Last year it was either Northwestern or Purdue. Two years ago it was Central Michigan, the game which taught us the merits of tight onside kick coverage. There have been times in Michigan State's football history where very few games could be called trap games, such was the mediocre quality of the Spartans. The Green and White are coming off a Big Ten championship, and amongst trips to Notre Dame, Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio State, not to mention games against Michigan and Wisconsin, will be the possibility of faltering against a lesser opponent. Here's a review of all of Michigan State's opponents, and hopefully together, we can figure it out together.
NOT TRAP GAMES WHATSOEVER: @Notre Dame, @Ohio State, Michigan, @Nebraska, Wisconsin, @Iowa, @Northwestern
These are all rivalry games or games against sufficiently established opponents where an MSU loss will suck, but would not be completely unexpected (and you might be thinking, "Michigan"? If Denard Robinson is accurate in the red zone at all, that is a much closer game. Seriously, watching the Wolverines last season was like watching a souped-up version of a JLS-era MSU squad). As for Northwestern, the Wildcats played MSU tough last year, and I doubt the Spartans will be looking ahead for the last game season, even if a Big Ten tit(shuts up before jinx is applied).
NOT POSSIBLE AT ALL: Youngstown State
One of your friends will call this a trap game. However, for a 1-AA to be any threat they almost always have to have success in their classification, and the Penguins were 3-8 last season. It'll be a Friday night game to start the season, and I don't see any way MSU is languid in this one. Like I said, one of your friends will call this a trap game; feel free to laugh at said person.
Florida Atlantic (4-8 in 2010, 3-5 in the Sun Belt)
Howard Schnellenberger, aka Mustache von Suspenders, makes his first return to Spartan Stadium since 2008 to finish up FAU's contract. They'll return an average to slightly below average number of starters (12). One those 12 isn't their quarterback however, and only five players return form a defense that gave up the most rushing yards in the conference last year. While the Spartans could be looking ahead to Notre Dame the following week, the Owls will still be breaking in a new quarterback and struggling to stop MSU's ground game.
Central Michigan (3-9 in 2010, 2-6 in the MAC)
As you can see by the record above, Dan Enos's first season as a Division 1 head coach did not go swimmingly. However, included in those nine losses are two by less than a touchdown to two good opponents, Northwestern and Navy. The Chippewas return a quarterback who completed over 60% of his passes last season in Ryan Radcliffe. This game is sandwiched between Notre Dame and Ohio State, which fits the trap game desciption to a tee. However, one would have to assume that some of the players on this team still feel the sting of this loss two years ago, and will guard against a letdown.
Indiana (5-7, 1-7 in the Big Ten)
Last year was the archetypical season for Indiana -- barely rack up a 4-0 nonconference record against the bottom of the bottom of the barrel, suffer through the conference season with at least one crippling defeat (my choice -- Damarlo Belcher dropping a 4th down pass in the end zone with 28 seconds left that would've won the game for the Hoosiers), then beat Purdue in the last game to secure the Old Oaken Bucket. New head coach Kevin Wilson will have to replace quarterback Ben Chappell with Dusty Kiel probably, who will give one year of commendable service before making way for his younger brother, Gunner. The offense won't change much as Wilson ran a lot of spread when he was the co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, but there will be some growing pains and the defense doesn't look to improve dramatically. This is the penultimate game before MSU travels to Northwestern to finish the regular season, and if I'm being honest, I'm more worried about the CMU game than this one.
Minnesota (3-9, 2-6 in the Big Ten)
Don't let the 3-9 record fool you. While Minnesota did drop games to South Dakota and Northern Illinois last season, they unsurprisingly did a lot better once Tim Brewster was fired, as they beat bowl teams Illinois and Iowa to end the season. Head coach Jerry Kill joins the Gophers from Northern Illinois, and thus has some knowledge of Minnesota after beating them 34-23 last year. While Adam Weber, quarterback since 1988, will have to be replaced, they return their two leading rushers and eight of their eleven defensive starters. The Minnesota game comes before a tilt at Iowa, so it wouldn't be out of the question for MSU to overlook Minnesota.
All of that said, what do you think will be the trap game this season?