In 2010, following its undefeated national championship season, Alabama’s schedule included a game that should have been listed in neon lights. Everyone saw it as a possible trap game, or letdown game, for Coach Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide. Everyone, that is, except seemingly the Alabama football team.
Alabama’s sixth game of 2010 was at South Carolina. In 2009 the Tide had defeated the Gamecocks, 20-6, in a game that wasn’t that close in Tuscaloosa. The 2010 schedule had Bama playing in Columbia after two games that were very big on the Bama schedule -- at Arkansas (where the Tide escaped with a 24-20 win) and home to Florida (Alabama winning 31-6 in a rematch of the previous season’s Southeastern Conference Championship Game).
Alabama was ranked first in the nation, South Carolina 19th.
Alabama’s winning season and, really, any chance at a repeat national championship came to a halt at South Carolina. The Bama team that included the likes of 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, quarterback Greg McElory, wide receiver Julio Jones, defensive linemen Marcell Dareus and Josh Chapman, linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw, and cornerbacks Dee Milliner and Dre Kirkpatrick was a 35-21 loser to the Gamecocks. Losses to LSU and Auburn would follow as Bama tumbled to a 10-3 season.
A trap game involves first and foremost a favored team losing to the underdog, but other elements include determining when and where the game falls so that it is possibly overlooked (at least to some extent) by the favorite. Of course, most of the time the favored team is the better team and wins the game, and everyone forgets about the suspected letdown.
So what might be Alabama’s trap game in 2016 with Bama expected to be ranked among the nation’s top teams in all preseason polls?
To some extent it’s difficult to predict because the team one expects may not be that team by the time the so-called trap game comes up on the schedule. If Alabama is undefeated when it hosts Mississippi State after having gone to LSU the week before, that might be a trap game. If the Tide already has two or three losses at that time, the Bulldogs are not likely to be overlooked.
We’re eliminating a few games from consideration. Non-conference games against Western Kentucky, Kent State, and Chattanooga are shameful, but won’t reach the point of shaming the Crimson Tide.
Our preseason prediction for Alabama’s trap game is Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 22. It comes after back-to-back road games at Arkansas and Tennessee and before Bama’s only open date, which precedes a game at LSU. The Aggies have been struggling post-Johnny Football, but never doubt the talent at A&M.
Just a reminder of the 2016 Alabama football schedule:
Sept. 3 Southern Cal at Arlington, Texas
Sept. 10 Western Kentucky
Sept. 17 @ Ole Miss
Sept. 24 Kent State
Oct. 1 Kentucky
Oct. 8 @ Arkansas
Oct. 15 @ Tennessee
Oct. 22 Texas A&M
Nov. 5 @ LSU
Nov. 12 Mississippi State
Nov. 19 Chattanooga
Nov. 26 Auburn