College football trap games are an oft-used concept. There’s a lot of confusion associated with them. Basically, Team A is stronger than Team B. Extraneous factors may even the odds a bit for Team B. Team B may not outright upset Team A. But, there may be value in taking Team B and the points against the spread. Here are the types of things to look for.
Let Down/Look Ahead: College football is played by 19 and 20-year-olds. Teams can come out flat the week after a big win or big loss. Teams can’t help but look ahead to their big game the following week. You can also have the dreaded sandwich game where both factors come into play.
Weird Scheduling: Sports are about repetition and routines. Circle anything that affects those routines. Thursday night road trips on short rest. Back to back road trips. Long road trips. West coast teams heading East for an early kickoff.
This Team Will Be Beat Up: Team coming off a grueling stretch of games. Team that played a physical power opponent – Arkansas, Stanford, LSU, etc. – the week before. Teams that played the triple option and were cut blocked to death.
Historical Trends: Some teams and coaches tend to play other teams well year-to-year. It’s not fool-proof, but there’s something to it.
Here are 16 trap games to keep an eye on for the 2016 college football season.
Auburn vs. Arkansas State: This is a sandwich game for Auburn. It’s after the opener with Clemson. It’s before the SEC season gets rolling with Texas A&M and LSU. Arkansas State can put up points with an up tempo offense. We saw Auburn nearly get dropped by Jacksonville State in a similar spot last year.
Ohio State vs. Tulsa: The Buckeyes play this game the week before Oklahoma. Tulsa has a senior quarterback and a prolific, up tempo passing attack. They threw for 400-plus yards and four touchdowns against Oklahoma last year. The Golden Hurricane could be an unexpected early handful for a rebuilding Buckeye team.
Houston at Cincinnati: Houston has three Thursday night games after playing the previous Saturday. This may be the toughest of them on the road at Cincinnati. This was a field goal game last year in Houston. The Cougars will either be deflated after an opening week loss to Oklahoma or on a stratospheric high talking playoff. It may be time to roll with the Riverboat Gambler here.
Iowa vs. North Dakota State: This is the week after Iowa State and the week before the B1G schedule begins. NDSU is the five-time reigning FCS champion. They have won their last five games against FBS opponents. Four were Power 5 teams. This is prime Kirk Ferentz let down territory. Why do you schedule this game?
Clemson at Georgia Tech: Road game on a short week Thursday night for Clemson. That’s a short week to prepare for the Tech’s triple option. It’s the week before Louisville. The Tigers have not beaten the Yellow Jackets on the road since 2003. Tech had a dismal 2015. But, they did knock off Florida State.
TCU at SMU: TCU to SMU for a Friday night road game, the week before Oklahoma. This game was a five-point game before TCU pulled away in the fourth quarter last year. The Horned Frogs won’t have Trevone Boykin or Josh Doctson. SMU has a senior quarterback, a young receiver corps that’s a year wiser, and a second year in Chad Morris’ system.
Louisville at Marshall: Possibly the biggest sandwich on the menu. Louisville hosts FSU the week before and heads to Clemson the following week. In between comes a road, night game at Marshall. The Thundering Herd have won 33 games over the past three years under Jon Holliday. They have won 20 of their last 21 at home.
Michigan State at Indiana: The Spartans head on the road for a night game, after back-to-back big games against Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Indiana held Ohio State, Michigan, and Iowa to one-score wins last year. Their game against the Spartans last year was a two-point game entering the fourth quarter before a late collapse. No Connor Cook for the Spartans. This could get interesting.
Florida at Vanderbilt: It’s a road sandwich for Florida. The previous game is at Tennessee. The following game is against LSU. Vanderbilt can play defense under Derek Mason. This matchup produced a 9-7 game in the Swamp last year. We’re not sure what Florida’s offense will look like. The Commodores could Anchor Down at home.
Texas A&M at South Carolina: Sandwich road trip for the Aggies. They play at Auburn and Arkansas the previous two weeks. They host Tennessee the week after. The Aggie defense may come out flat. This was a one-score game in College Station last year, when Kyler Murray had a standout performance.
Tennessee at Texas A&M: This is a sandwich game for Tennessee. The Vols play Florida and Georgia (road) the two weeks before. They have Alabama the following week. Tennessee will either be soaring like Icarus or be hearing “You Can’t Spell Citrus Without UT” ad nauseam heading into this game. Kevin Sumlin may really need a win by this point.
Alabama at Arkansas: Look ahead game on the road for Alabama before what may be the most consequential Tennessee game in a long while. The Razorbacks can match Alabama’s strength. Two years ago: 14-13 game in Fayetteville. Last year: a 10-7 game entering the fourth quarter. A Crimson Tide upset would be far more than borderline erotic.
Michigan vs. Maryland: Michigan plays at Michigan State the week before. Whatever happens will be physical, emotional, and prime the Wolverines for a let down. They have a road trip to Iowa after, making it a possible sandwich. D.J. Durkin returns to Ann Arbor to face his former master Jim Harbaugh.
Florida State at N.C. State: FSU plays the Wolfpack on the road the week after Clemson. Win or lose, the following game will be a let down spot for the Noles. FSU has not played well in Raleigh under Jimbo Fisher. They were upset there in 2010 and 2012. Florida State trailed by double-digits in the third quarter before Jameis Winston pulled them back in 2014.
Ole Miss vs. Georgia Southern: This game is slotted in the midst of Ole Miss’ SEC schedule. In the three weeks leading up to this game, Ole Miss’ defense gets pounded by Arkansas on the road, pounded by LSU on the road, then has to play Gus Malzahn’s tempo. Then they have to get back up to play Georgia Southern’s flexbone, which was the best rushing attack in the nation averaging 6.48 yards/carry last year.
Notre Dame vs. Army: The Irish play Navy the week before in Florida. That tends to take a toll on Notre Dame physically. They follow that with a second consecutive road trip to Texas to play another dogged, triple option, service academy team. Army did go 2-10 last year, but nine of their games were decided by one score.