Here are the 5 biggest 'Trap games' of the 2021 B1G season
The Big Ten’s 2021 campaign is setting up to be an outstanding season.
While there’s plenty of teams chasing Ohio State at the top, there’s also programs like Michigan State and Illinois who are hoping to turn things around next season. Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan should also be much-improved.
But the teams at the top of college football slip up every season in unexpected spots. Here’s a look at predicting some “trap games” for the Big Ten’s 2021 slate:
Ohio State @ Minnesota (Sept. 2)
If there’s a trap game on Ohio State’s schedule, it’s Minnesota in Week 1. The Buckeyes will be breaking in a new quarterback when they face Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium on the opening Thursday night of the season.
Minnesota has the talent to grind clock and PJ Fleck will have the Gophers ready to go for this game. Ohio State likely won’t be vulnerable to this kind of game later in the season after establishing new starters for players like Justin Fields, Wyatt Davis, Pete Werner and Shaun Wade. But early on in the year? It’s at least possible someone could take down the Buckeyes.
Iowa @ Maryland (Oct. 2)
This is a classic trap-game setup. Iowa’s early-season schedule is a relative cake-walk before facing Penn State on Oct. 9. Or is it?
Iowa gets the Terps a week earlier on Oct. 2, and that game will be played in College Park. Taulia Tagovailoa showed enough promise last season to be intrigued by his potential going into 2021. He was turnover prone at times, yes, but he also has the talent to pull off a major upset like this if the Hawkeyes aren’t careful.
Wisconsin @ Illinois (Oct. 9)
This one is all about timing. Wisconsin has the talent to out-class Illinois, but the Badgers are going to be between tough games when they face Bret Bielema’s squad in 2021. Wisconsin catches Illinois one week after playing Michigan and one week before hosting Army.
The Michigan game ends an early-season gauntlet that also includes Penn State and Notre Dame. Meanwhile, Army has given Power 5 teams like Oklahoma and Michigan plenty of trouble in recent years. Preparing for the triple option in the middle of a conference slate could bleed into Wisconsin’s prep for Illinois.
From Illinois’ perspective, Bielema will be looking to make a splash in Year 1. It’s clear he’s already energized that program, and it’s easy to see him making a big push for an upset over the Badgers early in his tenure.
Michigan vs. Northwestern (Oct. 23)
Michigan faces Northwestern one week before it attempts to avenge its stunning loss a year ago to Michigan State. Jim Harbaugh is 3-3 vs. the Spartans during his tenure at Michigan, and he won’t want to fall below .500 in that rivalry.
It’s hard to imagine Northwestern sneaking up on anyone after winning the Big Ten West last season. But the Wildcats lost a ton of NFL talent, including two first-round picks. If they get off to a slow start, it’s not hard to imagine Michigan overlooking them with the Spartans looming a week later. If Northwestern did pull off an upset, it would be its first win over the Wolverines since 2008 and just their third of the 21st century.
Penn State @ Michigan State (Nov. 27)
This is the final game on Penn State’s schedule. The Spartans were mostly uncompetitive last season, aside from two stunning upsets over Michigan and Northwestern.
However, second-year coach Mel Tucker is bringing in at least 33 new scholarship players this season. By the end of the 2021 campaign, the Spartans new nucleus could have gelled enough to give Penn State some trouble in East Lansing.