College football is a sport with countless traditions. From the ‘Tunnel Walk’ and ‘Rolling Toomer’s Corner’ to ‘Calling the Hog’ and the ‘Sooner Scho… Read More
oner,’ the game yields an endless supply of pomp and pageantry. It is constantly changing, yet it remains the same. It is messy, it is beautiful, and it is perfect.
As college football fans, we love upsets. In any game, on any play, a team can tumble out of conference title contention or drop from the College Football Playoff standings. Here’s our list of the 10 biggest upsets in college football history.
10. 2009: Sugar Bowl – Utah Beats Alabama, 31-17
This one still haunt’s Nick Saban. In a true David v. Goliath matchup, Mountain West Conference champion Utah stunned fourth-ranked Southeastern Conference juggernaut Alabama in a game that felt closer than the final score would indicate. Utah quarterback Brian Johnson paced the Utes to a 21-0 first quarter start, needing just 4:53 of the game clock. Alabama, unbeaten in SEC play and with a loss to Florida in the conference championship, climbed back into contention with a 73-yard Javier Arenas punt return for touchdown. But Utah held on, and cemented its reputation as one of the best party crashers in the BCS era.
9. 1998: North Carolina State Beats Florida State, 24-7
From 1987 through 2000, Florida State finished in the Associated Press top five each season. The Seminoles also dominated the Atlantic Coast Conference, carrying a 47-1 record in conference play entering the game.
NC State, who had gone just 12-25 over the previous three seasons, entered its home game as 25-point underdogs, but mauled FSU quarterback Chris Weinke, intercepting him six times and allowing just 9 completions in 32 pass attempts.
8. 1998: Temple Beats Virginia Tech, 28-24
Temple, one of the toughest-luck programs in major college football, was 0-6 and hadn’t had a winning season in 14 years entering this matchup with the Hokies. No. 14 Virginia Tech, 5-0, was favored by 36 ½ points and preparing for a national title run.
Temple, winless in its last 26 Big East road games, trailed Virginia Tech by 17 points late in the second half. The Owls turned to Devin Scott, a freshman quarterback playing in his first game, to jumpstart a struggling offense against the nation’s fourth-ranked defense. Scott would lead the Owls with a game-winning one-yard touchdown run. Even so, Temple finished the season 2-9, including a frustrating loss to D-IAA William & Mary.
7. 1975: Kansas Beats Oklahoma, 23-3
Oklahoma owned a 28-game winning streak and was in search of its second-consecutive AP championship heading into its Big Eight matchup with the Jayhawks. Kansas football was about as successful in the 1970s as it is today – securing two winning seasons in its previous ten attempts. However, the Jayhawk’s precision running game was so strong that day that its quarterback, Nolan Cromwell, didn’t attempt a single pass. Eight turnovers sealed then No. 2-ranked Oklahoma’s fate.
6. 2007: Fiesta Bowl – Boise State Beats Oklahoma, 43-42
While technically not an upset given their AP rankings (Boise State No. 9, Oklahoma No. 11), pundits and analysts gave the blue-turfed Broncos no shot at beating the powerhouse Sooners. WAC member BSU used a series of trick plays to sneak by Big 12 Conference champion Oklahoma in one of the most improbable games in college football bowl history.
The teams combined for 22 points in the final 86 seconds of regulation to send the game to overtime. Oklahoma needed just one play in overtime to capture the lead, scoring on a 25-yard Adrian Peterson run. The Broncos took just six plays to return the favor, scoring on a fourth down halfback pass.
First-year coach Chris Petersen then went for the jugular. With three wide receivers lined up to the right, quarterback Jared Zabransky pump-faked, then handed the ball behind his back to tailback Ian Johnson, who raced untouched into the end zone for the win.
5. 2006: Rose Bowl – Texas Beats USC, 41-38
Texas quarterback Vince Young secured the ultimate revenge after finishing as the runner-up to USC’s Reggie Bush by single-handedly putting an end to the Trojan’s 34-game winning streak.
With the national title down to a final play – fourth down and five yards to go – Young scrambled untouched for an 8-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left as the Longhorns stunned No. 1 USC. Young denied Pete Carroll’s squad an unprecedented third straight national championship.
4. 1957: Notre Dame Beats Oklahoma, 7-0
Oklahoma’s third entry in our top 10 – Boomer Sooner! Entering this game, the Sooners had won 47 contests in a row dating back to 1953, in what remains the longest winning streak in college football history. Interestingly enough, the Sooners previous loss was also to Notre Dame.
Oklahoma was coming off back-to-back AP national titles. The game remained scoreless until late in the fourth quarter. With 3:50 left, the Golden Domers scored on fourth-and-goal from the three-yard line, stunning a sold-out Memorial Stadium crowd.
3. 1950: Navy Beats Army, 14-2
Army football was a national powerhouse throughout the first half of the 20th Century. It entered the 1950 Army-Navy game a 21-point favorite over a Midshipmen squad that had managed a 7-34 record over the previous four seasons. President Harry Truman and 110,000 fans in Philadelphia watched Army fumble five times to snap its 17-game win streak.
2. 2007: Stanford Beats USC, 24-23
Another USC heartbreaker. Stanford followed a 1-11 season in 2006 with a 1-3 start to 2007. USC was undefeated, ranked No. 1 in the country, and just a season removed from an incredible 37-2 run capped by two national championships. Jim Harbaugh brought backup quarterback Tavita Pritchard into the Coliseum, where Pete Carroll’s team hadn’t lost in its last 35 games.
With less than 5:00 minutes to play, Pritchard led one of the most improbable drives in league history. On fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line, he threw a strike to Mark Bradford, giving the Cardinal the lead with 49 seconds left.
The Trojans were favored by 41 points – which makes this Pac-10 win the largest Las Vegas upset in college football history.
1. 2007: Appalachian State Beats Michigan, 34-32
Nine years ago, unranked, undermanned, and unsung FCS program Appalachian State took a trip from Boone, NC. to Ann Arbor, MI. It agreed that for $400,000 the team could take a Big House beating in front of 110,000 maze and blue clad fans. But a funny thing happened to Michigan – the winningest program in college football history and a team stocked with blue-chip athletes and future NFL draft picks.
En route to depositing its paycheck, Appalachian State took a two point lead with 26 seconds left on a 24-yard field goal. It then blocked a 37-yard field goal try on the final play of the game, and the mighty Mountaineers pulled off the single greatest upset in college football history.