns nine starters, but head coach Paul Rhoads leads a group of guys who won't back down and play with a chip on their shoulders. As usual, Oklahoma State needs to stay focused when it takes a trip to Jack Trice Stadium.

12. LSU

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    Matchup: Vs. Kent State

    When: Sept. 14

    Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.

    How will a revamped LSU defense look this season?

    We'll find out when Kent State comes to town.

    The Golden Flashes may not be much of a threat to LSU, but playmaker Dri Archer will cause headaches for the Tigers' defense. He's a poor man's De'Anthony Thomas and is more than capable of taking over a game. His quickness in the open field and pure speed could create matchup problems for LSU.

    Remember, the Tigers barely escaped with their lives against Towson (38-22) last season. Kent State is a better team with much better players. It upset Rutgers (35-23) and took Northern Illinois (44-37) to double overtime.

11. Florida State

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    Matchup: Vs. Nevada

    When: Sept. 14

    Where: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.

    It's best to catch a team that is still working on things in the beginning of the season. An opponent doesn't want to allow the team a few games to iron out the wrinkles.

    Florida State will have a new quarterback in Jameis Winston and a defense that must replace seven starters. Any respectable opponent early on could give Florida State problems.

    Nevada has one of the more underrated quarterbacks in Cody Fajardo and a pair of solid wide receivers in Brandon Wimberly and Richy Turner.

    The Seminoles have a history of losing to inferior opponents. The Wolf Pack fit the bill.

10. Florida

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    Matchup: Vs. Toledo

    When: Aug. 31

    Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.

    Nobody knows for sure how Florida is going to play this season. Will the offense continue to struggle? Can a young defense begin to click early? Will close games against lousy teams become routine? 

    With so many questions, the trap game is the season opener against a Toledo team that can score. After rushing for 1,498 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, running back David Fluellen returns as one of the best players in the Mid-American Conference. In addition, wide receiver Bernard Reedy caught 89 passes in his junior season for 1,105 yards.

    If Florida continues to struggle offensively, the Gators could be in for a devastating start to the season.

9. Louisville

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    Matchup: Everybody

    When: From Sept. 1 to Dec. 5

    Where: Home and Away

    The Cardinals are the only ranked team with an absolute joke of a schedule. To be fair, it's not their fault that the American Athletic Conference isn't up to par with the rest of the country, but right now no ranked teams are on tap this season.

    Louisville will be the favorite to win every game.

    The Cardinals are far and away the best team in the conference, return 15 starters and have one of the nation's best quarterbacks in Teddy Bridgewater.

    Being the overwhelming favorite makes every contest a trap game for Louisville.

8. Clemson

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    Matchup: At Maryland

    When: Oct. 26

    Where: Byrd Stadium, College Park, Md.

    Clemson will be fresh off a big-time matchup against Florida State that may determine who wins the ACC when it travels to Maryland. Clemson has won the last three meetings, including a 45-10 blowout last season.

    However, don't count out the Terrapins just yet. They had a ton of bad luck last season, as injuries sidelined several quarterbacks, preventing any consistent offensive production. With a healthy C.J. Brown at quarterback and a pair of playmaking wide receivers in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, there should be more stability this season.

    It will take a lot for Maryland to pull off the upset, but the home crowd may provide the spark that makes this game interesting.

7. Texas A&M

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    Matchup: Vs. Auburn

    When: Oct. 19

    Where: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas

    Depending how the Johnny Manziel saga plays out, every game could be a trap game for Texas A&M.

    But the matchup with Auburn seems the most likely to fit that description. The Tigers are a young team that doesn't have high expectations and will be looking to make a splash when it travels to Kyle Field. New head coach Gus Malzahn has Auburn moving in the right direction, and it should be a scary team by the time it takes on A&M, especially if quarterback Nick Marshall plays well.

    The most dangerous teams are the ones that have nothing to lose. That's Auburn.

6. South Carolina

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    Matchup: At Missouri

    When: Oct. 26

    Where: Faurot Field, Columbia, Mo.

    Missouri is going to be a dangerous team in the SEC this season. Not only are quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey returning from injury, but the defense returns five starters from the front seven.

    Because his dual-threat ability can take over a game, Franklin is a nightmare when healthy. Before suffering a knee injury, Josey rushed for 1,168 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. Those two players alone will improve last season's average of 25.8 points per game, but wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham should also improve in his second season.

    Missouri won't be the cakewalk it was last season, especially at home in Faurot Field.

5. Georgia

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    Matchup: At Vanderbilt

    When: Oct. 19

    Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.

    Georgia has won 17 of the last 18 meetings against Vanderbilt, including the last six in a row. While those numbers are staggering, it's safe to say that Vanderbilt continues to make strides for the better these days.

    The Commodores return 13 starters from a team that won nine games last season. That includes three starters on the offensive line, three in the secondary and one of the nation's top wide receivers in Jordan Matthews.

    The Bulldogs have shown the ability to come up small defensively, and the players could get caught looking ahead to a bye week after this road trip.

4. Stanford

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    Matchup: Vs. San Jose State

    When: Sept. 7

    Where: Stanford Stadium, Stanford, Calif.

    Could Stanford lose to an unranked non-BCS team to begin the season?

    It's unlikely, but don't be the person to rule it out.

    San Jose State is led by one of the top quarterbacks in the country in David Fales, who completed 72.5 percent of his passes and threw for 4,193 yards last season. Defensively, Travis Raciti is one of the top defensive linemen in the Mountain West Conference, and the secondary is led by Bené Benwikere, who intercepted seven passes as a junior.

    The Spartans will also have a warm-up game against Sacramento State before traveling to Stanford. The Cardinals can't afford to turn their attention to the Pac-12 just yet.

3. Oregon

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    Matchup: Vs. Tennessee

    When: Sept. 14

    Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.

    The first true test for Oregon will be when Tennessee comes to town.


    Yeah, isn't every SEC team a big deal these days?

    Tennessee may not be relevant to the rest of the country, but new head coach Butch Jones has plenty of talent at his disposal. The most impressive unit is the offensive line that returns four starters, including possible NFL prospects Ja'Wuan James and Antonio Richardson. The defense also returns eight starters, which should translate into a better performance than last year's average of 471 yards allowed per game.

    Sure, Oregon could steamroll Tennessee like it does most teams, but it won't be that easy.

2. Ohio State

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    Matchup: At Northwestern

    When: Oct. 5

    Where: Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.

    Don't believe the hype that Ohio State has a free pass to the Big Ten Championship Game. Northwestern is one team that will be eager to upset the Buckeyes.

    The Wildcats continue to make strides under head coach Pat Fitzgerald, and the latest step was a 10-3 finish last season. Northwestern also lost two of its three games by one possession, meaning that a bid to the conference title game could have happened with a little luck.

    Northwestern returns 15 starters, including experienced quarterbacks and team sack leader Tyler Scott (nine sacks).

    Ohio State had a few scares last season, and Northwestern is sure to provide one this year.

1. Alabama

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    Matchup: Vs. Virginia Tech

    When: Aug. 31

    Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.

    Can Virginia Tech earn a little respect for the season opener?

    It's almost as if the Hokies are a community college and haven't paid their dues over the years. Remove last year's 7-6 finish from your mind for a second and recall that head coach Frank Beamer has led the program to eight straight seasons of at least 10 victories.

    Sure, Nick Saban prepares his team for every detail of every game, but Beamer isn't too shabby and will also have his team ready. He also has quarterback Logan Thomas, who has NFL potential and can shred a defense when he finds his rhythm.

    While some are already drooling over the Alabama vs. Texas A&M matchup, they may want to give the season opener more thought.