College and NFL Trap Game Report
by Trevor Whenham - 10/18/2007
Looking for trap games - games which teams might not be completely focused on because they are looking ahead to next week - is an important element of effective handicapping. It doesn't always mean that a team playing in a trap game will fail to cover or lose outright. Last week none of them did. I do believe, though, that you need to look at games that could be trap games and consider whether that's the defining factor in the game, or whether the favorite can overcome the trap factor and cover. If you are aware of trap games you can deal with them accordingly, but if you aren't paying attention to them then they can sneak up and steal your money.
Here's a look at seven teams that could be looking beyond this weekend:
Northern Illinois (+23) at Wisconsin (Saturday, Oct. 20, 12:00 p.m.) - I hesitate to include Wisconsin here because the way they have been playing the last two weeks they shouldn't be looking past anyone. If they want to stay relevant in the Big Ten they simply cannot lose again. They are tied with Indiana, and they face those upstart Hoosiers next week. Suddenly that is a huge game on the Badgers' schedule. Northern Illinois is a troubled team, but Wisconsin hasn't won by a big margin for a long time.
Vanderbilt (+13.5) at South Carolina (Saturday, Oct. 20, 12:30 p.m.) - With their win over Kentucky, South Carolina is at the top of the SEC East and in the driver's seat to stay there. The first big obstacle standing between them and that goal is Tennessee. They play next weekend, but first the Gamecocks have to deal with Vanderbilt, a team they dispensed of easily last year and haven't lost to since 1999. Vanderbilt is terrible offensively, but has a defense, especially against the pass, that is way better than you would expect. They could sneak up on an unsuspecting opponent.
Mississippi State (+24.5) at West Virginia (Saturday, Oct. 20, 3:30 p.m.) - After their loss to West Virginia, the Mountaineers and their huge expectations are in rough shape in the race for the Big East title. They can't afford to lose again. That makes their game against Rutgers next week crucial. If Rutgers beats South Florida this week that becomes even more of an important game. Standing between West Virginia and a trip to New Jersey is Mississippi State. The Mountaineers should be able to crush them, but the Bulldogs are pesky. They beat Auburn, and South Carolina needed a last minute touchdown to cover. Sylvester Croom and his boys could pull off a surprise.
Oregon (-12) at Washington (Saturday, Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m.) - With Cal's loss last week Oregon became even more relevant in the Pac-10. They weren't expected to have the season they are having, but suddenly the Rose Bowl isn't out of the question. Beating USC would make that more likely, and the vulnerability of that powerhouse this year has to have the upstart Ducks drooling. Before they get their shot at the wavering Trojans, though, they have to deal with the Huskies. After a very promising start, Washington has been extremely disappointing. Jake Locker is very talented, though, and the team is better than they have been playing, so they could choose this spot to rise up and make a statement.
San Jose State (+12.5) at Fresno State (Saturday, Oct. 20, 5:00 p.m.) and Boise State (-16.5) at Louisiana Tech (Saturday, Oct. 20, 7:00 p.m.) - I put these two games together because the trap factor is the same for both of them. After playing relative conference weaklings, Fresno State and Boise State meet next week to be the team in the driver's seat in the WAC if Hawaii falters. Both teams are undefeated in-conference, and Fresno State must be frustrated that they have been playing second fiddle to the Broncos for too long. Both of their opponents this week have done an excellent job of covering big spreads and being pesky. Either game could be a problem if the teams aren't focused on them.
Arizona (+9) at Washington (Sunday, Oct. 21, 1:00 p.m.) - The Redskins are as good as they have been in a while, and they have to be frustrated coming into this game after a loss that shouldn't have happened against Green Bay last week. Despite that, and the tough NFC East, Washington has the swagger of a team that considers themselves an elite team. Next week they get a chance to prove it against a New England team that should still be undefeated. Arizona would be an easy team to look past thanks to their involuntary revolving door at quarterback. You can win a game easily and still not cover a nine-point spread, so this could be a dangerous spot for the Redskins.