Who thought Vanderbilt would upset Georgia in 2013?
Every year, some of college football’s biggest contenders drop games against teams they should have beaten.
These sort of occurrences are better known as trap games.
Each team pays special attention to the matchups against top conference foes and heated rivals. More often than not, the games against lesser talented opponents are forgotten or chalked up as automatic wins.
But things don’t always work out as planned.
Here are 25 of the biggest trap games for the 2014 college football season.
Davis (left) will have to be at the top of his game in this one.
Where/When: Vanderbilt Stadium (Nashville, Tenn.), Saturday, Sept. 20
South Carolina will have little time to get used to the inexperience on the roster.
The team opens up the season by hosting Texas A&M on Thursday in Week 1. That’s followed by home games against Georgia and Missouri in Weeks 3 and 5.
However, it’s the Week 4 matchup with Vanderbilt that could give the Gamecocks the most trouble.
Although the team returns eight players on offense, South Carolina will need to find a quarterback worthy of replacing Connor Shaw under center. On defense, the team will have holes left behind by the departures of defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles.
In the first road game of the season, expect the nerves to get to some of the new starters for the Gamecocks.
The Commodores may be going under some changes of their own, but you can never underestimate an SEC opponent playing on its home turf.
Fisher got his national title. Now, can he capture a win at NC State?
Where/When: Carter-Finley Stadium (Raleigh, N.C.), Saturday, Sept. 27
Yes, even defending national champions have trap games.
At first glance, the thought of mighty Florida State dropping a game to a North Carolina State squad that went 3-9 last season is laughable. Even more so when you consider that the Wolfpack lost both quarterbacks with starting experience.
Still, playing in Raleigh has been no picnic for the Seminoles.
The team has lost its last two games at NC State and three of the last four. In fact, head coach Jimbo Fisher has no experience of what it’s like to win at Carter-Finley Stadium.
With heralded quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston under center, Florida State should be fine.
But these kind of games have a way of becoming a problem.
Sumlin will have his work cut out for him in 2014.
Where/When: Davis Wade Stadium (Starkville, Miss.), Saturday, Oct. 4
This will be a trying season during head coach Kevin Sumlin’s tenure at Texas A&M.
After being able to rely on playmakers Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans over the past two seasons, the Aggies must find new resources for talent on offense. The team loses five starters on that side of the ball.
With inexperience on the roster, road games become a problem. And with a trip to Starkville right before a back-to-back against Ole Miss and Alabama, it’s safe to say Texas A&M could have its hands full against Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs are not short on talent and return most of their key starters. Quarterback Dak Prescott could easily pose a threat to an Aggies defense that ranked as one of the nation’s worst.
Sumlin would be wise to use the week off prior to this matchup to have his squad ready.
Halliday could be a problem for the Cardinal secondary.
Where/When: Stanford Stadium (Stanford, Calif.), Friday, Oct. 10
It’s odd for a home game to be considered a trap for most college football teams.
But that’s exactly the conundrum Stanford finds itself with its Week 7 matchup with Washington State.
The biggest problem for the Cardinal is that this game is sandwiched in between road games at Notre Dame and Arizona State. In fact, it’s the only home game for the team in a four-week stretch.
It certainly doesn’t help that the Cougars will once again boast one of the nation’s top passing attacks with quarterback Connor Halliday returning for his senior season. That’s an area the Stanford defense struggled in last season, finishing No. 98 against the pass (253.8 YPG).
The Cardinal would be wise not to let the comforts of playing at home lower their guard.
Hill's (right) return could be the undoing of USC.
Where/When: Arizona Stadium (Tucson, Ariz.), Saturday, Oct. 11
First-year head coach Steve Sarkisian has done a good job in building the hype for the new era at USC.
Judging by the schedule, he’ll have to prove the team’s worth early on. The Trojans will take on Fresno State, Stanford, Oregon State and Arizona State all within the first five games of the season.
That could make the sixth game—at Arizona—somewhat of a problem.
After such an early stretch, USC would be looking for an opportunity to rest. Given that the Wildcats only return 12 starters and will be without running back Ka’Deem Carey, nobody could blame the Trojans for attempting to take it easy in Week 7.
Unfortunately, that could be a big mistake.
Arizona will return dynamic wide receiver Austin Hill, who missed all of 2013 with an injury. The Corona, Calif., native hauled in 81 catches for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012.
That could prove to be the X-factor against USC.
Saban will have to be careful to avoid a road slip-up against Arkansas.
Where/When: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Ark.), Saturday, Oct. 11
This will be a trying season for head coach Nick Saban and Alabama, especially given that the team will be returning a total of just 12 starters.
The losses include three-year starting quarterback AJ McCarron and six starters on defense.
That inexperience could end up costing the Tide on the road against Arkansas.
The matchup with the Razorbacks will be the second of four road trips in the span of five games. While Alabama should get up for the first of those games—Ole Miss on Oct. 4—expect the team to take it easy versus Arkansas before facing Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU.
Helping the Razorbacks' cause is the fact that they return 15 starters. That list is led by running back Alex Collins, whom head coach Bret Bielema will likely run into the ground in this game.
If the Tide aren’t careful, the end of their dynasty could be punctuated with a premature exclamation point.
Prescott could make life tough for the Tigers.
Where/When: Davis Wade Stadium (Starkville, Miss.), Saturday, Oct. 11
Auburn’s schedule in 2014 is no cupcake.
A road trip to face Mississippi State could make that all the more evident.
In the three weeks prior to that game, the Tigers will travel to face upstart Kansas State before hosting LSU. After playing the Bulldogs, Auburn has a bye followed by games against South Carolina, at Ole Miss, versus Texas A&M and at Georgia.
It’s easy to see why the team could get caught trying to catch its breath against Mississippi State.
To make matters worse, the Bulldogs will be returning 16 starters—eight on each side of the ball—next season. That includes dynamic quarterback Dak Prescott and the majority of a defense that ranked No. 18 in total defense (349.3 YPG).
Things could get messy in a hurry if the Tigers aren't careful.
Can Swinney prevent a meltdown for the Tigers?
Where/When: Alumni Stadium (Chestnut Hill, Mass.), Saturday, Oct. 18
The 2014 season could be a rough one for Clemson, as the team loses six starters on offense.
That includes quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
But early matchups with Florida State and Georgia won’t be the team’s biggest issue. Instead, it could be a Week 8 date with Boston College.
Even at full strength, the Tigers had considerable trouble putting the Eagles away last season. It was a three-point game into the fourth quarter until Clemson scored a defensive touchdown to win 24-14.
This time around, with home field in its favor, Boston College could look to make a rebuilding year even more miserable for the Tigers.
Let’s hope head coach Dabo Swinney has his squad prepared.
Can Hundley and the Bruins figure out how to finally win at Cal?
Where/When: California Memorial Stadium (Berkeley, Calif.), Saturday, Oct. 18
No, you’re not reading this wrong. The team UCLA could slip up against is Cal.
Yes, the same team that finished 1-11 last season—and near the bottom of most statistical rankings—will give the Bruins trouble in 2014.
Prior to the matchup with the Bears, UCLA will play a pretty tough schedule. It’s a schedule that includes games against Texas, at Arizona State and versus Oregon (the week before Cal).
To make matters worse, the Bruins just can’t seem to win at California Memorial Stadium. The team has lost seven straight meetings on the road against the Bears dating back to 1998.
With Cal as bad as it is right now, that could be set to change…maybe.
The Iowa State coaching staff was not pleased with how things went the last time they played Texas.
Where/When: Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (Austin, Texas), Saturday, Oct. 18 (Week 8)
Who could forget the epic showdown Texas and Iowa State had last time they shared the field?
Last year in Ames, the game came down to the final minute. Quarterback Case McCoy plunged in for the touchdown with 51 seconds remaining to give the Longhorns the 31-30 win.
However, the Cyclones left feeling like they were robbed, having a controversial fumble recovery reversed.
With revenge on its mind, look for Iowa State to come into Austin motivated. It doesn’t help Texas’ case that the game is sandwiched in between games against Oklahoma and at Kansas State.
If head coach Charlie Strong wants to get his tenure with the Longhorns off to a good start, avoiding losing games such as this one has to be mandatory.
The Tigers better not let their guard down against the Wildcats.
Where/When: Tiger Stadium (Baton Rouge, La.), Saturday, Oct. 18
It’s always special when LSU and Kentucky get together.
Over the years, the two sides have had their fair share of exciting finishes. For the Tigers, it doesn’t get better than the Bluegrass Miracle of 2002, while the Wildcats look back fondly to their three-overtime upset win in 2007.
Unless LSU is careful, Kentucky could be celebrating another triumph in 2014.
After back-to-back road trips against Auburn and Florida, the Tigers will return home to face the Wildcats. But with a game against Ole Miss the following week, LSU could very well take Kentucky lightly.
Although the team finished 2-10 last season, head coach Mark Stoops has the Wildcats headed in the right direction.
It would be unwise for the Tigers to tempt Stoops to show them just how improved they are.
Bundrage will try to make life miserable for the Sooners secondary.
Where/When: Jack Trice Stadium (Ames, Iowa), Thursday, Oct. 30
Every year Oklahoma seems to lose a game it should have won.
In 2014, that could be a Thursday night road trip against Iowa State in Week 10.
The matchup with the Cyclones is at the tail end of a stretch of just one home contest in the span of five games for the Sooners. That includes tilts against TCU, Texas and Kansas State.
Did we mention that Iowa State’s offense might actually pack a punch next season?
The team is set to return a whopping 10 starters on offense. Aside from quarterback Sam Richardson and stud receiver Quenton Bundrage, the Cyclones will also welcome in 4-star receiver Allen Lazard.
On a Thursday night, with a frenzied home crowd for Iowa State, Oklahoma will have to be at its best to escape unscathed.
Can Brady Hoke and the Wolverines avoid a mental lapse at home?
Where/When: Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, Mich.), Saturday, Nov. 1
While it’s tempting to list Appalachian State here, you’d have to be foolish to believe that Michigan would give anything less than 150 percent for that game.
Instead, it will be the Week 10 matchup against Indiana that will doom the Wolverines.
The week before that matchup, Michigan will make the trip to Lansing to face Michigan State. It will be a game that will take up much of the team’s focus leading up to it.
Win or lose, the emotions from that game, paired with a Week 11 road trip to face Northwestern, could leave the team a little distracted.
If you recall, this is the same Hoosiers team that played the Wolverines tight in a shootout at Ann Arbor last season before eventually losing, 63-47. Of that team, 18 starters are set to return.
Expect Indiana to be better prepared and poised to catch Michigan napping.
Can the Wildcats get the better of the Cowboys in Week 10?
Where/When: Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium (Manhattan, Kan.), Saturday, Nov. 1
Oklahoma State’s November schedule is downright deadly in 2014.
The team hosts Texas while traveling to face Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma. All four of those teams will be expecting to compete for the Big 12 title.
However, it’s the game against the Wildcats that could trip the Cowboys up.
The final of three road trips in the span of four games, the matchup with Kansas State will leave Oklahoma State looking for a rest. The team’s bye is the next week, followed by the gauntlet of the Longhorns, Bears and Sooners.
By then, look for the Wildcats to once again be on their late-season surge. Meanwhile, the Cowboys could still be left figuring out how to replace the 28 seniors they lost from 2013.
Reynolds is a player to watch out for.
Where/When: FedEx Field (Landover, Md.), Saturday, Nov. 1
Notre Dame had its fair share of sluggish performances in 2013. That included a loss to Pittsburgh, 28-21, and a close call against Navy, 38-34.
Expect the Midshipmen to give the Irish an even better effort this time around.
Navy will return 15 starters in 2014. That group is headlined by dual-threat quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who is a potential dark-horse contender for the Heisman Trophy.
Throw in the fact that the game will be sandwiched in between road trips to Florida State and Arizona State and it’s not looking good for Notre Dame.
In one of their tougher schedules in quite some time, the Irish can’t afford a letdown.
Will Muschamp can't afford a setback against Vanderbilt.
Where/When: Vanderbilt Stadium (Nashville, Tenn.), Saturday, Nov. 8
After the disastrous season Florida had in 2013, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the team drop a winnable game.
That could happen during the Gators’ Week 11 clash with Vanderbilt.
In a five-game stretch from Sept. 20-Nov. 1, Florida will play games against Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Missouri and Georgia. That’s one heck of a schedule for any team.
Following the game against the Commodores, the Gators will host South Carolina.
Needless to say, it may be tough for Florida to stay focused on just Vanderbilt on Nov. 8.
Can Oregon avoid a meltdown against Utah?
Where/When: Rice-Eccles Stadium (Salt Lake City, Utah), Saturday, Nov. 8
Utah made waves in 2013 for taking down Pac-12 giant Stanford at home last season.
Can home-field advantage help the Utes reel in another conference giant this season?
Oregon’s early schedule is pretty tough. It features matchups with Michigan State (Week 2), at UCLA (Week 7) and against Stanford (Week 10).
But while the team’s full attention will be on these contests, the Ducks could wind up overlooking the Utes, a game that just so happens to fall the week right after the highly anticipated showdown with the Cardinal.
At 5-7 last year, Utah had a solid campaign. Aside from the victory over Stanford, the team nearly toppled Oregon State and Arizona State and came within a touchdown of the Bruins.
If Oregon isn’t careful, the Utes could pull off a significant late-season upset in the Pac-12.
Stoops has the Wildcats coming along well.
Where/When: Commonwealth Stadium (Lexington, Ky.), Saturday, Nov. 8
In another season full of high expectations, Georgia’s schedule is no joke.
During the 2014 season, the team will face off against the likes of Clemson, at South Carolina, at Missouri, Florida and Auburn. Games against Tennessee and at Arkansas can even be problematic.
But what about the Week 11 trip to Lexington to play Kentucky?
After the team’s 2-10 finish last season, it’s easy to not take the Wildcats seriously. However, head coach Mark Stoops has had a successful offseason, bringing in the No. 22 overall recruiting class, headlined by stealing 4-star defensive tackle Matt Elam from Alabama and Notre Dame.
It’s a good bet that Kentucky will have a much better season in 2014. And after coming off of two road games and the annual rivalry clash against the Gators, it’s possible that the Bulldogs may let their guard down.
That wouldn’t be a smart move.
Cobb could fuel a Minnesota upset.
Where/When: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, Minn.), Saturday, Nov. 15
Following a bye on Oct. 11, Ohio State will have a busy schedule the rest of the way, playing seven consecutive games.
That is especially true in November. The Buckeyes will play both at Michigan State and against Michigan in a four-week span.
But it might be another game in the month that could derail Ohio State.
Following the trip to Lansing, the Buckeyes will travel to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota. Given the hype surrounding the Spartans game, and with the Wolverines just three weeks away, it’s easy to see how Ohio State could suffer a letdown.
The Gophers will return 14 starters—seven on each side of the ball. That includes running back David Cobb and dual-threat quarterback Mitch Leidner.
If the Buckeyes aren’t careful, their undefeated regular-season run could come to an end against the unlikeliest of opponents.
The Terps will try to make their new conference mates fear the turtle.
Where/When: Byrd Stadium (College Park, Md.), Saturday, Nov. 15
Michigan State should be up to the task of handling top-notch teams such as Oregon, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.
However, it will be new Big Ten addition Maryland that could cause the Spartans problems.
Prior to facing the Terrapins, Michigan State will be coming off of back-to-back games against the Wolverines and Buckeyes. If the team wins those two games, it would essentially be in the clear for a spot in the Big Ten title game and a possible berth into the College Football Playoff.
Unfortunately, a momentary lapse could be the Spartans' downfall.
Playing in front of its home crowd, Maryland will come out motivated and ready to play. Not to mention, the team should finally be at full health and returning 17 starters from a year ago.
A win against the Spartans could be the highlight of what should be a bumpy first season in the Big Ten.
Mannion should torch the Sun Devils secondary.
Where/When: Reser Stadium (Corvallis, Ore.), Saturday, Nov. 15
Following an unexpected run to the Pac-12 title game, Arizona State will enter the 2014 season with high expectations. However, with only 10 returning starters—just three on defense—inexperience could get in the way of the Sun Devils’ surge.
That could be especially evident in a Week 12 trip to Corvallis to take on Oregon State.
With quarterback Sean Mannion returning for his senior season, the Beavers will have one of the nation’s best passers under center. Expect the team’s passing attack to pose problems for an Arizona State secondary that only returns one starter and is ranked No. 72 against the pass in 2013.
It certainly doesn’t help that the Sun Devils will be on the heels of a matchup with Notre Dame.
The Cornhuskers will lean on Abdullah to help carry them in 2014.
Where/When: Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.), Saturday, Nov. 22
Nebraska will be looking to improve after yet another nine-win season in 2013.
With only 11 starters returning, the task will be a lot more difficult this time around.
The schedule isn’t doing the Cornhuskers any favors. The team is slated to face Miami as well as road trips against Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa.
But the biggest issue for Nebraska could be a Week 13 matchup with Minnesota.
The Gophers are a lot better team than most people would give them credit for. With running back David Cobb and dual-threat quarterback Mitch Leidner returning, Minnesota will once again be a challenging opponent for anybody.
With the game sandwiched between those road games against the Badgers and Hawkeyes, it could be one the Cornhuskers let slip.
Jones has Tennessee poised to shock the SEC.
Where/When: Neyland Stadium (Knoxville, Tenn.), Saturday, Nov. 22
Missouri is coming off of one of its best seasons in quite some time. And although the team only returns nine starters in 2014, expectations still remain high.
But with inexperience and a tough schedule, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Tigers collapsed near the end of the season.
The likeliest of letdowns could happen in Week 13 against Tennessee.
Entering the 2014 season, the Vols will also have high expectations. The team returns some key playmakers and will welcome in the nation’s No. 7-ranked recruiting class.
Head coach Butch Jones gave Tennessee reason for excitement in his first year at the helm in 2013.
Now, it’s time for Jones and the Vols to back it up.
Can the Badgers eke out a victory in Hawkeyes territory?
Where/When: Kinnick Stadium (Iowa City, Iowa), Saturday, Nov. 22
Wisconsin will enjoy not having to face Ohio State and Michigan year after year. However, that doesn’t mean the team’s schedule will come without any bumps in the road.
One of those bumps could come in a November road trip to face Iowa.
The Badgers will recall a late-season collapse last year against Penn State. It was a game that cost them a chance at a BCS bowl.
This time around, a berth in the Big Ten title game could be up for grabs. And with eight returning starters on offense, the Hawkeyes have all of the pieces necessary to pull off the upset.
Can Wisconsin manage to stay composed?
Petty (left) and the Bears will have to get their head right for the Red Raiders.
Where/When: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas), Saturday, Nov. 29
Baylor just has a habit of having ridiculous late-season schedules.
That should most likely result in another early undefeated run for the Bears. But just like last year, expect the team to collapse near the finish line.
This time around, Texas Tech seems to be the most likely option.
In the final month of the season, Baylor will travel to face Oklahoma and play the Red Raiders in between home games against Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Simply put, it’s going to be tough sledding to close out the 2014 season.
But while games against the Sooners, Cowboys and Wildcats will be expected to be difficult, the Bears might be caught taking Texas Tech too easy.
Although the team loses a whopping seven starters on defense, head coach Kliff Kingsbury has shown he knows how to handle an offense. He’ll have eight starters returning on that side.
If Baylor isn’t careful, this could turn into another shootout they lose.