The Biggest Upsets in College Football History

GettyImages 76451098 b6f932 e1716395642299
Getty Images

Unlike our salary ranking stories, which are fact-based, the "biggest upset" is a matter of opinion, not fact. Well, we love college football, so who's to say our opinion isn't better than anyone else's?

To that end, we made a list of the 10 games we think marked the greatest upsets in the history of college football.

Note: the sport actually started with a game between New Jersey rivals Princeton and Rutgers in 1869(!!) and had a degree of regional popularity through the 1950s. But we can't speak on any games in that era with much confidence. To that end, this list runs from 1957 to today, since we can at least recognize what the sport looked like in 1957 and because that was the year of a game that fully deserves inclusion on this list. Where does it land? Just read on, friends. In descending order...

10. Stanford 24, USC 23. Oct. 6, 2007

9. Temple 28, Virginia Tech 24. Oct. 17, 1998

Both of these teams are a little also-ranish these days, but back in '98, the Hokies were extremely relevant on a national level, coming into this one ranked 14th in the country with a 5-0 record, the 4th-best defense in the country and hopes that they could parlay an undefeated season into the Big East into National Championship contention. Meanwhile, the Owls were worse than also-rans; they stunk. Temple was 0-26 in its history on the road in the Big East and entered this game winless and without its normal quarterback. To make the outcome even more seemingly obvious, 35-point favorite Virginia Tech got out to a 17-0 lead.

So what happened? A freshman quarterback named Devin Scott threw two long touchdown passes and ran for a third as Temple eked out a shocking victory. Goodbye, Virginia Tech title hopes.

8. Syracuse 38, Louisville 35. Sept. 22, 2007

7. Kansas 23, Oklahoma 3. Nov. 8, 1975

At the time of this game, Oklahoma was the best program in the nation. The Sooners were on a 37-game unbeaten streak overall and had beaten KU 11 straight times. And the game was at Oklahoma!

The Sooners did not come to play on Nov. 8, 1975, however, committing a whopping eight turnovers which crippled their offense and gave the Jayhawks easy opportunities to score.

What makes this upset either less significant or even more shocking is that defending champion Oklahoma would go on to beat rival Nebraska in the biggest game of the regular season and then Michigan in the Orange Bowl and won yet another National Championship, even with this weird blemish against Kansas on its final record.

6. Southern Miss 30, Florida State 26. Sept. 2, 1989

GettyImages 358431
Getty Images

It was the season opener for big, bad Florida State, entering the game No. 6 in the country and undefeated against schools not named Miami or Florida since September of 1986. The Noles were 22-point favorites and expected to use this game as a springboard for a National Championship season.

The little-known (on a national level) Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles? They had a quarterback named Brett Favre (look close at the picture and it'll all come back to you).

5. Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42. Jan. 1, 2007

4. Notre Dame 7, Oklahoma 0. Nov. 16, 1957

GettyImages 515030970
Getty Images

Here's the 1957 entry on this list, which also marks Oklahoma's third appearance (does that make the Sooners chokers or just so good that beating them as historically been an upset?).

In this classic, the unranked Fighting Irish marched into Norman and snapped the No. 2-ranked Sooners’ 47-game win streak in a game that featured great defense and dreadful offense.

Amazingly, it was Notre Dame, a 19-point underdog in this one, who had last beaten Oklahoma, all the way back on September 26 of 1953!

3. Miami (OH) 21, LSU 12. Sept. 20, 1986

When it comes to football, Miami spelled alone is the national power and Miami (OH) is that random team that plays in the MAC. Needless to say, the latter is never expected to walk into Death Valley for a game with the Tigers and walk out with a win.

But that's what happened on a sloppy field in Baton Rouge, as the eight-ranked hosts committed seven turnovers and effectively handed the game to their shocked and joyous visitors.

2. Navy 46, Notre Dame 44. Nov. 3, 2007

1. Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32. Sept. 1, 2007

GettyImages 76451097
Getty Images

Every other game on this list featured teams playing at the same level of football—"DI," or the "Bowl Subdivision." This game, on the other hand, was one of those "tune-ups," where a Power 5 school pays a lower, FCS opponent (in this case, Appalachian State out of North Carolina was paid some $400,000 to travel up to the "Big House") to play them.

Appalachian State was actually an elite FCS school, but still, Michigan was the favorite to win the Big 10 and Las Vegas didn't even put a line on the game. Alas, the Mountaineers got four TDs out of quarterback Armanti Edwards and blocked a Michigan field goal attempt with six seconds left to pull off the shocker...and change some rules in the process.

Given that it was the first time an FCS team defeated a ranked FBS team, the Associated Press decided to amend its rules and allow FCS teams to get votes in the Top-25, which Appalachian State did. That was literally something that had never happened before.

We can't feel too bad for Michigan, though. The Wolverines may be "atop" this list, but they're also the reigning National Champions...

Did you like this article?
Thumbs Up
Thumbs Down