Alabama is never a trap game. The Crimson Tide is the dominant program in the nation, but even when that was not true it was a key game for opponents, never overlooked or taken for granted. Under Nick Saban, Alabama is the team that everyone circles on its schedule. Bama is the team with the target on its back for every opponent. As Saban has said, “We always get their best game.”
Earlier we discussed a possible trap game on the Alabama football schedule for 2016.
Things may change as the season progresses, but now we look at what might be the trap games for other Southeastern Conference teams. Ordinarily, a trap game is one in which the favored team might have a problem owing perhaps to where the game falls on the schedule – usually after a tough run or before or after a key game.
Arkansas has a schedule that begins with a softie before TCU, another cupcake before Texas A&M, and yet another before a tough run that has Alabama and Ole Miss in Fayetteville, followed by a trip to Auburn before the open date and precedes Florida. The Auburn game on Oct. 22 has that trap look.
Auburn opens the season with five consecutive home games, but three of them are difficult ones, beginning with Clemson and including Texas A&M and LSU before hosting Louisiana-Monroe. Then The Tigers head to Starkville to take on Mississippi State on Oct. 8, which will be coming off a bye week, and that looks like a trap for Auburn.
Florida was the surprise of the SEC East last year, making it to the SEC Championship Game against Alabama. Bigger things will be expected of Coach JimMcElwain’s team this year, which may not be a fair expectation. Because Tennessee is picked to win this year’s East title, that fourth game of the year in Knoxville is the target game for the Gators. The next week, Oct. 1, – which is the week before hosting LSU – Florida goes to Vanderbilt, and that could be the trap. Or it may come later, playing Arkansas in Fayetteville on Nov. 5 between Georgia in Jacksonville and South Carolina in Gainesville. Maybe both.
The day that Florida is playing Arkansas, Georgia has its own post-Florida game, and it comes between the Gators and the Bulldogs’ other top rival, Auburn. That middle game, perhaps the trap, is at Kentucky on Nov. 5.
Kentucky’s opponents either are better than the Wildcats, thus eliminated as trap games, or non-conference games so poor that there is almost no chance that they show up as difficulties. There is Vanderbilt on Oct. 8, after the Alabama game and before an open date, but a more likely trap looks to be at Missouri on Oct. 29, between home games against Mississippi State and Georgia.
As far as LSU fans are concerned, there is only one game on the schedule, when Alabama comes to Baton Rouge on Nov. 5. Losing five in a row to the Crimson Tide and Saban will do that. The week after that, the Tigers go to Arkansas, where they also have revenge on their minds, and then have a final home game against South Alabama. The trap may be at the end of the season when LSU goes to Texas A&M on Nov. 24.
Ole Miss has two tough non-conference games, opening against Florida State and hosting Memphis, a team that beat the Rebels last year. Ole Miss also has the excitement of playing teams it defeated last year in Alabama and LSU, and the revenge factor of playing Arkansas in Fayetteville a year after the Razorbacks snatched the SEC West championship from the Rebs. There is a temptation to say the Auburn game in Oxford on Oct. 29 after Arkansas and LSU will be the trap, but Hugh Freeze is not likely to let that happen. The following week, though, Nov. 5, between Auburn and a road trip to Texas A&M the Rebels may be surprised by Georgia Southern.
The easy pick for a trap game for Mississippi State is the home game against Arkansas on Nov. 19 between road games at Alabama and Ole Miss, but the Bulldogs may run into unexpected trouble before that when State goes to Kentucky the week after a road trip to Provo, Utah, to play BYU.
Missouri ends the season with five consecutive SEC games, but before that run begins the Tigers host Middle Tennessee State on Oct. 22, the week after playing at Florida.
One of those Missouri games in the final five of the season is on Nov. 5, going to the other Columbia against South Carolina on Nov. 5. The Gamecocks will host the Tigers between two big rivals owing to their former self-proclaimed Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier. Missouri between Tennessee at home and Florida on the road is a tough game.
Tennessee has all but been crowned 2016 SEC East champion, but the Vols will have a good idea of that possibility before the season is barely half over. SEC games in the first seven include Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. And stuck in there between Georgia and Bama is a road trip to Texas A&M on Oct. 8.
Whether A&M proves to be a trap for the Vols depends in part on how Texas A&M does going into that game. The Aggies have a game at Auburn, a neutral site (Arlington, Texas) meeting with Arkansas, and then a road game to South Carolina on Oct. 1 before getting back to College Station. The Gamecocks may be the trap for A&M.
Vanderbilt will not be favored in many games, and the Commodores have a tough trip to Georgia Tech and a what-were-they-thinking road game at Western Kentucky. Vandy also plays two local teams, Middle Tennessee State and Tennessee State. The Commodores have had their troubles with MTSU in the past and this could be another embarrassment, coming in the second week of the season on Sept. 10 after South Carolina.