Folks, say it with me now: We are now just hours away from the first full weekend of the college football season. Hours! While action kicked off last Friday in Australia, things really heat up this weekend with a slew of games that could have a major impact on the national championship picture.
But while we at FOXSports.com have spent the few weeks previewing everything that will go right in college football -- who will win which conferences, who can compete for the national title, who might win the Heisman -- the simple truth is that at some point, something will go wrong for virtually every team in college football. It’s guaranteed. After all, upsets are why we love the sport so much, and we’ve seen no shortage of them through the years. Last year those upsets included Georgia Tech stunning Florida State, Texas pulling off a wild win against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, and even Alabama losing to Ole Miss for a second straight year. Some of those wins ultimately didn’t matter (see, Ole Miss over Bama), but plenty of them did.
So what is every team’s trap game this year? What is the game that could cost each team a shot at the title? Here is the one game that could ruin every AP Top 25 team’s season.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
No. 25 Florida: at Vanderbilt (Oct. 1)
After a disappointing 4-8 year, Vanderbilt doesn’t jump off the page as a team that can pull a major upset on any Top 25 team this year. But dig deeper, and you’ll see how the upset could happen.
For one, the Commodores played Florida incredibly tough last season, losing a 9-7 game in the Swamp. They also return seven starters on a ferocious defense, which allowed just 21 points per game last year.
And finally, look where this falls on the schedule: With a road trip to Tennessee the week before this game and a visit from LSU the week after, the Gators very well could be looking past the Commodores. And it could cost them big-time.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
No. 24 Oregon: at USC (Nov. 5)
At first glance, the real danger is probably a game at Washington State on Oct. 1, but we’ll get to the Cougars later. Instead, let’s circle a visit to the LA Coliseum on the first Saturday in November for the Ducks.
It'd be easy for Oregon to look past USC, considering the Ducks crushed the Trojans last year. It also comes at a point in the schedule when the Ducks could be ripe for a trap; they should be coming off a comfortable win over Arizona State the week before, and the following week they host Stanford with a potential Pac-12 North title on the line.
Of course, before that showdown with the Cardinal, Mark Helfrich’s club better make sure it take care of the Trojans first.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
No. 23 Baylor: at Texas (Oct. 29)
Baylor has the benefit of playing the Longhorns after a bye week, but this is a tough road game that kicks off a brutal three-game stretch that could determine how the Bears’ entire season plays out. Following this game against Texas is a home date against TCU, then a visit to Oklahoma.
If the Bears win all three of those games, you’ve got to imagine they’ll be in the driver’s seat to win the Big 12. But you can’t win all three if you don’t take care of the first one. And that first one comes against a young Texas team that just so happened to upset Baylor in Waco last year.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY SportsKevin Jairaj
No. 22 North Carolina: vs. Pittsburgh (Sept. 24)
Under the right circumstances the Tar Heels can win another ACC Coastal Division title, and yes, even throw themselves into the conversation as a dark horse contender for the college football playoff.
But while everyone has their road trip to Florida State on Oct. 1 circled on the calendar, the Tar Heels had better not look past a visit from Pittsburgh a week earlier. The Panthers are coming off an impressive 8-5 campaign under Pat Narduzzi and have a balanced offense that could give a young Tar Heels defense fits. North Carolina had to hold on for a 26-19 win against the Panthers last year.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportCharles LeClaire
No. 21 Oklahoma State: vs. Texas Tech (Nov. 12)
Many (myself included) believe Mike Gundy’s squad is a legit Big 12 title contender, and the Pokes will have a chance to prove it when they close out the season with games at TCU and Oklahoma. Win both of those, and it’s very easy to see Oklahoma State winning the conference and potentially representing the Big 12 in the college football playoff.
But before those two games comes another one, which would be easy to look past: a visit from Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas Tech Red Raiders.
No, Tech probably won’t be favored, but with that offense, the Red Raiders can score enough to pull off the upset in Stillwater.
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY SportsBrendan Maloney
No. 20 USC: at Utah (Sept. 23)
Poor USC has a brutal schedule that includes two seismic September games: against Alabama to open the season, before a visit to Stanford in Week 3. Following that Saturday matchup with the Cardinal, the Trojans have to turn around and fly to Salt Lake City to play Utah in a Friday night road game.
It’s one thing to play three of the most physical teams in the country. It’s another to do it over a four-week stretch (with two in six days).
Point being, the Trojans will be lucky to get out of September with one loss, with two probably a bit more realistic.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY SportsJake Roth
No. 19 Louisville: at Syracuse (Sept. 9)
Stop laughing. No, seriously, stop laughing! Let me at least make the case for why Syracuse could present problems for the Cardinals.
This game comes just one week before Louisville hosts, in what could end up as the biggest game of their season. So do you think the Cardinals will be looking past the Orange? The answer is yes, and it’s only natural. Every team in the country would, facing a team that won just four games last year.
That could be bad news when you remember that this game will be played on a Friday night in the Carrier Dome, and will be the first time anyone gets a real look at the high-octane passing attack Dino Babers brought with him from Bowling Green (especially since the Orange open against Colgate).
That offense put up over 40 points a game last year and gave Tennessee fits in Knoxville. Could Babers’ squad put up enough points to pull of an upset?
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
No. 18 Georgia: at Ole Miss (Sept. 24)
It seems strange to call a matchup with a preseason Top 15 team a “trap game,” but in this case it is. For the Bulldogs, it’s the second of back-to-back road games (the first being at Missouri), and comes a week before a matchup with SEC East rival Tennessee -- a game that could decide the SEC East title. It’s also part of a three road games in four weeks stretch that includes a visit to South Carolina following that matchup with the Vols.
So, yes, the Rebels are a legit Top 15 team. And, yes, this is also a legit trap game.
No. 17 Iowa: vs. North Dakota State (Sept. 17)
Yes, the Hawkeyes once again have a Charmin-soft schedule, one that -- barring any upsets -- could see them with 11 or 12 wins to end the regular season and playing for a college football playoff berth in the Big Ten title game.
That is assuming they can avoid an upset against the Bison in Week 3. Not only is North Dakota State the defending five-time FCS champ, it also has a four-game winning streak against FBS opponents dating back to 2010.
At this point, the question isn’t whether North Dakota State can pull the upset. It’s why FBS teams are even scheduling NDSU in the first place.
Getty ImagesMichael Hickey
No. 16 UCLA: at Washington State (Oct. 15)
This game comes at the worst-possible time on the schedule for the Bruins. It’s not only the team’s second straight road game, but it comes in Week 7 of an eight-games-in-eight-week stretch to open the year. You think a young Bruins team won’t be physically and emotionally exhausted by then?
It also doesn’t help that the game is against a Wazzu team that already beat a much more experienced -- and some would say “talented” -- UCLA squad at the Rose Bowl last season. This one reeks of an upset.
USA TODAY Sports
No. 15 Houston: at Cincinnati (Sept. 15)
There aren’t a lot of trap games on the AAC schedule, but for the Cougars, this is it. Not only will it come on a Thursday night against arguably the most talented team in the conference after Houston itself. But it is also comes in the third game in a 12-day stretch to open the year for the Cougars.
Yes, you read that correctly: three games in 12days.
The AAC schedule makers did Tom Herman’s club no favors this one.
Getty ImagesGrant Halverson
No. 14 Washington: at Utah (Oct. 29)
The logic behind Utah being a trap game here is the same as the logic in Utah being mentioned as a trap game earlier in this article: Take a good team (in this case Washington), put it in a brutal road environment (Rice-Eccles Stadium) against a physically imposing squad (Utah), and it creates all the makings of a losable game for an otherwise really good team.
In the case of the Huskies, it doesn’t help that it comes in the midst of a brutal stretch of road games at Oregon, Utah and Cal, with a home game against Oregon State sandwiched in.
Brian Losness-USA TODAY SportsBrian Losness
No. 13 TCU: vs. Oklahoma State (Nov. 19)
This game doesn’t have the makings of a traditional “trap game.” Home games against really good teams rarely but do.
That is, until you look at TCU’s schedule. This game falls smack dab in the middle of road games at Baylor and Texas -- a stretch that could determine the Horned Frogs’ entire season.
Getty ImagesTom Pennington
No. 12 Michigan State: BYU (Oct. 8)
This is just a weird game at a weird point in the schedule. And it's one that will probably mean much more to the Cougars than it will to the Spartans.
For Michigan State, it comes in middle of Big Ten play, where they will have already played Wisconsin and Indiana, with Northwestern the following week. To ask the Spartans to step out of conference right in the middle of that is a tough task, especially when you’re facing a Cougars squad that can physically hang with anyone in college football.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY SportsKevin Jairaj
No. 11 Ole Miss: at Arkansas (Oct. 15)
Ole Miss has arguably the toughest September schedule of anyone in college football, with a “neutral site” game against Florida State in Orlando, followed two weeks later by back-to-back games against Alabama and Georgia.
You’d think things would get easier from that point on, right?
Well not really, because after a game against Memphis (a team that beat the Rebels last year) and then a bye, Ole Miss has another three-game gauntlet, starting with visits to Arkansas and LSU before closing things out against Auburn at home. To quote Uncle Jesse from “Full House”: Have mercy!
It also leaves the Arkansas game as the most likely to be a “trap.” By the time the Rebels play Auburn, they’ll know what’s on the line: They’re either an SEC title contender or not. But that likely still will be undeterined going into the Arkansas matchup, and they could be looking ahead to LSU, which will likely be a Top 5 team at that point.
However, the Rebels had better not look past Bret Bielema’s club -- a big, physical, nasty team that has beaten Ole Miss the past two seasons.
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
No. 10 Notre Dame: vs. Virginia Tech (Nov. 19)
By Notre Dame standards, this year’s schedule seems pretty tame, with a pretty clear delineation between its three biggest games (vs. Michigan State, vs. Stanford, at USC) and everyone else.
Still, don’t sleep on this late-November matchup against the Hokies. Virginia Tech has plenty of talent left from the Frank Beamer era, and might just be hitting their stride in Year 1 of the Justin Fuente era.
Plus, the “look ahead” factor is real here for the Irish, with potential “beat-your-rival-and-go-to-the-playoff” stakes against USC the following week. That is, if they can get by the Hokies first.
Getty ImagesMitchell Leff
No. 9 Tennessee: at Texas A&M (Oct. 8)
Ole Miss might have the toughest front-end SEC schedule in the league, but no one has a more brutal four-game stretch than the Vols. From Sept. 24 through Oct. 15, they play Florida at home, followed by back-to-back road games against Georgia and Texas A&M, followed by a home date with Alabama.
Of all those games, A&M is the biggest “trap.” Just a week after a potential de-facto SEC East title game and a week before they host their most hated rival (who they haven’t beaten in a decade), the Vols have to go to halfway across the country to play one of the most explosive offenses in the sport.
Hey Butch Jones, good luck with that.
Getty ImagesBrett Deering
No. 8 Stanford: vs. Washington State (Oct. 8)
We’ve already discussed the merits of Wazzu as a spoiler for UCLA in the Pac-12, and it will be no different when it plays the Cardinal.
For Stanford, this seems like a winnable game, in a murder’s row to open the season. That stretch includes USC at home, with trips to UCLA, Washington and Notre Dame -- all before Oct. 15.
But the Cardinal had better not look past the Cougars. Not only does Mike Leach’s club have the talent to beat Stanford, it nearly did so last year before a last-minute field goal saved the Cardinal.
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
No. 7 Michigan: vs. Indiana (Nov. 19)
Michigan plays seven of its first nine games at home, and it’s three marquee games are clearly defined (at Michigan State, at Iowa, at Ohio State). So it’s hard to find a “trap” game.
But facing Indiana late in the season feels like that game.
By this point in the season, the Wolverines will know if they’re true title contenders, but just a week after they play Iowa and a week before they play Ohio State, the Wolverines will face a Hoosiers squad that gave them fits last season. Remember, the Wolverines needed double-overtime to win in Bloomington last year, and Kevin Wilson’s offense can score more than enough points to make this one interesting.
Getty ImagesRob Foldy
No. 6 Ohio State: at Penn State (Oct. 22)
If the Buckeyes can get by Oklahoma in Week 3 (or even if they don’t), they could be playing with a whole lot of confidence coming into this one. That could be bad news when you remember that this is a second straight road game for a young Ohio State team (it plays at Wisconsin the week before). The Nittany Lions will have a bye week to prepare, and this game will likely be at night in front of 100,000+ screaming Nittany Lions fans.
Even on their way to a title two seasons ago, the Buckeyes needed two overtimes to take down Penn State in Happy Valley in 2014.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
No. 5 LSU: at Arkansas (Nov. 12)
The Hogs are basically everyone’s trap game -- a team that doesn’t have the front-line talent of the top teams in the SEC but stylistically gives just about everyone trouble.
That includes LSU, which plays them just one week after facing Alabama, and in the midst of a three-game stretch that also includes a visit from Ole Miss on Oct. 22.
Plus, the Razorbacks have beaten Les Miles’ club two years in a row (both times immediately following their game with Alabama). There’s also history here, as a loss to Arkansas almost cost LSU a shot at the title back in 2007. Could history repeat itself nine years later?
No. 4 Florida State: vs. North Carolina (Oct. 1)
With a brutal September that includes a matchup with Ole Miss and a visit to Louisville, we’ll know exactly where the Seminoles stand by the time this game is played. And that standing could very well be “ACC front-runner and college football playoff contender.”
And if the Noles win those two early-season grudge matches, this would be an easy game to overlook, especially when you remember that they play at rival Miami the following week.
The Tar Heels have the talent to pull off the upset and put Florida State’s season on the brink.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
No. 3 Oklahoma: at Iowa State (Nov. 3)
Call me crazy. It’s ok, I’ve been called worse (often times by my own family members). But the Sooners have to travel to Iowa State on a Thursday night (after they the previous Saturday against Kansas), and they have Baylor the following week -- likely with a Big 12 title on the line.
Just four days after an easy win over the Jayhawks and a week before their biggest game of the season, it seems like the Sooners could be ripe for a letdown here.
By the way, does this have the feeling of Oklahoma State at Iowa State back in 2011 to anyone else? You know, the game that cost the Pokes a shot at the national championship?!
Alex Menendez/Getty Images
No. 2 Clemson: at Georgia Tech (Sept. 22)
Seriously, stop calling me crazy! Yes, the Tigers are better at Georgia Tech at virtually every position. And, yes, the Yellow Jackets only won three games last year.
However, remember these two things: This game is on a Thursday night, and weird stuff happens to good teams on Thursday nights; and one of Georgia Tech's wins last season came at home against a very good Florida State team.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
No. 1 Alabama: vs. Texas A&M (Oct. 22)
Sure, Alabama has owned A&M since Johnny Manziel walked into the “Roman Colosseum” and walked out with a win in 2012. But keep in mind that this game is at the end of a brutal three-game stretch that includes road trips to Arkansas and Tennessee, and right before a bye week, after which Alabama will play LSU.
The Tide will be emotionally and physically exhausted. Will it be enough for the Aggies to spring the upset?