The ink is still drying on the announcement that UW and Oregon are joining the Big Ten. Or the B1G. In any case, this news - up there with the Apollo 11 Moon landing - has nudged 2023 as “Kalen DeBoer’s much-anticipated second season” out of the way just a tad, as it’s now also “UW’s last season in the Pac 12”, and appears to be the curtain call for the entire conference. This news makes me very sad. But I live in a world that I didn’t create, which I accept, and joining the Big Ten is the best thing from my perspective as a fan that could happen to UW Football, given the migraine-inducing current state of college football.
That said, we have a season of football ahead of us — a season of excitement towards what Kalen DeBoer and Co. will do for a second act. The games will still be 60 minutes, the field 100 yards long, and Pac 12 refs still crappy. These are the facts and they are undisputable.
But the looming demise of the conference will indeed cast a shadow over 2023, and will surely alter the feel of each conference game to one degree or another. I don’t think the contest against Tulsa will feel any different. But Stanford? Oregon State? WSU? USC? We will explore this more after we get through the trap games. Okay fine.
Let’s revisit what makes a trap game: Only good teams must watch out for trap games. Expecting a victory or overlooking your opponent is what creates the trap. Bad teams don’t expect to win. Trap games are also situational - the supposedly better team with something to lose is the victim of a trap game. Context matters too - stages are set for trap games, and this typically requires forging at least a few games into the schedule.
I’d say that Kalen DeBoer’s Huskies are indeed a good team. And in their two losses last year, I don’t blame either on a let-down attitude. So what are those matchups they need to look out for? What are the potential trap games on this year’s schedule?
In my personal treatise “What I Believe” ™©, the section on Collegiate Gridiron describes which games can NEVER be trap games: rivalry games, marquee OOC games, bad-blood and revenge games, games against conference heavies... So that crosses out WSU, Oregon, USC, Utah, and Michigan State.
Of the remaining seven games I’m excluding Cal and Oregon State and here’s why:
I need one more victory to wash out the bad taste of a few years ago, when we lost two very close games you can nickname the “Browning Benched game” and the “Lightning game”, followed by a DNP in 2020. Cal comes to Montlake as the first conference opponent of the season, and with the familiarity of a Bears program in Justin Wilcox’s 7th year. Cal is to me the weaker opponent, but I don’t think there’s risk of taking this game lightly by the Huskies; this doesn’t shape up as a trap game to me.
Jonathan Smith’s Beavers have been trending up to where they are now: Pac-12 title contenders. Oregon State was 10-3 last year, with losses to Utah, USC (by 3), and UW - where the Huskies needed a 4th quarter comeback to win the game on a field goal. The Dawgs had another close win in 2020 and lost on a last-second field goal in 2021. I do think Oregon State will have something to prove in this Pac-12 swan song, and they have the means to prove it. This is absolutely not a trap game regardless of its place on the schedule.
As for the remaining five Trap Game candidates, Boise State, Tulsa, Arizona, Arizona State, and Stanford, let’s take a look.
I claimed in the 2021 version of this article that: ”... it’s impossible for the first game of the season to ever be a trap game. If you’re not prepared for your first opponent of the year you’ve got bigger problems to sort out than the odd trap game.” And I stand by that statement. We did have bigger problems to sort out, Jimmy Lake is a memory, and here we are with the best coach in the conference. Huzzah. But dammnit you’d better be ready for that first game! And this year it’s a quality opponent in Boise State.
UW had success over the Chris Petersen-era Broncos when most others did not, with 2 home wins and a close bowl loss. When Petersen switched sides the Dawgs went 1-1, the most recent game a big bowl win over Boise State. These two teams definitely have some history, although little bad blood that I’m aware of (unless Bronco fans are still salty over Petersen). The Broncos were 10-4 last year with a bowl win and head coach Andy Avalos won Mountain West Coach of the Year.
I think Boise State will come to Husky Stadium fired up to face the highest-profile team on their schedule, and the Huskies better be ready. I think it will be a good game. But a trap game? I’m not convinced but I’ll listen to arguments.
Trap game status: Convince Me
Tulsa went 5-7 last year in the American Athletic Conference but has a new HC in former Ohio State OC Kevin Wilson. Before the Buckeyes, Wilson was HC at Indiana for 6 years with a record of 26-47. Wilson was the co-OC when the Buckeyes beat UW at the Rose Bowl following the 2018 season. Other than that, I got nothing on Tulsa except their mascot name is one of my favorite in college sports. The “Golden Hurricanes”! I love it!
Will the Dawgs be beat up after the Boise State game? Will they take their foot off the pedal, eyeing the upcoming journey to East Lansing? This game definitely qualifies as an overlook-your-opponent scenario - a key factor in the Trap Game formula - but all things considered I’m not worried about this one.
Trap game status: Convince Me
Although we haven’t suffered the same voodoo against the Wildcats as we have the Sun Devils recently, this game is in the state of Arizona which should worry Husky fans. Last year’s contest at Husky stadium qualifies as the closest ALMOST-trap game of 2022 IMO, with the Wildcats pulling to within 3 in the 4th quarter before Penix and Co. walked out winners. Arizona improved from 1-11 to 5-7 in Jed Fisch’s 2nd year and appears to be trending up. Did I mention this game is in the state of Arizona and comes before the bye that comes before Oregon? (okay that may be a reach)
Trap game status: Real and Spooky.
Arizona State was bad last year at 3-9, and was only able to beat Northern Arizona (FCS), Colorado (worst team in FBS) and .... UW. That’s right. Perfect for a trap game: a seemingly bad team, that managed to beat the Huskies anyways, coming the week after the Dawgs play the hated Oregon Ducks, AND they walk around with a UW Husky voodoo doll stuck full of pins. The voodoo is real.
ASU has new HC Kenny Dillingham who spent last year as Dan Lanning’s OC in Eugene, and if you want an analysis on what they could look like read Max’s article. Let’s also remember that post- Rick Neuheisel, UW has gone just 2-11 against ASU. 2-11! And it took conference-champion teams under Chris Petersen to muster those two lonely wins in 2016 and 2018. ASU basically sucked last year and still beat UW. And did I mention they played that game in the state of Arizona? See folks - the voodoo is real. At least this one is at Husky Stadium.
Trap game status: Very Real and Spooky As Hell.
The Stanford Cardinal are on the cusp of a hefty change to their football program, and I’m not even talking about conference realignment and the death of the Pac 12. David Shaw retired after 12 years in charge and Troy Taylor takes over after three successful seasons at Sacramento State. In a 2022 FCS playoff loss to 12-1 Incarnate Word, Taylor’s 12-0 Hornets amassed 49 first downs and 738 yards of offense. So he’s an offensive-minded guy I reckon. Will the Huskies secondary - last year’s most concerning position group - be susceptible to a Stanford passing attack? More importantly, does this game wedged between two big home games and a trip to USC place it in prime Trap Game territory? I say yes.
Trap game status: Absolutely
Trap games by their very nature defy logic. They have a feel to them. What do you feel in your gut? Mine tells me it’s either Arizona or ASU. That AZ hex that has been around a while... Can UW kill it off? It’s the last chance to slay this demon before the conference sadly becomes a memory.
Getting back to the B1G News: Just a few days ago I couldn’t imagine this season would be the final lap for UW in the Pac 12. And it goes beyond that, all the way to the death knell of the Pac XX conference it appears. UW would surely get some “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass...” attitude even if the conference was remaining intact. But now? I’m just glad the Apple Cup isn’t in Pullman this year.
The developments of the past week cast a new light on games this season that don’t fall into the Trap Game category. Let’s discuss.
It’s fitting that we get a rematch against this Big Ten team, who we will be seeing more of in our new conference. Let’s beat MSU again in their house in front of Big Ten fans and announce our intentions. Also, there were a lot of mouthy Spartan fans at the game last year and they need to be kept in their place. Germie Bernard getting some stats would be that much sweeter.
If social media is to be believed, loads of Trojan fans are pissed that UW and Oregon are joining USC and UCLA in the Big Ten. They wanted that conference to themselves and now they are whining that we and the Ducks are crashing their party. Tough. I’m glad that my trip to the Rose Bowl last season won’t be the last in-conference visit to Pasadena. And this November I’ll be in LA again to see the Dawgs play USC at the Coliseum. I plan on celebrating a Husky win by displaying a homemade t-shirt that says “We’ll Beat You in the B1G too.” So good!
This is a tough one. I get it that Cougar fans are going through the five stages of grief. I grew up in Tacoma and have lifelong friends that came from WSU families or went to WSU themselves. This sucks for them. Big time. I don’t blame them for hating UW more than USC, UCLA, Larry Scott, ESPN, Fox... It sucks. And I hope the Apple Cup continues. That’s all I have to say on that one.
What’s this season’s biggest trap game?
This poll is closed