The big upset is part of the fabric that makes sports what they are. The impact of an upset is magnified in college football, where one loss can ruin a season.
Every year, upsets are unavoidable. A Texas Tech team that would finish 5-7 walked into Norman on a stormy Saturday night and stunned No. 3 Oklahoma. Four weeks later, 5-4 Iowa State rallied from a 17-point deficit to all but eliminate No. 2 Oklahoma State from the national title discussion.
There's no formula for predicting an upset. Nevertheless, I've come up with 10 games that could shake the college football world in 2012, including one before September even starts.
Texas A&M joins the SEC in the fall, with its conference opener coming in Week 2 against Florida. An always raucous Kyle Field should reach new levels of hostility when the Gators come to town. It will also be the first home game for new head coach Kevin Sumlin.
However, the Aggies have a tricky Thursday night opener on the road against defending WAC champion Louisiana Tech. Bulldogs coach Sonny Dykes is a rising star in the coaching industry.
Playing in a watered-down WAC, this will be Louisiana Tech's only chance to make national noise in 2012. They just might take full advantage.
On the same day that Texas A&M plays their first conference game as an SEC member, Missouri will do the same when Georgia visits Columbia.
With most of its key players from last season's SEC East champions returning, the Bulldogs should start the season ranked in the top 10 of the polls.
It's been a difficult offseason, however, for Mark Richt's team. Suspensions will force them to play with a depleted defense, primarily in the secondary, against Missouri's spread offense.
No. 1 Oklahoma was upset in Columbia just two years ago. The Tigers are capable of a similar feat when the Bulldogs make the long trip west.
The Hokies will once again be the favorite to win the ACC Coastal Division but have tricky road trips to Clemson, Miami (FL) and North Carolina.
The Tar Heels are ineligible for the postseason in Larry Fedora's first season in Chapel Hill, so their best chance for a landmark win this season will come when Virginia Tech visits Kenan Stadium.
Fedora brings his spread offense to North Carolina after a Conference USA title at Southern Miss in 2011. Virginia Tech struggled mightily against Clemson's similar style last season, allowing 61 points in two losses to the Tigers.
Another plus for the Tar Heels is that they host Idaho the week before, while the Hokies must do battle with Big East co-champion Cincinnati.
Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian has had some success against his former employer since coming to Seattle, upsetting USC in both 2009 and 2010.
With ongoing renovations at Husky Stadium, this game will be played at CenturyLink Field—home of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and one of the loudest venues in the league.
Washington QB Keith Price returns after throwing 33 touchdowns last season, and new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is back in the Northwest after two years at Tennessee.
It will be the Trojans' second consecutive road game, coming a week after a trip to Salt Lake City to face Utah—their primary competition for the Pac-12 South title.
Tommy Tuberville's teams always seem to have one big upset in them. The Red Raiders stunned 7-1 Missouri in 2010 and scored last season's biggest upset when they beat No. 3 Oklahoma, ending a 39-game home-winning streak for the Sooners.
This year, new Big 12 member West Virginia could be ripe for the picking.
Despite as much offensive firepower as any team east of the Mississippi River, the Mountaineers will have to adjust to life in their new league. Their first marquee game comes Oct. 6 at Texas.
A week after going to Austin, they must make another long road trip to Lubbock. This might be the day where Tuberville works his magic again.
One of the game's greatest rivalries has fallen by the wayside in recent years. After five straight losses to Alabama, it's time for Tennessee to restore order in the clash known as The Third Saturday in October, which is appropriately named this season for the first time since 2007.
The Crimson Tide will have three new starters in their secondary, and Tennessee should have the best passing attack in the SEC with QB Tyler Bray and WRs Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Da'Rick Rogers.
After playing well for a half last year in Tuscaloosa, the Volunteers will need 60 strong minutes to notch Derek Dooley's first big win as head coach.
The schedule makers played a cruel trick on Clemson, forcing them to play a road game in Winston-Salem just five days after a crucial home game against Virginia Tech.
The Deacons nearly stunned the Tigers last year in Death Valley before falling by three. Wake Forest routinely overachieves under head coach Jim Grobe and will likely do so again.
No team in recent years has been the victim of the big upset more than Clemson. The term "Clemsoning" has arisen from the Tigers' repeated failure to go an entire season without losing to a seemingly inferior opponent.
Strange things happen in college football on Thursday nights, but would a Clemson loss at BB&T Field really qualify as strange anymore?
After knocking off one highly ranked team from the state of Oklahoma when they upset No. 2 Oklahoma State last season, the Cyclones will get a chance to match that feat in November when Oklahoma visits Jack Trice Stadium.
It's Oklahoma, so, much like Clemson, the head-scratching loss will come at some point this season.
Notre Dame makes a rare visit to Norman a week earlier in what is sure to be an emotional night at Owen Field. A long trip to little ol' Ames could catch the mighty Sooners off guard.
Will we see a repeat of Paul Rhoads' incredible postgame speech after last year's win over the Cowboys this season?
Never was Oregon's perfect 2010 regular season more in question than in a late-season trip to Berkeley. A go-ahead field goal by California was nullified due to a penalty, and the re-try was missed, allowing the Ducks to escape with a 15-13 win.
Bears head coach Jeff Tedford needs a strong season after a half decade of mediocrity, and he'll have a golden opportunity when Oregon returns to Memorial Stadium a week after its showdown with USC in Los Angeles.
California always has talent but has struggled with consistency the past few seasons. If the Bears are playing well, they could knock off a Ducks team in a classic letdown situation.
The Broncos do not have fond memories of Reno, as they saw a 17-point lead evaporate on a chilly Black Friday evening two years ago, highlighted by two missed field goals from Kyle Brotzman.
With the Wolfpack joining Boise State in the Mountain West this season, the clash on Championship Saturday could decide the league title.
Head coach Chris Ault and his trademark pistol offense have taken Nevada to seven straight bowl games. The jump to a new conference shouldn't prevent an eighth straight postseason appearance.
With Kellen Moore no longer under center, Boise State could slip back ever so slightly in 2012. If so, Nevada will be ready to capitalize.
Follow me on Twitter - @MattSmithCFB