Biggest Trap Games for Every SEC East Team in 2014
A forgiving schedule makes a world of difference in the SEC, but teams that aren't expected to pose threats sometimes provide the biggest challenges.
Every team has them, and every team tries to avoid them.
What's the biggest trap game on the schedule for each SEC East team? Our picks are in this slideshow.
Florida Gators: at Vanderbilt on Nov. 8
Florida will be much better in 2014, and it's hard to imagine Vanderbilt—given the personnel and the coaching turnover—reaching the nine-win plateau for the third straight season. But when the Gators visit Nashville on Nov. 8, they'll be walking into a trap.
This game falls immediately after the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party versus Georgia and immediately before the SEC finale against South Carolina.
What will the Gators be at that point? The trip to Nashville comes at the end of a brutal five-game stretch that will see the Gators play at Alabama, at Tennessee, LSU, Missouri and Georgia over a seven-week span. At that point, Florida could be riding high and in the mix for the division. Or it could have thrown in the towel on the season (and its head coach). Or it could be pretty much anywhere in between.
Watch out for Vandy.
Georgia Bulldogs: at Arkansas (in Little Rock) on Oct. 18
Georgia's schedule is remarkably forgiving in 2014, with nearly every tough game preceded by either a bye week or a team Georgia should beat.
Watch out for that road trip to Arkansas on Oct. 18, though. No, Bret Bielema isn't going to engineer a remarkable turnaround from last season's 3-9 debacle, but the game comes at the tail end of a six-game stretch for the Bulldogs and immediately following a road trip to Missouri.
The silver lining for Georgia is that it's catching the Hogs immediately after Arkansas hosts Alabama. Teams are 7-11 the week after playing Alabama over the last three seasons, with only three of those wins coming over SEC teams.
Still, though, weird things happen in Little Rock. If Georgia doesn't take the Hogs seriously, that punishing running attack could do some damage.
Kentucky Wildcats: vs. Mississippi State on Oct. 25
The jury is still out on Mississippi State as a contender in the SEC West, but when the veteran-laden Bulldogs roll into Lexington to take on Kentucky, second-year coach Mark Stoops better be careful.
This game falls in the middle of a stretch of eight games in eight weeks for Kentucky and immediately after a road trip to Baton Rouge to take on the physical Tigers.
Meanwhile, Mississippi State has two weeks to dial up something for Stoops and Co.
Kentucky will be better in 2014, but so will just about every other team in the bottom half of the SEC. One of those teams is Mississippi State, which falls in a horrible spot on the Kentucky schedule.
Missouri Tigers: vs. Kentucky on Nov. 1
Missouri has quite a bit of roster attrition in key spots, but the schedule sets up well for the defending SEC East champs. In addition to new cross-division rival Arkansas to close the season, they draw former Big 12 foe Texas A&M in College Station—which is on Nov. 15, after a bye week. The Tigers also have a week off before hosting Georgia.
So where's the trap?
Kentucky at home on Nov. 1 could be interesting.
It's at the end of a four-game stretch versus Georgia, at Florida and versus Vanderbilt. At that point, Missouri may be under some pressure, and, unless something miraculous happens, Kentucky may be playing with nothing to lose. The Wildcats have two very good defensive ends in Za'Darius Smith and "Bud" Dupree, both of whom can put some pressure on quarterback Maty Mauk.
South Carolina Gamecocks: at Vanderbilt on Sept. 20
South Carolina has plenty of stars to replace, and it will know a lot about itself by the end of September. The Gamecocks get Texas A&M, Georgia and defending division champ Missouri all before September ends.
Between the Bulldogs and the Tigers, they travel to Nashville on Sept. 20 to take on Vanderbilt in a classic trap game. It's on the road, between two contenders on the schedule and against a team that may be looked down upon despite back-to-back nine-win seasons.
Vandy has a tune-up with UMass prior to hosting the Gamecocks, and I'm sure first-year head coach Derek Mason would like to make a splash in the division by springing an upset on one of the division title contenders in the season's first full month.
Tennessee Volunteers: vs. Utah State on Aug. 31
Tennessee is riding high after securing a star-studded recruiting class and seeing that class pay immediate dividends this spring, as running back Jalen Hurd and wide receiver Josh Malone showed they could make immediate impacts on Rocky Top.
Utah State wants to bring that momentum to a screeching halt.
Electric quarterback Chuckie Keeton, who was featured by my colleague Adam Kramer in early May, will return for the Aggies with a statement in mind. He and second-year head coach Matt Wells would like nothing more than to make a splash against the home-standing Vols on the SEC Network on the first Sunday of the season.
“This is a known name, and being able to play a program like Tennessee is a big deal,” Keeton told Kramer. “It’s also going to set the tone for our season. If we play well and get a win, it’s going to set a standard.”
Don't sleep on Utah State, Vols. It's a dangerous football team that is capable of springing the upset.
Vanderbilt Commodores: at Kentucky on Sept. 27
First-year Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason has his work cut out for him during the first half of the season. No, the season opener at home against Temple shouldn't be an issue. But after that, the 'Dores will take on Ole Miss and South Carolina and take a road trip to Georgia before their first bye week on Oct. 18.
Nestled between the Gamecocks and the Bulldogs is a road trip to Kentucky. Last year, these two met in one of the most offensively challenged games of the 2013 season. The 'Dores and the Wildcats essentially punted and turned the ball over for three quarters before Vandy pulled away for a 22-6 win.
That 'Dores defense will have just gone up against a Gamecocks squad that has four returning starters on the offensive line and a bowling ball for a running back in Mike Davis. That game will leave them beat up and vulnerable for the Wildcats, who will have two weeks to prepare.
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