What are trap games?
Well, for starters these games tend to be against teams that are ranked just outside the Top 25. This, of course, means a win over the Irish is sure to catapult them into the Top 25 in the subsequent week’s rankings. Another aspect of trap games include the level of play. Either the unranked underdog plays up to Notre Dame’s talent level or, unfortunately, the Irish seep down to the underdog’s level of play. When both of these happen simultaneously, it is a recipe for disaster.
A trap game is further defined by the scheduling of the game. For example, a game like Virginia Tech can foolishly be overlooked in anticipation of the big show down with USC. In my estimation, the Irish have at least 4 trap games in 2016. Here’s part 1, which looks at Duke and Nevada.
Finishing 7-6 last year and going 8-5 in 2015, NC State has played two bowl games in a row and looks like a program on the rise. The major change for the Wolfpack this year will be a new offensive coordinator by the name of Eliah Drinkwitz.
Under Drinkwitz, the Boise State offense last year was 15th nationally in scoring (39.1 points per game) and total offense (501.3 yards per game). Athlon Sports noted that the Broncos were just one of 10 FBS schools to average at least 39 points and 500 yards of offense per game.
Although the ACC will surely have more talented defensive units than those in the Mountain West Conference, Drinkwitz has a proven record of scoring and winning in bunches. He was also part of the Auburn Tigers team that won a national championship in 2010.
Meanwhile, the Wolfpack will welcome the return/recovery of running back Matt Dayes. Dayes rushed for 865 yards before tearing a ligament in his toe with five games to play. His 6.5 yards per carry ranked third in the ACC, trailing only Florida State’s Dalvin Cook (7.4) and North Carolina’s Elijah Hood (6.7).
The Wolfpack will rely heavily on Dayes this year, with last year’s star, QB Jacoby Brissett, having graduated. Brissett’s replacement will be either redshirt sophomore Jalan McClendon or redshirt freshman Jakobi Meyers. (It appears NC State only recruits QB’s whose first names start with “Ja…”)
Perhaps, the most dangerous aspect of the Wolfpack is its returning defense. The unit is expected to return eight starters from a defense that finished a very respectable 29th in total defense last year.
Because of a backloaded schedule, the Wolfpack may be undefeated (and highly ranked) when they face the Irish on Oct. 8. While this possibility doesn’t scream trap game, other factors do. It will be a true away game (which seems rare nowadays) and also a week before the Irish’s big showdown with Stanford. And it’s against a program that truly is on the rise. For these reasons, the Irish must once again be wary of the wolves!
The Hokies went 7-6 last year, but four of those losses were by one score or less. (Their loss to Ohio State had an eerily similar result as the Irish’s own defeat at the hand of the Buckeyes.)
For the first time in nearly 30 years, Virginia Tech will have a brand new head coach. Justin Fuente ran an up-tempo, spread offense at Memphis that resulted in nine wins. Can his success there translate to Blacksburg?
To Fuente’s benefit, the Hokies return running back Travon McMillian, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year. While McMillian is expected to receive the lion’s share of carries, fullback Sam Rogers will supplment. The Hokies also return experience among their wideouts: Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips and tight end Bucky Hodges are among the ACC’s best.
Jerod Evans, a Texas junior college transfer, impressed the most in the Hokies’ spring game and is the presumed leader for the starting quarterback job. For more on the Hokies, read Athlon Sports’ preview.
Looking at the schedule, the Virginia Tech game is a perfect example of a trap. Not only is the game played on Senior Day, but it’s also a week before the regular season finale against USC. Along with these intangibles, the Hokies really do have a solid team that the Irish must not overlook. A team that should be well acclimated to new Coach Fuente’s offense and coaching style by the time they face the IRISH. Watch out! It’s a trap.