NCAA Football 2011: Biggest Trap Games for Each BCS Team in 2011
I'm having real issues trying to contain my excitement for the upcoming NCAA football season. Thank heavens for sports writing, or my Facebook page would be littered with sports junk...more than it already is.
With all the mix-ups and new additions to the BCS family, this list will feature each trap game on all teams' schedules. (Games where they could get caught looking ahead to a bigger game the next week and losing to a team they should probably beat.)
To help find your team quickly, the teams will be ordered by strength of conference. So, if your team has a weaker BCS affiliation, get your clicking finger ready.
Alabama vs. Tennessee
Alabama, much to the disgust of Nick Saban, has been picked as favorite to win the SEC. Maybe he feels that being off the radar is the best situation (see Auburn 2010).
In either case, he will have another plate filled with SEC talent. One of the biggest of those games will be against fellow SEC West foe LSU. Likely, the winner of that game will have the spot in the SEC Championship Game. If Alabama gets caught up on that fact, look for Tennessee to play spoiler.
Arkansas at Vanderbilt
Arkansas just lost their pro-caliber quarterback Ryan Mallett to the New England Patriots, but morale is high. The Razorbacks will be facing the leader of the pack in the East Division, South Carolina.
The week before that, Arkansas will have to be sure not to look past their game on the road against Vandy.
Auburn vs. Mississippi State
The champ is here!
Auburn went spotless, not counting off-field, last season and will be hoping to repeat that success in 2011. In order to have any glimmer of hope, they will have to face a big test at Clemson Sept. 17th.
The week prior to that, the Tigers will have to be extra cautious not to attempt to "go through the motions" or else Mississippi State will be more than obliged to dethrone the 2010 champs.
Florida vs. UAB
Of all the shoes being filled this next season, I'm of the opinion that Urban Meyer's are the largest. True, the Gators slumped last season going 8-5 with a .500 conference record, but Will Muschamp is optimistic and with good reason. The Gators still have a top-10 recruiting base and speed on both sides of the ball.
The Gators must take every single week seriously to get back to their championship ways. Tennessee will be looking to upset the Gators when they come to town Sept. 17th and nothing can sway your focus like a rivalry game. UAB will be primed to ruin the Gators' season before the Vols have a chance to.
Georgia at Vanderbilt
The Bulldogs of Georgia enter another SEC season with danger around every corner. Again, a rivalry game poses issues for Georgia on Oct. 29th when Florida comes to town. Seeing as Florida has defeated Georgia the last three years straight, the Bulldogs will be especially motivated.
Start getting pumped a little too early, though, and Vandy will be ready to blindside them.
Kentucky vs. Central Michigan
Let's all be honest with ourselves here. Kentucky is a basketball school and a darn good one at that. When it comes to football, Kentucky is capable of surprising us every now and then.
They will be hoping to make a good impression against Big East opponent Louisville Sept. 17th, but could easily overlook Central Michigan, who comes into town Week 2.
LSU vs. Kentucky
LSU is another SEC championship contender this year. Les Miles has been sidetracked with questioning regarding Willie Lyles and his recruiting methods.
A distraction the Tigers cannot afford is to look forward early to the Florida game. If they do, you can bet Kentucky will be amped coming into Tiger Stadium, poised to upset LSU.
Mississippi State at Memphis
It's been some time since Mississippi State enjoyed success in the SEC. Nearly right off the bat, the Bulldogs will have a shot at the reigning national champs when Auburn hosts them in Week 2.
One thing Mississippi State will need to avoid is having their focus on the Tigers too early. Memphis hosts Mississippi State Week 1 with nothing but victory in mind.
Ole Miss at Fresno State
Ole Miss has high hopes entering the season and begins with BYU coming to town Week 1. Once the first few week's dust has settled, Ole Miss will face Alabama and clearly will have their work cut out for them.
If they aren't careful, though, Fresno State hosts the Rebels and would love nothing more than to add an SEC notch to their belt.
South Carolina vs. East Carolina
This offseason has been very kind to the South Carolina Gamecocks with No. 1 overall recruit Jadeveon Clowney deciding to join South Carolina this fall.
Many experts expect South Carolina to win the SEC East this season but not without a fight. Fellow east member Georgia will host the Gamecocks in Week 2, which means Week 1 will have all the makings for non-AQ, interstate foe East Carolina to step in and spoil the season opener.
Tennessee vs. Middle Tennessee
Tennessee is on its way back from the struggles they've experienced the last few years. Although they are not favored to win the SEC East, they will have an excellent chance to take down westerner Arkansas on the road Nov. 10th. With that big a game ahead of them, they better not let it overshadow the matchup they have the week before against Middle Tennessee, or no one will be singing Rocky Top.
Vanderbilt vs. Connecticut
Vanderbilt has long been the lower level competition of the SEC East Division. With Florida and South Carolina gunning for top spot, it's likely this season will be more of the same. However, Vandy will host UConn the week before they host Ole Miss.
They better watch themselves and not get "ahead of schedule" or Connecticut may tally a W at Vanderbilt's expense.
Arizona vs. Northern Arizona
The Arizona Wildcats have high hopes with excellent QB Nick Foles leading them into the 2011 season.
Arizona will be facing arguably the toughest stretch of games of any team this year as they have Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon, USC and then Oregon State, in a row.
Any team would be concerned about that kind of stretch, but worry too soon and the Wildcats will drop the season opener to Northern Arizona.
Arizona State at USC
Arizona State is a favorite for many to win the Pac-12 South since USC is still under sanctions. But, as they all say, to be the best, you've got to beat the best, and USC comes to town Sept. 24th.
If the Sun Devils get too amped about the Trojans, they may drop a big one at Illinois.
Cal at Washington
Cal will come into the 2011 season after a disappointing 5-7 record last year.
If they want to change their destiny this season, they'll need to avoid any mistakes. Looking past Washington to their game against Oregon would be just such a mistake.
Colorado vs. Washington State
The Buffs will be heading into a new conference this season and joining the Pac-12.
They will have two huge games at Ohio State and at Stanford. Sandwiched between those games will be the biggest trap game for the Buffs in Washington State. Even though it is at CU, the Buffs can't be licking their wounds or worrying about the next week or Washington State could see some light at the end of their conference struggles.
Oregon at Washington
The Ducks are favorites to repeat as Pac-12 Champs. Some are even picking them to return to the national championship game.
Arguably the largest game on Oregon's schedule this year is when they head to Stanford to play Andrew Luck and the Cardinal, as both Oregon and Stanford will both be vying for the spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game representing the north.
Let's hope Oregon doesn't forget that they have to play Washington the week prior, or maybe even a win at Stanford won't secure that spot.
Oregon State at Washington State
Oregon State has a few scores to settle this 2011 season against two Utah teams as they face BYU and Utah this season. BYU beat the Beavers in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2009 and the Beavers will surely not have forgotten the epic comeback forged by the Utes in 2008.
Well, before they get their shot at the Utes, they better take care of business against the Cougars of Washington State, or they could get upset.
Stanford at Oregon State
Stanford is another team in the Pac-12 with national championship hopes. Those hopes are well placed with Andrew Luck at the helm, but what will happen now that Jim Harbaugh has moved on to the NFL? We'll have to wait and see.
One thing is for sure, Stanford will have to be extra careful heading to play Oregon State—the Ducks come to town. As USC knows, the Beavers love to play spoiler.
UCLA vs. San Jose State
Rick Neuheisel heads into his last year as UCLA football coach. This is, of course, unless he can turn the Bruins in a winning direction this season.
The Bruins will have a huge out-of-conference game against the Texas Longhorns Sept. 17th. Since the Longhorns are going to have nothing but revenge on their minds for last year's embarrassing loss to UCLA, the Bruins can't afford to forget the importance of facing the Spartans of San Jose State.
USC vs. Minnesota
USC sanctions are still in place but that won't make them any less hungry to prove they are the best team in the nation.
With the Utah Utes coming in with more motivation than likely any team in the country to beat the Trojans, USC will need to make sure to keep both eyes on the Utes. Just not too early, or the Trojans will overlook Minnesota opening week.
Utah vs. Washington
Safe to say this is the biggest season the Utes football team has ever had. Every single college football fan will be looking to see how the Utes get acclimated to their new Pac-12 schedule.
Included in that schedule will be fellow Pac-12 South foe, Arizona State. Many are picking Arizona State to win the south with USC being under sanctions. The Utes plan to do everything they can to show they can compete from the get-go. Before the Sun Devils come into Rice Eccles Stadium, though, the Utes will have to avoid a trap game against Washington.
Washington vs. Hawaii
Well, Jake Locker has booked for the NFL and the Washington Huskies will attempt to stay away from repeating the lack of success they endured before Locker. Coach Steve Sarkisian plans to do just that.
Washington heads to Nebraska to take on the now Big Ten associated Huskers. Certainly a huge task faces the Huskies, but even bigger will be not forgetting about Hawaii the week before.
Washington State vs. Idaho State
Well, this is awkward...um, there is really only one game in the Cougars' season that they should win. The good news is that it's their season opener. The better news is, if they win it, they'll be undefeated at 1-0. The bad news is that if the Cougars overlook these Big Sky failures, they might not win a game all year.
At least they have the Washington State flags waving high at ESPN College Gameday each week.
Illinois at Indiana
The Fighting Illini should be very aware of the trap game that faces them Oct. 8th when they travel to play Indiana.
Thoughts of Ohio State the following week could be devastating to Illinois' chances of beating Indiana.
Indiana at North Texas
The Hoosiers know a thing or two about being an underdog. In fact, last season, they almost beat both Michigan and Iowa at home.
This year, they'll have to avoid their own upset at North Texas before facing Penn State.
Iowa at Minnesota
It seems the last few years, Iowa has consistently been in the top 25 conversation. With the All-Star-level offensive linemen they recruit each year, it's no wonder.
The Hawkeyes could be left wondering what happened against Minnesota if they can't get the following week's matchup with newly remodeled Michigan out of their minds.
Michigan at Illinois
Expect all eyes to be on Michigan this season...oh wait, that's right. All eyes are on Michigan every year. As with Notre Dame, Michigan is expected to perform at an elite level year in and year out based upon past success and recruiting strength.
With Brady Hoke as new head coach and the Big Ten Conference expanding to include Nebraska, Michigan will be looking forward to the matchup against the Huskers. That could lead to disappointment in losing to Illinois. Especially if both the Wolverines and the Huskers have good records.
Michigan State vs. Central Michigan
Michigan State had an excellent season last year and is receiving a lot of votes already for winning the Big Ten. Sometimes pressure can get to the best of teams.
If the Spartans get caught up in the hype and stress about their Ohio State game Oct. 1st, the warm-up game versus Central Michigan could leave Michigan State in the cold.
Minnesota vs. North Dakota State
This was a tough choice between two trap games on the Gophers schedule. I went with North Dakota State because one, it comes first chronologically, and two, they are much more likely to beat North Dakota State than Purdue, so the trap is more devastating.
The week after NDSU, Minnesota heads to Michigan. Although Minnesota has decades of experience playing in the Big House, I can't imagine it's easy to control the anticipation of the experience each year.
Nebraska at Wyoming
This year is huge for Nebraska, as they will begin getting accustomed to the new Big Ten Conference affiliation.
The Huskers must face Wisconsin, last year's powerhouse and conference co-champion. With that big of a game ahead of them, Wyoming is less than frightening. Let's hope they don't forget to bring their B game to Laramie. Or else...
Northwestern at Army
Northwestern will start their conference play against Illinois Oct. 1st.
Better not forget they still have to play Army on the road the week before. Could be trouble.
Ohio State vs. Colorado
It's safe to say Ohio State has been through more than their fair share of bad news this offseason and should be itching to get back to playing.
With a new head coach, new starting QB and a realigned conference, OSU has a lot to work out before conference play opens up Oct. 1st against contender Michigan State.
Someone remind the buckeyes that Colorado will be motivated to beat them in Columbus, or else more bad news for THE Ohio State University...
Penn State at Indiana
The Nittany Lions go into another season under "JoePa" and will try to contend for the first Big Ten Conference Championship. A big step towards that goal will be their game against Iowa at home.
Let's hope they don't overlook Indiana the week prior, or they could get the rug pulled out from under their season.
Purdue vs. Southeast Missouri State
Purdue opens up their season with four non-AQ teams; the fourth of those teams being Notre Dame. Clearly, Purdue will have their hands full with that game.
If they aren't focused on each week though, they could get shocked in Week 3 by Southeast Missouri State. That would be more than a little embarrassing.
Wisconsin vs. South Dakota
Wisconsin is another heavy favorite to win the Big Ten Championship this year.
They open up their conference play hosting newcomer Nebraska. Needless to say, they will be up for that game Oct. 1st. If they don't remember to wake up the week before, though, South Dakota could be the Cinderella of the season.
Baylor vs. Iowa State
Baylor enjoyed quite a bit more success than they were accustomed to as bottom dog in the Big 12 South.
With a matchup against beatable Iowa State right before their game at in-state rival Texas A&M, the Bear trap-game is set.
Iowa State vs. Northern Iowa
Here's an all-Iowa showdown. Try to keep up.
So, Iowa State faces Northern Iowa in the season opener, followed by a second week visit to second in-state rival Iowa. Seeing as Iowa is set as a favorite this year to compete for the Big "Ten," Iowa State could easily take Northern Iowa lightly and get taken to the woodshed.
Kansas vs. Iowa State
Kansas probably still sees Baylor Bears in their nightmares. After Baylor tore Kansas apart last season 55-7,it's not hard to imagine a situation where they could possibly overlook the Cyclones and tack on a needless loss.
Kansas State vs. Kent State
Kansas State is one of the most enigmatic teams in the Big "12." It seems they come out of nowhere with success but then seem to fade before season's end and Nebraska or Missouri pull ahead.
Kent State will be coming to town with upset in mind. Let's hope Miami isn't occupying the Wildcats' minds, or Kent State may just accomplish that.
Missouri at Baylor
Missouri is accustomed to being in a good position in the Big 12 North Division with Nebraska. Well, say hello to a season packed with the south division-ers.
Missouri will be excited for the Texas matchup (as they should be) and because of that, the Tigers also run the risk of choking on the road at Baylor.
Oklahoma vs. Tulsa
What better way to show the nation you deserve that No. 1 ranking (likely to happen for the Sooners) than to lose to in-state non-rival Tulsa? Well, anything.
Landry Jones is expected to have a Heisman candidate season this year, but if the Sooners get antsy about their Week 2 matchup against fellow top 10-er Florida State, Tulsa has more than enough motivation to shock Oklahoma.
Oklahoma State at Tulsa
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are bitter rivals. Not only do they share a mutual hatred, but they also share a mutual trap game.
OK State opens all important conference play at Texas A&M the week after they face Tulsa, who will actually host the Cowboys, making the game even more interesting.
Texas vs. Kansas State
I'm quite sure the Longhorns and Longhorn faithful want to forget last season, which is actually surprisingly easy to do when you are a top recruiter every single year, and likely will be forever.
If Texas doesn't focus on the task at hand against Kansas State in Austin, and look forward to their heated rivalry game with the Aggies, then it could spell another season worth forgetting.
Texas A&M at Iowa State
Sensing a theme here? Iowa State seems to be on everyone's schedule the week before an important game for their opponent.
This time, Texas A&M must avoid looking towards Missouri and give the Cyclones their full attention. We'll see.
Texas Tech at Kansas
Last contestant for the Big 12 is Texas Tech. The Red Raiders will face rival Texas A&M on Oct. 8th. What should concern them the week before is not the Aggies, but the Jayhawks of Kansas.
Poor former North Division teams, still no respect against the South...oh well.
Boston College vs. Wake Forest
Wake Forest travels to Boston College Oct. 1st for an ACC showdown. Let's hope the Eagles aren't looking ahead to playing at Clemson the next week or Wake is going to pull the W.
Clemson vs. Wofford
Clemson is going to be coming into this season with high expectations. (When don't they?)
Wofford is no Appalachian State (and they showed that by losing to the Mountaineers last season 43-13) but they were 10-3 last season and, as James Madison University proved to Virginia Tech last season, you can't overlook anyone.
Duke vs. Richmond
Let's face it, Duke is not a football school...not even just in comparison to how much of a basketball school they are. They are just not a football school, straight up.
They do, however, have an amazing quarterback in Sean Renfree, who threw for 3,000-plus yards last season. Another "brainiac" quarterback in Andrew Luck is coming out to meet Duke in Week 2. If the Blue Devils let their guard down, we might be talking about an embarrassing loss for Duke. Who knew their football losses could still be embarrassing?
Florida State at Boston College
Florida State will likely be a heavy favorite this year to win the ACC.
Seems the biggest trap games happen before in-state rivalry games. Well 'Noles, the 'Canes come to town November 12th and if you get caught on that fact before schedule, the Boston College Eagles might swoop in and rob all the "feel good" in FSU's season.
Georgia Tech vs. Kansas
Georgia Tech has been going through some hard times, having to relinquish their 2009 ACC Title.
They suffered a loss to Kansas last season by just three points on the road. History could repeat itself if the Yellow Jackets look ahead to their season opener against UNC Sept. 24th.
Maryland vs. Virginia
Maryland QB Danny O'Brien will be in his sophomore season in 2011 for the Terps.
O'Brien led Maryland to victory over the Cavaliers by a hefty 19 points in 2010, but since they'll face off this season the week before the Fighting Irish come to town, the Terrapins have to be careful not to slip up.
Slow and steady wins the...yeah, I know. Lame joke. But come on, your mascot is a turtle, guys. Lame is par for the course.
Miami (FL) @ Maryland
Another Week 1 upset alert is in effect for the Hurricanes. With Ohio State coming into Miami Week 2, it would be very very easy to overlook the Terps Week 1.
North Carolina vs. Louisville
Louisville may have seen better days, but with UNC's focus on Miami the week following their Oct. 8th matchup with the Cardinals, my money's on Louisville.
NC State vs. South Alabama
This was a hard pick because South Alabama is so bad. That being said, Cincinnati is a team that can make you pay attention and the Wolfpack will need to stay composed to avoid a humiliating loss.
Virginia vs. Idaho
Virginia is not the cream of the crop of ACC football.
Idaho is not the cream of the crop of WAC football.
Head to head, the ACC should win this matchup, but with a game against Georgia Tech facing the Cavaliers once they play Idaho, you could see a situation where they look ahead...and lose.
Virginia Tech vs. Appalachian State, or at East Carolina, or vs. Arkansas State
I may be a little hard on Virginia Tech here, but come on, they practically thrust themselves into the spotlight as the poster child for getting upset since Michigan lost to....oh wait, Appalachian State.
Now, who opens their season with App. State?
Wake Forest vs. Gardner-Webb
Well, this was an easy choice, as Gardner-Webb is the only team on the Demon Deacons' schedule that they should beat. Forget looking ahead, if Wake loses this game, it could be a 0-12 season.
Cincinnati at Miami OH
Cincinnati will be coming into this season with high hopes for QB Zach Callaros in his senior season.
Cincy will have to go to Miami of Ohio the week before conference play opens against Louisville. Lose focus, lose game, lose credibility.
Connecticut vs. Western Michigan
UConn is definitely enjoying the best start to a sports year a University can have, after winning the national championship in basketball.
I haven't heard any analysts picking Connecticut to repeat as Big East Champs, but before they can worry about that, they'll have to make sure they don't drop the ball against Western Michigan the week prior to their conference opener against contender West Virginia.
Louisville vs. Marshall
Louisville is far removed from their domination in 2006 when the Cardinals went 12-1, beating ACC Champ Wake Forest (equally absurd to think about now).
Still, with their recent struggles, they should be a favorite hosting Marshall. Marshall may take advantage of Louisville staring off into the future, having to go to North Carolina to take on the Tar Heels.
Pittsburgh at Rutgers
Pittsburgh is another enigmatic team. Expectations always seem to be fairly high for the Panthers (i.e. starting 2010 ranked No. 15).
The Panthers ran into a pumped Utah team that stole victory almost literally when Brian Blechen intercepted Tino Sunseri in OT. Pittsburgh will now host Utah this season with payback in mind. Just hope they don't have it on the mind the week prior to that or they will lose to conference foe Rutgers.
Rutgers vs. Ohio
Rutgers started last season with high hopes, going 4-2 with a win against future Big East Conference Champ Connecticut, and then lost their remaining six conference games in a row. (UConn, that's embarrassing.)
Clearly, the Scarlet Knights will want to get a good start to the season and conference play, as they'll play the conference opener against Syracuse. Get too enveloped in that game, and Ohio could steal victory away.
South Florida at Syracuse
For the last three years, the University of South Florida has had a winning overall record and a losing conference record.
During those years, the Bulls have beaten Syracuse two of three. They better not get complacent with eyes on Miami, or USF will be another step closer to a losing conference record for a fourth straight year.
Syracuse vs. Rhode Island
Syracuse has a huge game at USC September 17th—east meets west. Before that, though, Syracuse must host less-than-impressive Rhode Island.
The Orange are expected to roll Rhode Island, of course, but plan for USC before getting the W against the Rams, and the school from the smallest state will cause the biggest upset.
West Virginia at Maryland
Perennial Big East power West Virginia travel to Maryland the week before hosting LSU (a preseason national championship contender). With a home game as big as that, the Mountaineers could feasibly overlook the Terps.
The Terrapins are most definitely a team you can't take lightly. LSU sure does demand attention, though—total upset alert.