But sometimes, it's not always about the rivalry games. BCS hopes and conference title hopes are often crushed from a disappointing loss against a mid-major school or against an opponent that, quite frankly, doesn't stack up well against them on paper. ?Without further ado, here's some key under-the radar, trap games to watch out for this season:
September 3rd: Ball State vs. Indiana
The Cardinals had a rough season last year, going 4-8, but quarterback Keith Wenning now has a year under his belt and returns his two favorite targets at the receiver position. Indiana isn't expected to do anything in 2011, but a loss to Ball State would definitely not be how first-year head Kevin Wilson planned for his debut to go.
September 10th: Nebraska vs. Fresno State
The Cornhuskers have a very challenging conference schedule this season. Because of this, their non-conference games are important tune-up games. However, their Fresno State matchup falls a week before they take on Washington out of the Pac-12, and with Fresno State now taking over the role as the WAC's top team, they will be searching for their one "marquee" win. After opening up with California in week one, Fresno State would love nothing more than knocking off a Big Ten favorite.
September 10th: Iowa vs. Iowa State
The Cyclones took on six opponents in the AP top 25 last season, going 1-5 in those games with their lone win coming against then No. 19 Texas. It may not be a fun game to watch on television, but in an inner-state game, anything goes. Both teams definitely get up for this one with the Cy-Hawk Trophy on the line.
September 17th: Penn State vs. Temple
A week after Penn State takes on No. 2 Alabama, the Nittany Lions will travel down to Philadelphia to take on Temple in an inner-state matchup. Penn State has had Temple's number in this series, but after Temple missed out on a bowl game last season despite finishing 8-4, the Owls are set out to prove themselves in 2011. They return two talented halfbacks in Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown, and it shouldn't be forgotten that Temple was leading at halftime in last season's meeting at Happy Valley before losing by just nine points.
September 17th: Wisconsin vs. Northern Illinois
The Huskies present the Badgers with an interesting matchup. Regarded as a weaker opponent because of their mid-major status, Northern Illinois quietly went about the business last season, going 11-3 with victories over Minnesota and Temple before defeating Fresno State by a score of 40-17 in the Humanitarian Bowl. Led by senior QB Chandler Harnish, who finished with a 157.8 rating last season, the Huskies are set on knocking off yet another Big Ten opponent in what would be one of the biggest shocks in the Big Ten conference.
September 17th: Army vs. Northwestern
Right before conference play opens up, the Wildcats will have to make a trip to West Point to take on Army. With Dan Persa leading Northwestern, it's not expected that this Wildcats will lose their focus and look a week ahead at their opening conference game, but anything can happen. Even if Northwestern is fully focused on this game, Army has the capabilities of knocking them off. Junior QB Trent Steelman returns, as does RB Jared Hassin, who rushed for nine touchdowns in 2011. The duo combined for 20 rushing touchdowns last season, and with all that experience, they will prove to be a difficult matchup for any team on their schedule.
September 17th: Purdue vs. SE Miss State
This has the making off a Appalachian State-Michigan upset all over again. Though, it wouldn't be to that extent because the Boilermakers aren't the favorites in the Big Ten as Michigan was back then, an upset over Purdue would be quite a shock. The Redhawks, who went 9-3 in 2010, take on Purdue a week before the Boilermakers play host to Notre Dame, so the opportunity to catch them focused on the upcoming week is a possibility.
September 17th: Miami (OH) vs. Minnesota
A 10-4 record in 2010, the RedHawks finished with the 32nd ranked passing offense last season, and will look to carry that over into 2011 with the return of junior quarterback Zac Dystert. Miami (OH) knocked of No. 25 Northern Illinois in the final week of the season and then thumped Middle Tennessee State by a score of 35-21 in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
September 24th: Ohio State vs. Colorado
This game could wind up costing Ohio State down the road. The game will be played within the first five games of the season, meaning the Buckeyes will be without their suspended players, most notably star running back Daniel Herron. Last season, the Rams knocked off Georgia 29-27 and Hawaii by a score of 31-13. They return senior RB Rodney Stewart, who eclipsed 1,000 yards last season and amassed 10 touchdowns.
November 12th: Illinois vs. Michigan
A week after they travel to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes, the Wolverines head to Champagne, Illinois to face the Illini. However, this game will occur one week before Michigan meets No. 10 Nebraska and then No. 18 Ohio State. With two top 20 games looming, Denard Robinson and the Wolverines may be overlooking the Illini. With Nathan Scheelhaase under center, the Illini should be able to put up points on a Michigan defense that ranked in the 100's in terms of points per game.