Arizona over Oregon. Colorado State over Boston College. Mississippi State over LSU. There is an endless list of upsets and trap games for the upcoming 2015 college football season.
These types of games separate good teams from great teams, showing us how well heavily favored teams respond to adversity. It also tests the teams’ relentlessness as well as their continuity. These unexpected trap games remind each and every team in the country two key points: never underestimate your opponent and always give it your all.
In trap games, the underdogs will come ready to play with a chip on their shoulder. They want to prove to the college football world that they can beat the best.
A perfect example of this is Virginia Tech’s game against Eastern Carolina back in September of 2014. The Hokies were coming off of a stunning two-touchdown win over Ohio State at the Horseshoe the week prior.
Faster than a blink of an eye, the ECU Pirates were firing on all cylinders, scoring three of their four touchdowns in the first quarter. The Pirates’ near flawless execution and game plan resulted in a 28-21 victory over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. This stunned the nation, as the Hokies went from beating the Big Ten Leaders Division Champions to falling to the losers of the Birmingham Bowl.
Every team runs into roadblocks throughout the season, where an unexpected challenge may arise. And yes, even the invincible Alabamas and Ohio States run into obstacles occasionally.
Michigan State handled their roadblock games very well last year by defeating Nebraska and Michigan at home, as well as Maryland and Penn State on the road.
Let’s preview some games for the upcoming season that could give Sparty a huge scare:
Sept. 4 | Western Michigan | Waldo Stadium
You’re probably thinking to yourself that I’ve lost my mind. Maybe. But a solid case can be made for this potentially dangerous season opener.
WMU finished the 2014 season with an 8-5 record (6-2 MAC) and a bowl appearance (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl). Two of their four losses were at the hands of Purdue (3-9) and Northern Illinois (11-3), who are much better teams than their records indicate.
WMU all-conference quarterback Zach Terrell and running back Jarvion Franklin lead a potent offense that scored nearly 34 points per game last season.
Not only are the Spartans playing a solid Broncos team under the lights, but it is also the week before their showdown with Oregon. Every college football fan will be eagerly awaiting the primetime matchup, which could arguably be the biggest game hosted at Spartan Stadium in the program’s history.
Regarding MSU’s reputable history of being complacent and looking past inferior competition, it could be a painful game to watch for Spartan fans.
Most recent meeting: An ugly 26-13 triumph for Sparty in 2013.
Oct. 17 | Michigan | Michigan Stadium
Sparty could very well be undefeated heading into the Big House, thanks to the early, favorable part of their schedule. Michigan has lost six out of the last seven meetings to MSU, including a four-game losing streak (2008-2011).
The once red hot Wolverines, who are one of the most decorated and storied football programs in the nation, have fallen off the map. Since capping off their 2011 season with a sweet Sugar Bowl victory, Michigan is just 20-18 overall, including back-to-back bowl losses, failing to reach a bowl last year (first time since 1975) and the firing of head coach Brady Hoke.
However, the Maize and Blue faithful are very confident that the former Wolverines quarterback, Jim Harbaugh, will revive the program and return Michigan to the glory days they once knew.
Michigan returns nine defensive starters from a year ago, including standout linebacker James Ross and safety Jarrod Wilson. This stout defense only gave up 22.4 points per game last year.
With Harbaugh’s leadership and a stingy defense that could be the heart and soul of this team, they may give MSU all they can handle.
It won’t be long before Michigan is competing for Big Ten titles and even for the College Football Playoff. If Harbaugh could transform the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers’ franchise into a powerhouse, leading them to three consecutive NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl appearance…why not Michigan?
First, the Wolverines need to focus their attention on winning the Big Ten East Division. And that means taking down their two biggest rivals: Michigan State and Ohio State.
Nov. 28 | Penn State | Spartan Stadium
You can never take Penn State lightly. They have an excellent reputation of having tough, disciplined defenses.
They return seven starters on a defense from a year ago that held opponents to 18.6 points per game, the seventh best in the nation.
Not to mention that they return nine starters on offense, including all-around quarterback Christian Hackenberg, featuring a deep and productive receiving core.
DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis will anchor the wide receivers, while Kyle Carter will be the top target at the tight end position.
Hackenberg was sacked 44 times last year, which was more than any other quarterback in the Big Ten in 2014. Mostly due to coverage sacks and poor pass protection. The good news is that the offensive line can only get better, as they will try to improve their chemistry and communication to give a talented quarterback more time to make big plays.
Sparty may have problems moving the ball on offense with new faces at running back and wide receiver. Penn State has been known for playing the Spartans tough, but MSU has won three of the last five games against the two.
PSU has a decent shot at leaving a sour taste for the fans in Green and White on Senior Day in Spartan Stadium.