College football season will be upon us, after a few more weeks of sunburn and sweat. To get you in the mood for the 2014 season, here are 14 potential trap games for some of the nation’s top teams.
USC at Boston College [Sept. 13] Quick. Name Steve Sarkisian’s biggest road win at Washington… (crickets). The Trojans don’t have a lot of depth. Their schedule asks them to grind for 60 minutes on the road against a rough Stanford. Then, the very next week, fly all the way to the Northeast to play in Boston. BC are improving and got back to bowl play last year. Steve Addazio will have this game circled.
Florida State at N.C. State [Sept. 27] FSU should steamroll all who dare come before them. But, this game comes on the road, right after Clemson. N.C. State has won four of the past six against the Noles at Carter-Finley Stadium. Ten of the past 13 have been decided by 10 points or fewer. Maybe not a place where the Seminoles trip up. But it could be a place where they win by two touchdowns instead of five.
Oklahoma at TCU [Oct. 4] The Sooners travel to Fort Worth, right before Texas. Gary Patterson’s defense has carried over into the Big 12: best in the conference in both 2012 and 2013. They have, at the very least, been a tough out: four losses by a field goal or less last season, including Oklahoma in Norman. TCU should bounce back next year. Bob Stoops may be in imperious form, but he does have a penchant for dropping the ball on the road.
Auburn at Mississippi State [Oct. 11] The Tigers play Mississippi State the week after LSU. Five of the last seven games between these two have been decided by one score. Auburn has not won by more than a field goal in Starkville since 2006. Dan Mullen has a quarterback. His Bulldog team is as loaded as it will ever be. Home dogs in the SEC.
Notre Dame vs. North Carolina [Oct. 11] UNC is a classic sandwich game for the Irish. It comes right after a physical pummeling by Stanford and right before a trip to Tallahassee. The Tar Heels won six of seven to close last season, return the most starters in the ACC and will be hoping to cross the 8-win barrier in a third year under Larry Fedora.
Baylor at West Virginia [Oct. 18] Baylor takes the long road trip, after playing Texas away and TCU at home. The past two Briles-Holgorsen shootouts have produced absurd numbers of points. The Bears lose a lot on the offensive line and on defense. The Mountaineers should be a bit better. Baylor has not traveled well under Briles. West Virginia has a tendency to put up a fight against even the best conference teams at home. See: Oklahoma State 2013.
Michigan State at Indiana [Oct. 18] Sparty plays their fifth game in succession and second-consecutive on the road the week before Michigan. The Hoosiers have scored at least four touchdowns on MSU’s defense the last two games. Indiana’s offense should be better. MSU’s defense should be worse. Even the best Dantonio teams have been prone to dropping an inexplicable turd of a performance on the road. They are overdue after last year.
UCLA at Cal [Oct. 18] UCLA will be looking for a break after playing Arizona State, Utah and Oregon in succession. Not to mention road trips to Virginia and to Texas. Cal has something to build on offensively with Jared Goff and Khalfani Muhammad. The Bears won’t be good, but they will be improved. Expect them to jump on a team that takes them lightly at home.
Michigan vs. Indiana [Nov. 1] Michigan will take an emotional and physical beating in East Lansing. The Hoosiers should have a high-powered offense that can score points. The past three meetings between these teams, including two in Ann Arbor, have been nervy, hold-on-to-your-butts shootouts, including the 63-47 game last season.
Clemson at Wake Forest [Nov. 6] Not a strong read with this one. But it’s a Thursday night game, and a possible look ahead with Clemson going to Georgia Tech the following week. Dave Clawson’s Bowling Green teams played Florida well in 2012 and nearly upset Mississippi State in Starkville in 2013. Maybe he gets the Demon Deacons up for this one. You don’t just walk into BB&T Field…
Georgia at Kentucky [Nov. 8] Kentucky is sandwiched between Florida and Auburn. Georgia was profoundly underwhelming on the road last season. Their one win in regulation was against Florida, after nearly blowing a 20-point halftime lead. Kentucky has a decent record against Georgia the past few years, considering the talent disparity. Expect the Wildcats to put up a fight.
Oregon at Utah [Nov. 8] Oregon travels to Rice-Eccles right after Stanford, as well as Arizona, UCLA and Washington in the four weeks before. Utah has had some bad luck since joining the Pac 12. But, they have given good teams a hard time at home. They picked off Stanford in Salt Lake City last year, and hung in there in one-score losses to UCLA and Arizona State.
LSU at Arkansas [Nov. 15] This game comes the week after Bama. LSU’s run defense should be tenderized for Arkansas’ power attack. Eight of the past nine meetings between these two have been decided by one score. That includes last season in Baton Rouge.
Ohio State at Minnesota [Nov. 15] OSU faces Minnesota the week after a road trip to Michigan State. It’s a potential let down and a body blow game. Meyer’s Buckeye teams have won, but not dominated, on the road against teams that can fight back. Minnesota picked off Nebraska and Penn State at home last year. They played Wisconsin tough. It will be cold.
[USA Today Sports]