A trap game in college football is loosely defined as a game against a lesser opponent that is sandwiched between or directly before a “big-time” game such as against a rival or highly ranked opponent. The West Virginia Mountaineers have experienced the ultimate trap game, the 2007 Backyard Brawl where the Mountaineers got caught looking ahead to a potential national championship game against Ohio State Buckeyes or Missouri Tigers but came out flat, didn’t make adjustments and ultimately ended the Rich Rodriguez era at WVU.
We aren’t here to rehash that old tale, but to talk about 2018. 2018 has the chance to be special for West Virginia but if it is going to be special, the team will need to avoid the quote-unquote trap games. Let’s identify a few games that could be problematic for the team.
September 8th vs Youngstown State Penguins
I know what you’re saying, how in the world is a FCS opponent ever considered a trap game. In reality, I don’t expect this game to be close but we are identifying “potential” trap games and this game fits the bill. It is in-between the season opener against the Tennessee Volunteers and a looming Top-15/20 showdown with N.C. State Wolfpack. The Mountaineers could be riding high if they handle the Volunteers and a big win against NCSU would go a long way in giving the Mountaineers a great out-of-conference record when the season ends and the playoff committee is debating the best four teams.
Youngstown State also isn’t exactly a pushover as Bo Pelini has developed that program to into a championship quality program. When the Mountaineers played the Penguins in 2016, the Penguins eventually made the FCS National Championship.
October 25 vs Baylor Bears
Many analysts, such as FoxSports and my ultimate man-crush Joel Klatt have often referenced that the Mountaineers could start the season 8-0. Doing so they would have to handle the Iowa State Cyclones in Ames the week prior to this game. This game is on a Thursday and that upsets the routine of teams. It also comes directly before the Mountaineers will begin “Deathvember”: a series of four straight games in November against the four best teams in conference.
The upcoming four games make the Baylor game dangerous. The hype for the Mountaineers should be real at this point in the season. Baylor, on the other hand, could start the season 4-0 and that might give this young team some confidence. They will have already played at Oklahoma and at Texas so the Bears will have experienced two tough atmospheres and could be ready for a primetime showdown. Charlie Brewer sliced the Mountaineer defense last year and now will have almost a full season’s worth of starts under his belt.
November 17 at Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State is by no means a “lesser” opponent but this game is directly between a home game against the TCU Horned Frogs and the looming season finale against the Oklahoma Sooners. Both the Sooners and Horned Frogs travel to Morgantown so this game is the last regular season road game of the year. It will be senior night for OSU. Some pundits are thinking Mike Gundy’s squad might not be as bad as originally thought despite the loss of James Washington and Mason Rudolph.
Stillwater is a tough place to play and if the Mountaineers get caught looking ahead to “big brother” then little brother Oklahoma State could easily hand the Mountaineers a loss that could derail a special season.