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Must-win and trap games of 2017: Stanford Cardinal

When is it too early to start dissecting the 2017 football schedule? Whenever it was, it is behind us ...

We’re taking a look at some of the most important games each Pac-12 team has waiting for it in the fall: the must-wins and the trap games. Next up: Stanford.

Must-win game: Nov. 10 against Washington. Last season’s embarrassing loss to the Huskies was really Washington’s first entrance onto the national stage as a College Football Playoff contender. It wasn’t just that Washington had picked up a big win early in Pac-12 play. It was that Washington had done it against Stanford, the perennial powerhouse, tough-at-the-line-of-scrimmage and fundamentally sound Stanford team the rest of the country had come to identify with the Pac-12. The loss was so bad that for most, it’s what they remember best about Stanford’s season (and yes, that was a 10-win season). David Shaw has set a high bar for the Cardinal, and that game certainly fell below the mark. But, the high expectations for the Cardinal will be the same in 2017. Though it is missing key parts next season, there might just be enough elements there for Stanford to reach that bar and be a Pac-12 champion again. But, that path goes through Washington in November.

Trap game: Oct. 26 at Oregon State. Stanford’s matchup with the Beavers comes at a relatively inopportune time -- smack dab in the middle of a five-game stretch that starts with Utah/Oregon and ends with Washington State/Washington. All four of the other games are ones Stanford might find itself a little more amped up for because of the history of the games and the general lack of a history with Oregon State, which hasn't beaten the Cardinal since 2009. The Oregon State game will also be played on a Thursday night in Corvallis, meaning Stanford will come off a Saturday matchup with Oregon and turn around on a very short week with a Wednesday travel day. The possibility of overlooking a road opponent plus a short week right in the middle of four other games that most would consider to be more paramount? Sounds like the recipe for a trap game.