LOS ANGELES -- They are the most feared games of a season. Generally, there is only one, but sometimes there are two. Coaches fear them like the results of an All-American’s MRI. Players -- not coaches -- can be lulled to sleep by them, and fans go ballistic when they occur.
Ah yes, that 17-12 Trojans loss to Chris Petersen’s Huskies in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum -- a defeat that might come back to bite the Trojans on their Pac-12 South Division backside. A numbing toe-stubbing that could prevent the Men of Troy from winning the Pac-12 South, even though they are currently the only team to defeat the South Division-leading and No. 10-ranked Utah Utes.
As is pretty much public knowledge, if the Trojans win out in their final three games of the regular season (at Colorado, at Oregon, vs. UCLA), Clay Helton’s cardinal and gold club will need Utah to lose once to either Arizona, UCLA or Colorado in the next three weeks to control their own destiny.
All of which brings us to the frightful potential of a second trap game for the Men of Troy at Colorado this Friday night in expected frigid weather in Boulder. And did we mention the game will be played on Friday the 13th?
To add a potential overconfident sedative inside the Trojans helmets, Colorado has lost all nine previous games against the storied private school from downtown Los Angeles.
There is also the element that the Trojans are riding a season-high, three-game winning streak and could understandably be looking ahead to the following week at Oregon. It’s a recipe for an upset special.
This is an improving Buffaloes team (4-6 overall, 1-5 Pac-12) under third-year head coach Mike MacIntyre, and nobody knows that better than Helton.
“This is a different Colorado team than we’ve faced over the last couple of years,” Helton said earlier this week. “I just look at them and I know the wins aren’t coming to them like they would like. But you look at the way they’re competing against some really quality teams right now, and they seem like they’re in every game.”
If you wonder whether Helton is blowing smoke to catch the attention of his team, consider that a couple of weeks ago the Buffaloes gave No. 19 UCLA all it could handle in a dramatic 35-31 loss to Jim Mora’s Bruins. Oh, and did we mention the game was played at the Rose Bowl?
“This is somebody we’d better take a championship attitude into their place, or like any game in the Pac-12 you’ll get beat if you don’t bring your ‘A’ game,” Helton warned.
There are some specific red flags that are germane to a potential trap game at Folsom Field.
This Friday’s game disrupts the normal Trojans practice week. If you want to dig a little deeper on this point, it’s the fact that Helton’s weekly team practices are early morning rituals, and Friday’s game at Folsom Field will be played at night.
And speaking of playing at night, there will also be the element of the aforementioned weather. Throw in a potential windchill factor, and it’s not exactly a romantic Southern California evening at the beach that the visitors are accustomed.
Perhaps most important, MacIntyre finally has his team believing, and that is half the battle when trying to return to respectability. An upset over the favored Trojans would certainly be a major benchmark for his program -- not to mention recruiting momentum for the Buffs in the extremely fertile recruiting fields of Southern California.
Whether Colorado can actually be victorious in this potential “trap game” remains to be seen, but the Buffaloes are capable of giving the Trojans all they can handle, especially if you’ve followed USC's inconsistent performances this season.
If the Trojans let Colorado take them into the fourth quarter, they know from their earlier Washington experience that all things are possible in the final stanza.
And because of its importance, that’s why the Trojans have to consider this is perhaps the biggest trap game of the season.