Big Ten West Contenders’ Trap Games Of 2017
We’ve already taken a look at the East trap games in the Big Ten, now it’s time to head on over to the West and look at what games might sneak up and bite the contenders there.
Yeah, yeah, so the West Division isn’t perceived to be on par with the big, bad East, but there’s still some teams that could contend for really big things this year. We’re not looking at the titanic struggles against the likes of Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, or Michigan.
No, instead we turn our gaze on the schedules of the contenders in the West and try to find the sleeper games that could ruin a season. And yes, we are leaving Purdue and Illinois out of the contender discussion until they prove otherwise.
SEP. 2 VS WYOMING
If you’ve watched Iowa during the Kirk Fernetz era, there’s no doubt you’ve noticed more than the Pittsburgh Steeler knock-off uniforms. Yes, you’ve likely taken note that the Hawkeyes struggle getting out of the gate early in the season. Call it good ‘ole fashion early season rust, or an issue with confidence. Any way you slice it, there’s usually a close-shave or loss somewhere in the first few games of the season.
Enter stage left Wyoming for game numero uno. It’s another one of those sleepy noon first games of the season where some of the cobwebs need shaken off. But it’s also against a Cowboy team that’s miles away from being a pushover. Quarterback Josh Allen is going to be an NFL first rounder and will be a handful if he’s hot. Keep an eye on this one.
OCT. 7 AT PURDUE
Yes, Purdue. I know the Boilermakers have had some very ugly seasons as of late, but there’s reason for optimism this year. Now don’t get all Purdue’s going to make some noise in the Big Ten this year. No, I’m just pointing out that this could be a bigger boat to row (yeah, I went there), than what P.J. Fleck and company might want to admit.
Purdue is a bit of an unknown with new head coach Jeff Brohm now running the show. Starting quarterback and interception party machine David Blough should benefit from the new scheme and tempo, and the game is in West Lafayette. There could be some offensive fireworks as long as the turnovers are kept gently down the stream.
SEP. 29 AT ILLINOIS
I’m not ready to tag the Illini as a sleeper team in the league. Heck, I’m not even ready to think about them being a winning ball-club. Or that Lovie Smith will make it to practice every day on his bike. Frankly, he has a lot of work to do to turn that thing around. Sounds like an easy one for the ‘Huskers right?
Hardly. This game jumps out as a potential snake in the grass for Nebraska. Memorial Stadium in Champaign can be a wind tunnel and wreak havoc on opposing teams’ passing offenses. With Nebraska having an awful time trying to push people around in the run game last year, that could spell trouble. It’s also right before the Cornhuskers host Wisconsin and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks. Oh, and the Illini have two weeks to prepare for whatever that’s worth these days.
OCT. 14 AT MARYLAND
So, I’m calling for Northwestern to be a factor in the Big Ten West race, but honestly your guess is as good as mine as to what we’ll see in Evanston from year to year — or game to game for that matter. Still, if you want a trap game, circle the game at Maryland.
The obvious low hanging fruit is that it’s on the road. But there’s more. It also happens to fall directly after too slugfests against Wisconsin in Madison, and Penn State at home. Northwestern may be walking wounded and spiritually beat down heading to College Park. And you can bet D.J. Durkin will have his improving team ready to put up a fight.
NOV. 25 AT MINNESOTA
The game at BYU gets honorable mention, but the one at the end of the year in the Twin Cities is going to be a Tough Mudder.
By that time, P.J. Fleck will have gotten everyone’s oars in the water (I just can’t resist), the weather could be cold and dicey, and the game is the last game of the season on the road where emotions will be running high.
You can bet Fleck would love nothing more than to take the axe back to Minneapolis after thirteen straight losses. Just don’t poke anyone’s eye out with excitement if it happens.
Phil Harrison is the lead Big Ten Writer for College Football News. Catch his opinion and analysis all year long.