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Utah Football: What's the trap game to look out for in 2015?

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Trap games loom in every team's season. Which game should the Utes be weary of?

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Every coach fears the dreaded "trap game". Whether it be due to lack of focus, inclement weather or injury, every year a team that was not expected to be much of a challenge will rise up and pull an upset or push a higher ranked team to the brink. The Utah football program has not been immune to these trap games.

During Utah’s inaugural season in the Pac-12, with a chance to play in the Pac-12 championship game on the line, Utah laid an egg against lowly Colorado. Back in 2012, still new to the Pac-12, the Utes were stunned in Logan by an upstart Utah State Aggie team. Last year it was Mike Leach and the Washington State Cougars subduing the Utes in the wind and rain at Rice-Eccles. Looking ahead to the upcoming season what are a few potential trap games the Utes should be weary of?

The game that jumps out when reviewing the schedule is October 10th against Cal. Sonny Dykes is now in year three in Berkley and the Cal program is on the rise under his watch. Junior quarterback Jared Goff enters the season as a top two quarterback in the Pac-12, and has passed over 3500 yards in each of his first two seasons.

Goff is coming off a sophomore season in which he threw 35 touchdowns against 7 interceptions and had a passer rating of 147.6. Utah will have three new starters in the secondary this season, and while all the projected starters are touted, they are yet to be tested by a passer like Goff. Obviously Cal can throw the ball, and if the game was to turn into a shootout, the Golden Bears would have a distinct advantage over Utah’s run based offense.

One other fact that may be working against the Utes is the game will be sandwiched between a trip to Autzen Stadium in Eugene to play the Ducks and a visit from the Arizona State Sun Devils in Salt Lake. Marcus Mariota might be plying his trade in the NFL now, but Oregon is still Oregon, and preparation for a trip to Eugene will be intensive and consuming. It would be natural for the players to feel some let down after such a tough game.

But wait, you say, don’t the Utes have a bye the week following the Oregon game? That should give them time to rest up and refresh for the Cal game right? The theory is sound, but Utah has struggled coming off bye week’s since joining the Pac-12. Since joining the conference the Utes are 2-4 coming off a bye with the only two wins coming last year against Michigan and Oregon State.

Arizona State, the only Pac-12 south opponent the Utes have not beaten since joining the Pac-12, comes to town the week after Cal. The Sun Devils have embarrassed the Utes on more than one occasion during the last five years and last year’s overtime heartbreaker in the desert still looms in the back of players and fans minds. Coach Kyle Whittingham and the team will need to make to take of business against Cal and not look ahead toward a chance to knock off the Sun Devils.