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Oregon Football's Top Trap Games in 2021

The Ducks have some tough games on their schedule, but don't sleep on these games as potential slipups.

Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we? The year was 2013, and Oregon was the fifth-ranked team in the country coming off of a harrowing road loss to Stanford two weeks prior.

The Ducks' hopes of being in a BCS bowl remained strong despite the loss, but a national championship game berth lay in jeopardy and some chips would have had to have fallen the Ducks' way for them to return to the title game. They headed to Tucson, Ariz. for an afternoon game in late November against a sputtering Wildcats team that had lost two straight home games and had a losing record in the conference.

In what still remains a very sore spot for Ducks fans, Oregon sputtered mightily against the inferior Wildcats, falling out of BCS contention with a 42-16 loss. The Wildcats ran all over the Ducks, and their student section ran all over the field and upended the goal post.

Oregon fell to the phenomenon known as the "trap game," where a contender loses to a team they are heavily favored to beat. Other examples — 2014 vs. Arizona, 2018 at Arizona, 2019 at Arizona State, and 2020 at Oregon State.

The Ducks open the season as the favorites to win the Pac-12 for the third consecutive year and are contenders for a New Year's Six bowl game. There's a lot of attention and buzz around this team, but one upset could derail the entire season.

Here are my top three trap games that the Ducks should not overlook on their schedule.

1. Fresno State

Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers (20) breaks through the grips of Colorado State defensive back Keevan Bailey (25) in the Bulldogs' 38-17 win over Colorado State on Oct. 29, 2020.

Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers (20) breaks through the grips of Colorado State defensive back Keevan Bailey (25) in the Bulldogs' 38-17 win over Colorado State on Oct. 29, 2020.

It may seem ludicrous to say that a season opener is a trap game for any team, but hear me out. Fresno State is a really good team, but the Ducks go to Columbus to face the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes for their biggest non-conference game in several years.

Mario Cristobal isn't the kind of coach who will prepare his team dramatically differently one week versus another, but regardless of who the Ducks are facing the following week, the point stands that Fresno State is still a team that the Ducks should not overlook.

Last month, I wrote two articles previewing the Fresno State matchup.

READ MORE: Oregon Football Week 1 Preview vs. Fresno State: Offense

READ MORE: Oregon Football Week 1 Preview vs. Fresno State: Defense

Just to give a brief summary of those articles, Fresno State had an elite passing offense in 2020, ranking fourth in the country with 336.8 yards per game, according to NCAA.com. Starting quarterback Jake Haener found a rhythm last year with his talented receiving core and running back Ronnie Rivers who has more touchdowns than any Bulldog in program history (44) and the third-most yards from scrimmage (3,686).

The Ducks' offensive line will have quite the test in week one as the Bulldogs ranked third in the country in sacks per game last season at 4.17 and return most of their production in that category. Oregon is currently a 21-point favorite to win this game, according to ESPN, but don't expect this game to be a gimme. Fresno State is a team on the rise in the Mountain West and could contend for the conference title in 2021.

2. Stanford

Stanford running back Austin Jones (20) stiff arms UCLA linebacker Kobey Fitzgerald (20) in the Cardinal's 48-47 overtime win over the Bruins on Dec. 19, 2020.

Stanford running back Austin Jones (20) stiff arms UCLA linebacker Kobey Fitzgerald (20) in the Cardinal's 48-47 overtime win over the Bruins on Dec. 19, 2020.

Stanford has broken the Ducks heart plenty of times before (see 2012, 2013, 2018). David Shaw's team is not nearly on the level of those teams that defeated Oregon in the past, but the Cardinal should feed off of the momentum from a strong finish last season and could likely finish third in the Pac-12 North.

Davis Mills is gone, along with leading receiver Simi Fehoko and a number of starters on defense. The starting lineup on both sides of the ball could be a mystery, but I expect it to be figured out by the time the Ducks come to Palo Alto on Oct. 2.

Stanford will already have faced USC and UCLA before hosting Oregon, so expect the Cardinal to have their legs underneath them after facing quality Pac-12 opponents. They will also be playing with a chip on their shoulder after losing to the Ducks in each of their last two meetings.

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Austin Jones and Nathaniel Peat will be a lethal 1-2 punch for Pac-12 defenses this season, and if Oregon's run defense doesn't improve from last season, it could be a long night for the Ducks' defensive front.

ESPN's Power Index gives the Ducks a 71.7% percent of defeating the Cardinal.

3. Oregon State

Oregon State quarterback Tristan Gebbia (3) runs through the Oregon defensive line on a quarterback keeper during the Beavers' 41-38 upset win over the Ducks on Nov. 27, 2020.

Oregon State quarterback Tristan Gebbia (3) runs through the Oregon defensive line on a quarterback keeper during the Beavers' 41-38 upset win over the Ducks on Nov. 27, 2020.

Oregon State is not expected to be one of the better teams in the Pac-12. In fact, the Beavers were given the second-lowest odds (100/1) to win the conference, according to SuperBook Sports last month. 

However, the Beavers are riding some momentum after shocking the ninth-ranked Ducks in Corvallis last year as 13-point underdogs. The Beavers will come to Autzen Stadium, where they haven't taken down the Ducks since 2007, to fight for its second-straight victory against their heated in-state rivals.

Oregon State would absolutely love to derail Oregon's season once again. Let's concoct a scenario: let's say the Ducks are a one-loss team and ranked in the top 10 heading into their regular season finale against Oregon State. They'd likely have a spot in the conference title game in Vegas locked up, but a spot in the College Football Playoff could still be at stake.

What more motivation could you ask for if you're Jonathan Smith and the Beavs looking to knock off your rivals?

Oregon State lost two massive pieces from last season — Jermar Jefferson, who incinerated the Ducks' defense in that upset win last year, and Hamilar Rashed Jr. The Beavers' offense will feature one of the best offensive lines in the country to protect likely-starter Sam Noyer, the Colorado transfer who quietly had a solid season after switching from safety to quarterback.

ESPN's Power Index gives the Beavers a measly 9.4% chance of taking down the Ducks Thanksgiving weekend, but the Oregon State program has more motivation and momentum than any opponent on Oregon's schedule to shock the world once more.

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