The Biggest College Football Upsets of All Time

From 1926 to now, some of the biggest upsets we've ever seen in college football history.

November 20, 2023

There’s nothing quite like a big upset on a Saturday afternoon or evening. College football stunners usually entail a weak school beating a national power – usually against a massive point spread – sending ripples across the college football landscape and destroying a team’s national title chances.

A less stellar program might never win a title or even a big bowl game, but they’ll always have that huge upset that will be forever etched in college football lore.

2007: Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32

The Wolverines were 31-point favorites over the Mountaineers, but “App State” had different ideas – and this was at The Big House with over 100,000 rabid Michigan fans in attendance.

Michigan, ranked No. 5, thought this would be a tune-up, an easy W, and paid $400K to App State to play in this season opener for both teams. But the Mountaineers were no slouch, having won two straight Division I FCS championships and coming in ranked No. 1 in the FCS.

App State QB Armanti Edwards threw three touchdown passes and ran for another, and the Mountaineers sealed the victory by blocking a 37-yard field goal attempt with six seconds left.

2007: Stanford 24, USC 23

Coach Pete Carroll had taken over the Trojans program in 2001 and turned it into a national powerhouse, winning two straight national championships and coming within a Vince Young TD scramble of a third straight title.

In 2007, Jim Harbaugh took over in Palo Alto and brought his brash, cocky us-vs-them mentality to the Cardinal. Undaunted by being 41-point underdogs and playing at USC, the Cardinal rallied from a 23-14 deficit in the fourth quarter, with Tavita Pritchard – who had only thrown three passes in his college career prior to the game – firing a 10-yard pass to Mark Bradford to tie the game at 23-23.

The ensuing PAT gave Stanford the victory and ended USC’s 35-game winning streak at home and launched the Carroll-Harbaugh rivalry, one of the most heated coaching rivalries of all time.

2007: Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42 (OT)

This game wasn’t a huge upset in terms of point spread – the Sooners were favored by 7.5. But this Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, one of the BCS games that season, was one of the most instrumental events in the national argument for a NCAA Division I playoff system.

The Broncos entered the game 12-0 and ranked ninth by the Associated Press, the Sooners were 11-2 and ranked seventh. Boise jumped to a 28-10 lead in the third quarter, but OU scored 25 straight points to take a 35-28 lead.

Late in the game, Boise State faced a fourth-and-18 with 18 seconds left when Broncos coach Chris Petersen dug into his bag of tricks. Using a hook-and-lateral play they dubbed “Circus,” QB Jared Zabransky passed to Drisan James, who lateraled the ball to Jerard Rabb, who scampered down the sideline for a 35-yard touchdown.

In overtime, Petersen used another trick play for a touchdown to tie Oklahoma, who had scored a TD on their first possession of OT. Petersen then unveiled his pièce de resistance, using a “Statue of Liberty” play for a 2-point PAT to win the game.

Boise State thus finished the season an astounding 14-0, but had no chance of winning the national title, as Florida and Ohio State had been selected to play in the BCS title game. But Boise State’s perfect record and highlight reel bowl game win added fuel to the argument that the D1 national title system needed to have more than just two teams involved.

2003: Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (OT)

In the Fiesta Bowl, which acted as the BCS National Championship Game, the Hurricanes were 11.5-point favorites, and for good reason. They won 35 straight games — the previous season’s Hurricanes were one of the best teams in college football history — and had a roster that included future NFL stars Willis McGahee, Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, Kellen Winslow II, Sean Taylor, Jon Vilma and Vince Wilfork.

In the second overtime, OSU’s Maurice Clarett scored on a five-yard touchdown run, and the Buckeyes completed a goal line stand on Miami’s subsequent possession for the victory.

1998: Temple 28, Virginia Tech 24

The Hokies entered the Oct. 17 game in Blacksburg with a 5-0 record, as 36-point favorites. The Owls, on the other hand, were 1-6 and were 0-26 in Big East road games.

But Temple, with freshman QB Devin Scott making his first college start, rallied from a 17-0 deficit for its first win over a ranked team since 1987. Scott threw two TD passes and ran for one as the deciding score with 6:04 left in the game.

2007: Syracuse 38, Louisville 35

Orangemen wide receiver Taj Smith scored on a 79-yard touchdown pass on the game’s first play, the first of QB Andrew Robinson’s four TD passes to go with 423 yards passing over the 19th-ranked Cardinals. The win ended a 20-game home win streak for Louisville, which entered the game as 36.5-point favorites.

2007: Navy 46, Notre Dame 44 (3 OT)

The Midshipmen hadn’t beaten the Fighting Irish since Nov. 2, 1963 – 20 days before the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But for Navy to end that 43-year streak of misery, 2007 was the year to do it.

The Irish were terrible that season, entering the game 1-7 with negative point differential of 80-237. In the third OT period, Navy scored a TD and 2-point conversion, and ND followed with a TD but failed on the two-point conversion.

1975: Kansas 23, Oklahoma 3

The Sooners were ranked No. 2, had won 37 straight games and had beaten the Jayhawks 11 straight times. All that didn’t matter on Nov. 8, 1975.

KU led 7-3 at the half, and OU was simply inept after the break, committing eight turnovers on their first eight possessions of the second half.

Interestingly, the flop didn’t ruin the Sooners. They later beat No. 2 Nebraska and then No. 5 Michigan in the Orange Bowl, and the AP and Coaches’ polls rewarded them with the No. 1 ranking.

1989: Southern Miss 30, Florida State 26

Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles had the No. 6 ranking. The Golden Eagles had Brett Favre.

In the season opener of his junior year, Favre threw the winning touchdown pass in the final seconds to shock the Seminoles, but it was one of few highlights in 1989 for Southern Miss, which won only five games.

The loss helped ruin FSU’s national title chance. The ‘Noles managed to climb up to a No. 3 AP ranking to end the season, but the loss to Favre (and to Clemson the following week) killed their hopes.

1986: Miami (OH) 21, LSU 12

Wingback Andy Schillinger caught two touchdown passes from quarterback Terry Morris, including an 82-yarder in the third quarter, as the RedHawks stunned the No. 8-ranked Tigers in Baton Rouge, not the friendliest of confines for away teams.

In one of the more intriguing of fun facts, the upset victory improved Miami Ohio’s record against Southeastern Conference teams to 8-0-1 dating back to 1915. LSU Coach Bill Arnsparger – himself an alumnus of Miami of Ohio – saw his team turn the ball over seven times. 

1957: Notre Dame 7, Oklahoma 0

The unranked Fighting Irish snapped the No. 2-ranked “unbeatable” Sooners’ 47-game win streak on Nov. 16, 1957 in a defensive battle. ND capped off an 80-yard, 20-play drive with Dick Lynch’s rushing touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line. Bob Williams sealed the victory with an interception in the end zone with less than a minute remaining.

The Fighting Irish had been the previous team to last beat OU four years earlier.

1926: Carnegie Tech 19, Notre Dame 0

The Fighting Irish came into the game having shut out its previous eight opponents, and coach Knute Rockne was so overconfident of victory that he skipped the game and instead went to Chicago to watch Army-Navy.

But the Tartans, who had lost to the Irish four straight years by a combined score of 111-19, scored touchdowns on runs by Bill Donohoe and C.J. Letzelter to give Tech a 13-0 lead at halftime. Quarterback Howard Harpster nailed two dropkick field goals and Lloyd Yoder spearheaded a goal-line stand to punctuate the win. Carnegie Tech is now known as Carnegie Mellon University, and its football team now competes in the NCAA’s Division III level.

Biggest College Football Upsets of the 2023 Season 

The 2023 season has had its own share of upsets, including these gems: 

  • Georgia Tech 23, Miami 20
  • Colorado 45, TCU 42
  • Bowling Green 38, Georgia Tech 27
  • Virgina 31, North Carolina 27
  • Texas State 42, Baylor 31

Score on College Football Upsets with Tipico 

Bettors can actually benefit from big upsets before they happen and turn them into a nice payout. Here are some tips: 

Look for trap games on the schedule – A “trap game” refers to a game that top teams might take lightly, usually when the opponent is much weaker and there is a much tougher opponent the following week. 

Watch rivalry games — “Throw out the record books when these two teams play” is a common phrase used by analysts when rivals face each other. Even a much stronger team can lose to any rival.  

Home field — Some teams are just hard to beat at home. Research and find out their home records. 

Whenever you’re ready to put some money down on a possible upset, we at Tipico are ready to help you out! Click here to place a bet if you are in one of our service states – Ohio, Colorado, New Jersey and Iowa.

Alex Valdes
Alex Valdes is Web Content Manager at Tipico North America. He has written, edited and performed user and site analysis at MoneyTalksNews, NBC Sports, MSN, Bing, MSNBC, as well as newspapers and magazines.