Biggest Trap Game for Every SEC West Team in 2014
On Friday, we touched on the trap games for SEC East teams to keep an eye on during the 2014 season. Now, it's time to head west.
Six SEC West teams have played for the national title over the last five seasons, but it wasn't without some speed bumps. Three of those teams had losses and survived several other near-misses along the way.
Where's the biggest trap game for each SEC West team? Our picks are in this slideshow.
Alabama Crimson Tide: At Tennessee on Oct. 25
The Third Saturday in October (which actually is the fourth nowadays) rivalry between Alabama and Tennessee shouldn't typically be considered a trap game for the Crimson Tide. But this year it is.
It comes at the tail end of a four-game stretch for the Crimson Tide that features games at Ole Miss and Arkansas and immediately follows the first visit from Texas A&M since former Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel had his "Heisman moment" in Tuscaloosa in 2012.
Alabama has outscored Tennessee 167-39 over the last four years, but Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has stockpiled plenty of talent at the skill positions on offense. If the Vols can get consistent quarterback play, they absolutely have the ability to jump on opponents early.
The Crimson Tide certainly have the ability to dig themselves out of a hole, but doing so on the road in a hostile environment wouldn't exactly be the ideal situation.
Arkansas Razorbacks: Vs. Northern Illinois on Sept. 20
Arkansas' schedules does it no favors in 2014, and even some of the perceived cupcakes could present challenges to the Razorbacks—particularly the visit from Northern Illinois September 20.
It comes the week following a road trip to Texas Tech against head coach Kliff Kingsbury's high-flying offense and before the trip to North Texas to take on Texas A&M in JerryWorld. After visiting the Red Raiders and the up-tempo Auburn Tigers to start the season, the Arkansas defense could be spent.
It better watch out, because Northern Illinois is no joke. It's compiled a 35-7 record over the last three seasons, won two MAC titles and took an undefeated record into last season's conference title game before falling to Bowling Green.
No, quarterback Jordan Lynch isn't there anymore. But this team returns 15 starters, according to Phil Steele, isn't intimidated by bigger games and is catching Arkansas at a good time.
Look out, Hogs.
Auburn Tigers: At Mississippi State on Oct. 11
Auburn isn't going to sneak up on anybody this season, and from October 25 on, the Tigers' schedule is downright brutal. Before then, there are a few traps.
One to look out for is Oct. 11 at Mississippi State.
The Tigers needed a last-minute touchdown pass from Nick Marshall to tight end C.J. Uzomah to topple the Bulldogs on the Plains last year, and now they have to travel to Starkville to take on a Mississippi State team that returns a ton of pieces on both sides of the ball.
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has all offseason to work with quarterback Dak Prescott, the SEC's leading returning receiver in Jameon Lewis to rely on, an underrated running back in Josh Robinson and a veteran defense to help him try to lead his team into contention in the SEC West.
This game falls at a bad time for Auburn—after the visit from the always-physical LSU and at the tail end of a four-game stretch that also sends the team out to the Little Apple to take on Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas.
Mississippi State's defense is tough, and if Auburn isn't prepared, the Bulldogs can absolutely spring the upset.
LSU Tigers: At Arkansas on Nov. 15
Weird things happen in the LSU/Arkansas rivalry, and even though the two won't play at the end of the season anymore, it's still a rivalry that embraces the weird.
The 2014 season will be no different.
The Tigers travel to Fayetteville the week after their showdown in Baton Rouge with Alabama, while Arkansas has two weeks to prepare for its neighbors to the south. It's fair to assume that Alabama will try to punch LSU in the mouth, which is exactly what Arkansas' game plan will be.
Will the Tigers be tired? Will they be on cloud nine after beating Alabama? Will they be dejected after losing? All are reasonable possibilities and put the Tigers in a tough spot against the physical Hogs.
Mississippi State Bulldogs: Vs. Vanderbilt on Nov. 22
With 16 starters returning off of a team that won three straight to close the year, Mississippi State could take the next step and make things interesting in the SEC West this season. For that to happen, though, it has to take every opponent seriously.
Vanderbilt on Nov. 22 is one spot where Mississippi State could get caught looking ahead.
That game falls after a trip to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama and before the annual Egg Bowl with Ole Miss. SEC teams are 7-11 the week after playing Alabama over the last three seasons, with only three of those wins coming against SEC competition.
Watch out for Vanderbilt.
Ole Miss Rebels: Vs. Tennessee on Oct. 18
Ole Miss will host Tennessee sandwiched between road trips to Texas A&M and LSU, and the Vols could make life difficult for head coach Hugh Freeze and the Rebels.
Tennessee absolutely has the offensive firepower to be dangerous this season. With running backs Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane and wide receivers Marquez North, Josh Malone and Von Pearson, the Vols will have moments of brilliance. But with entirely new offensive and defensive lines, consistency will be the issue.
On a hot day, though, the Vols will be tricky—and they could present issues for the Rebels if they're not ready.
Ole Miss' defense is going to be stout, particularly in a secondary led by All-American Cody Prewitt. But the team will have to be disciplined against the Vols to avoid an upset.
Texas A&M Aggies: Vs. Missouri on Nov. 15
When Texas A&M squares off with Missouri Nov. 15, it better be careful.
The team's former Big 12 mates will head to College Station the week after the Aggies visit Auburn and could make it two in a row over head coach Kevin Sumlin's squad.
Missouri's offense has issues, especially after the dismissal of star wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. But by mid-November, the Tigers will have found their identity. If Texas A&M hasn't solved its prolonged defensive issues by that point, things could get dicey for the Aggies.
Sumlin will find a way to make the offense work post-Johnny Manziel. But at that point, the Aggies may be out of contention and dejected. In other words, in a perfect spot for Missouri to shock them in College Station.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.
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