Table of Contents

    Introduction

    An upset in sports is akin to a seismic shock, causing massive ripples across the playing field, shaking up fans’ expectations, and creating thrilling underdog stories. In the 2023 NFL playoffs, we saw the Jaguars complete a historic comeback against the Chargers. Down 27-0 in the first half and down 30-14 late in the third quarter, Trevor Lawrence and Co. rallied to steal the Wild Card victory over the Chargers. In the 2016 NBA Finals, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers did what no team before them had done, complete a 3-1 comeback in the NBA Finals. LeBron slayed the dragon that was Golden State and capped off a historic comeback in the process. A true upset is an adrenaline-fueled reminder of why we love sports: anything can happen. In college football, with its rich tapestry of history and unpredictable nature, upsets have been particularly captivating, redefining seasons and etching new legends.

    Top 10 Biggest Upsets in College Football

    1. Appalachian State over Michigan (2007): 34-32 On a sunny afternoon in Ann Arbor, a seemingly easy fixture for the Wolverines turned into a nightmare. Michigan was riding high as the fifth-ranked team, and Appalachian State was a lesser-known Division I-AA school, making this David vs. Goliath encounter one for the history books. Appalachian State took an early lead with a diverse and fast-paced offense. Michigan made a comeback attempt in the fourth quarter, but the Mountaineers blocked a last-second field goal attempt by Michigan, sealing a 34-32 victory that stunned the football world.
    2. Stanford over USC (2007): 24-23 The Trojans were overwhelming favorites against the Cardinals, entering the game with a 35-game home winning streak. USC was leading 23-14 in the fourth quarter, but Stanford’s resilience shone through. Stanford QB Tavita Pritchard, in his first career start, threw a touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with 49 seconds left to secure a remarkable one-point victory. The win snapped USC’s 35-game winning streak and stunned the Trojans’ faithful.
    3. Oregon State over Washington (1985): 21-20 Washington entered the game with a No. 20 ranking and clear favorites against unranked Oregon State. Despite their underdog status, Oregon State didn’t back down. The Beavers’ quarterback, Erik Wilhelm, played a superb game, and their defense came up with clutch plays to hold off a strong Washington team. This victory is often referred to as the birth of Oregon State’s “Giant Killers” reputation.
    4. Notre Dame over Oklahoma (1957): 7-0 The Oklahoma Sooners, under coach Bud Wilkinson, were a force to be reckoned with. They had a 47-game winning streak, the longest in Division I football history. But Notre Dame had a legendary coach of its own in Frank Leahy. The Fighting Irish executed a game plan centered around defense, and the strategy worked. Notre Dame ended Oklahoma’s record streak with a shutout, etching their name in college football folklore.
    5. Howard over UNLV (2017): 43-40 Howard University came into this game as 45-point underdogs, an afterthought for most sportsbooks. However, Howard’s quarterback, Caylin Newton (younger brother of NFL star Cam Newton), led a spirited Bison team to the improbable victory. Newton accounted for 330 total yards and three touchdowns, helping Howard achieve the biggest point-spread upset in college football history.
    6. James Madison over Virginia Tech (2010): 21-16 A week after losing to Boise State, Virginia Tech suffered a shocking home loss to FCS school James Madison. The Dukes took advantage of a rain-soaked day and some key Virginia Tech turnovers. James Madison’s defense stood firm in the final minutes, leading to a historic victory and one of the most significant upsets in FCS-over-FBS history.
    7. Carnegie Tech over Notre Dame (1926): 19-0 Back in 1926, Notre Dame, under the guidance of the legendary Knute Rockne, was considered unbeatable. However, Carnegie Tech had other plans. Using a blend of trick plays and a strong defensive game, Carnegie Tech was able to not only defeat the Fighting Irish but hold them scoreless in a stunning upset.
    8. Temple over Virginia Tech (1998): 28-24 Temple, winless coming into the game, faced a tough task against a Virginia Tech team fresh off an upset of No. 22 UAB. Temple’s defense played a key role, forcing five turnovers, including a game-sealing interception with less than a minute left. The upset victory gave Temple its first win of the season and its first win over a ranked opponent in a decade.
    9. Butler over Youngstown State (2018): 23-21 Butler, a non-scholarship FCS program, was facing a daunting challenge against the Penguins of Youngstown State. Despite being 3-touchdown underdogs, Butler kept the game close. The Bulldogs’ quarterback, Will Marty, led a last-minute drive capped off by a 33-yard touchdown pass with 37 seconds left, giving Butler a historic upset win.
    10. Navy over Notre Dame (2007): 46-44 Navy had been under the thumb of Notre Dame for 43 straight games, a record-losing streak. In a South Bend showdown that required three overtimes, Navy’s resilient squad found a way to win. The Midshipmen scored a touchdown in the third OT, followed by a successful 2-point conversion. When Notre Dame tried to respond, the Navy defense held strong, securing a 46-44 victory and ending the longest losing streak to one team in NCAA history.

    From thrilling underdog victories to stunning shutouts, these games exemplify why we love college football. The unpredictability, the drama, and the spirit of competition create the perfect conditions for upsets that leave us in awe and anticipation of the next big shocker. As long as there’s college football, there will be breathtaking upsets that will keep us on the edge of our seats, and that’s the beauty of the game.

    CFB FAQs

    How are college football bowl games determined?

    Only bowl-eligible teams are selected for College Football Bowls. At the NCAA Division I FBS level, the standard by which teams become available for selection in bowl games varies. For example, in 2018-19 season, the team had to have at least as many wins as overall losses. Wins against non-Division I teams do not count toward the number of wins.

    How do you play college football pick'em pools?

    Simply pick winners from the games each week selected by the Pool Commissioner, either straight up or against the spread. Whichever member has the most points at the end of the season wins

    What is a football pool?

    "Football Pool" is a broad term for a group of people competitively guessing the outcome of one or more football games. There are many types of formats, each assigning winners differently. They can be played informally between friends or through a more formalized system. They are often considered a great alternative to fantasy football given the ease of playing, although there are fantasy football pools as well.

    How to run a football pool?

    How you decide to run a football pool varies greatly depending on the game type. In each case, however, you'll want to determine the rules and settings before you begin inviting members to join you. You'll want to clearly establish how score will be kept, how tiebreakers work, and how winners are decided before anything else.

    How to play squares football pools?

    Football squares are played by creating a grid, in which Team 1 takes the column and Team 2 the rows. In some cases, participants may claim as many squares as they like. In others, commissioners limit them to one. At the quarter times and end of the game, the winner is decided at the point the scores final digit intersect.

    How do you setup a college football bowl pool?

    To set up a college football bowl pool, you'll need to first choose if you will include all the games or specific ones. Then, you'll need to set the ground rules. As commissioner, you'll implement rules to ensure everything runs smoothly during the bowl games. Many use pool sites like RunYourPool to make the process easier.

    What is a college football squares pool?

    In a college football squares pool, a commissioner starts with a 10x10 grid of 100 squares (though commissioners decide to use smaller 5x5 pools). Members pick one or more squares in that grid. Winners are determined based on the score of each team after each quarter and at the end of the game.

    How many squares in a football pool?

    In a traditional football squares pool, a grid is sectioned off into 100 squares with 10 columns and 10 rows. This accounts for a direct relationship between each possible digit from 0 to 9 on both the X and Y axis. For smaller square grids like 5x5, multiple numbers can be assigned to each column and row.

    How to read a football squares pool sheet?

    In Squares formats, football pool sheets include a grid, where one team is the column and one is the row. Winners are determined at the end of each quarter when the last number in the team’s score (on each side) is matched to the numbers on the grid, and the intersecting square wins.

    How do you setup a college football bowl pool?

    To set up a college football bowl pool, you'll need to first choose if you will include all the games or specific ones. Then, you'll need to set the ground rules. As commissioner, you'll implement rules to ensure everything runs smoothly during the bowl games. Many use pool sites like RunYourPool to make the process easier.

    How do you win college football confidence bowl pool?

    The winner of a college bowl confidence pool is the member with the most points after all games have ended. Members rank each game based on how confident they are in their pick (44 points = most confident, 1 point = least confident). For each game picked correctly, members receive the number of points they assigned.

    What is a college football bowl confidence pool?

    Players try to pick the winner of every bowl game, assigning a point value to each game. Picks are made "straight up," not using a point spread system. Members rank each game based on how confident they are (44 points = most confident, 1 point = least confident). A winner is determined by totalling the point values assigned to correctly picked games.

    How do you setup a college football bowl pool?

    To set up a college football bowl pool, you'll need to first choose if you will include all the games or specific ones. Then, you'll need to set the ground rules. As commissioner, you'll implement rules to ensure everything runs smoothly during the bowl games. Many use pool sites like RunYourPool to make the process easier.

    How do you win college football bowl pick'em pool?

    As you might expect, the player who selects the most bowl winners will win their pick'em pool. You can win your college football bowl pick'em pool by choosing winners wisely, based on past performance, player starting status and other "intangibles."

    What is a college football bowl pick'em pool?

    In a College Bowl Pick'em pool members attempt to pick the winner of every College Bowl game (or a subset of games determined by the Pool Commissioner). Picks are made using the point spread system or "straight up", as assigned by the Pool Commissioner.

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    About Author

    Matt K

    Matt is the Social Media Manager at RYP and currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He has experience managing social media accounts with agencies, small brands, and large companies. He’s a diehard New England sports fanatic, and if he’s not watching the Celtics, he can be found roaming around Boston discovering all that the city has to offer.

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