"Do you consider the Nov.4 trip to Iowa a trap game?"
That 11W reader poll early last year sounded ominous. To make matters spookier, it ran the morning after Valentine's Day, which everyone knows is the ultimate trap holiday. Out of the 1,142 votes cast, 53% of you said no - the November trip to Iowa was not going to be a trap game.
You all had your reasons. Comments ranged from "hostile road trips cannot be trap games, bro" to "this is a trap question, bro." The minority 47 percenters who urged caution pleaded that a visit way out to the central time zone sandwiched between two home games, one with the defending conference champ - scheduled to be a high-profile aLtErNaTe uNiFoRmZ™ showcase no less - and the other with The Program That Made Sad Urban Eating Pizza On a Golf Cart into a Meme could only be seen as a traaaaaaaaap.
The corresponding #content to that poll was - ding! - about Trap Games On Ohio State's 2017 Schedule, and [clickbait voice] You'll Never Believe Which One Got Highlighted:
Ohio State will be up for its game the week before when it hosts Penn State. A letdown on the road is certainly a possibility.
Enough of us saw it coming. A little over a hundred years ago the lookout freezing his ass off in the crow's nest on the Titanic would have looked at the position of that Iowa game on Ohio State's 2017 schedule and shouted, "iceberg! Right ahead!" Most of the ship ignored him, and few flinched when it came into view because they were still unworried (and probably drunk) (by the way, every single catastrophic loss the Buckeyes have suffered since the Titanic sank is a metaphor for the Titanic sinking).
So, Penn State and Michigan State - the two other teams that have won December games in Indy recently - sandwiching Iowa - one of the 11 others that have not - seemed like the categorical definition of trap game but reasonable people are allowed to disagree. That February poll closed in favor of Not a Trap Game and everyone forgot about it, since each offseason day here brings a fresh poll and a different debate to distract us from the lack of football.
Then a couple of months later we ran a Film Study on Iowa's pro-style offense, a glimpse into the future which was teased as:
With a solid running game and new offensive coordinator, the Iowa Hawkeyes might be the 'trap game' on Ohio State's schedule this fall.
It looked like a trap, smelled like a trap, it X'd and O'd like a trap. The trip to Iowa was probably going to be a trap! Fast-forward to the middle of the 2017 season, and two weeks before the Penn State uNiFoRmZ banger - and three weeks before the trip to Iowa City - I said:
Iowa has the good fortune of being Ohio State's trap game right after it plays Penn State
The Buckeyes beat the Nittany Lions by one point in a comeback whose equal is nearly impossible to find in program history. Nine months after that post-Valentine's Day poll, our game preview for the visit to Kinnick - which 53 percent of 11W readers said was not a trap game - opened with this lede:
If there’s going to be a trap game in the homestretch of Ohio State’s regular-season schedule, Saturday’s game at Iowa just might be it.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and his players say they have prepared with a mindset of avoiding a letdown this week, so they don’t expect to beat themselves with overconfidence or overlooking their opponent.
The Buckeyes, still raw with emotion from beating Penn State in dramatic fashion, were prepared for a trap game. They got out ahead of it and talked about it as a trap game. They used words like letdown and overconfidence during preparation.
And Iowa promptly took its home field and played like the 2005 USC Trojans at their peak for exactly one afternoon. Seven days later in Madison its offense would not find the end zone one single time. Ohio State knew what might be coming its way in Iowa City and it still lost by 31 fucking points to a roster that is almost entirely made out of 3-star recruits.
What happened in Iowa City last November can make your wonder if seeing a trap game coming your team's way - months, weeks, days before kickoff - even matters at all when it comes to investing your personal self-worth in the whims and talents of teenage gladiators on a Saturday afternoon.
Iowa wasn't the first trap Ohio State walked into; it was just the most vicious one that we've seen since the wire-to-wire No.1 team in the country took a visit to Glendale in January 2007. Yeah, the 2006 BCS Championship was a huuuuge trap game. Debate amongst yourselves; reasonable people are allowed to disagree.
Right before Ohio State's magical 2014 season began, DJ suggested the season opener against Navy could be a trap game. The Buckeyes were flat but good enough to win, and it turned out they were so young they were too busy scouting themselves to scout Virginia Tech properly. Other proposed trap game candidates that season were vs. Cincinnati and at Minnesota, both of which played out with an extremely trappy-like cadence.
It's pretty easy to identify a winnable game that shows up at an inopportune time. In 2015 the trap game candidates included the trip to Bloomington (pictured at the top) which yuuuuuup. Hindsight has mostly validated the science behind trap games, which means we should know right now which Saturdays are most likely to be dark and full of spiders this fall.
It should be obvious! Eleven Warriors football beat writer and expert, Dan Hope: TELL US THE FUTURE NOW
While the trip to Iowa was a somewhat predictable "trap game" going into last season, especially since it immediately followed the Buckeyes’ highly anticipated rematch with Penn State, there’s no obvious trap game going into this season. The game that history suggests could be dangerous, though, is the Buckeyes’ trip to West Lafayette in late October.
There's no obvious trap game in 2018? No way.
It's a trap.