Every season college football fans get to see at least one unimaginable upset. Whether it’s an FCS (formerly known as Division I-AA) team overthrowing an established FBS school in the ultimate David versus Goliath game, or one of the top five schools falling to a lesser-ranked (or unranked) program—toppling the college football pecking order—every season holds a different surprise.
While summer drags on, longing fans wait patiently for September to roll around when they will be reunited with their precious football season—complete with shocking upsets. Until then, it does not hurt to speculate which 2012 matchups pack the most potential for unbelievable, unanticipated outcomes.
This article will highlight the three games of 2012 that are most likely to produce a jaw-dropping upset.
Michigan QB Denard Robinson may be too much for the Tide to handle.
Five years after the Michigan Wolverines (and the rest of the football world) were stunned by the Appalachian State Mountaineers, an FCS school, the Wolverines have a chance to shock spectators again—and this time with a win.
On September 1, the reigning national champion Alabama Crimson Tide will host Michigan in their season opener. Alabama finished the season with one blemish: a 9-6 overtime loss to conference rival LSU, which they avenged in a 21-0 romp of the Tigers in the BCS National Championship game. Although they will not be the same team in 2012, they are still the team to beat.
Alabama lost a lot of talent to the 2012 NFL Draft—most notably running back Trent Richardson, who was an All-American and the Doak Walker Award recipient in 2011. Alabama fielded the top ranked defense last season but they lost six starters to the draft, three of which went in the first round.
Recovering from that much loss of talent, especially early in the season, will be a daunting task for the Crimson Tide. If versatile Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson can take advantage of some inexperience on defense, his team could cause a stir with an unexpected win over the defending champs in Week 1.
Clemson WR Sammy Watkins may take over the game vs. South Carolina.
In 2011, Clemson was able to pull off a huge upset in Week 5 when they topped Virginia Tech, 23-3. No one thought they could do it again but, sure enough, in the ACC Championship on December 5, Clemson dismantled the Hokies, 38-10.
Thanks to those two games, Clemson should be on everyone’s upset radar in 2012. One game that stands out as a potential upset is their regular season finale versus South Carolina. Last year, the Tigers were smoked by South Carolina, 34-13, but their 2012 matchup may be a different story.
The Gamecocks have dominated this intrastate rivalry as of late—Clemson has not beaten South Carolina since 2008. South Carolina is poised for another successful season in 2012, and they need to avoid growing complacent by Week 12. If they do, the hungry Clemson Tigers could sneak up on them.
South Carolina is faced with the challenge of replacing both of last year’s starting cornerbacks, Stephon Gilmore and C.C. Whitlock. That sounds like the makings for a matchup nightmare in favor of electrifying Clemson receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins. If quarterback Tajh Boyd can connect with his playmakers for few big scores, then this game may end up being one of the biggest upsets of the year.
South Florida could surprise Florida State in Week 5.
Florida State did not have an exceptional 2011 season. They finished 9-4 overall (5-3 in ACC), 23rd in the AP Top 25 and third behind Clemson and Wake Forest in the ACC Atlantic Division. However, many experts are expecting big things from the Seminoles in 2012.
ESPN’s Mark Schlabach ranked them seventh in his preseason top 25. He attributes most of last season’s woes to injuries along the offensive line and quarterback E.J. Manuel. With a healthy squad and a strong recruiting class in 2012, Schlabach predicts that Florida State will be one of the top teams this coming season.
The Seminoles open up their season with back-to-back home games against FCS opponents Murray State and Savannah State, followed by back-to-back home games against ACC opponents Wake Forest and Clemson. Florida State should have no trouble in the first two weeks, and, although neither Clemson nor Wake Forest will be a cakewalk, they are familiar conference foes. The Seminoles will not be taken out of their comfort zone until Week 5 when they visit Raymond James Stadium.
Florida State makes their first road trip of the season when they face South Florida—a team they have not played since 2009. South Florida had a lackluster 2011 season, finishing with a 5-7 overall record after starting the season off with a four-game winning streak. If Florida State becomes preoccupied with their ACC schedule, they could easily overlook a team like South Florida.
The Bulls are a team with an interesting amount of talent. They have played up to their competition in the past—South Florida stunned 16th ranked Notre Dame in Week 1 last year, handing them a 23-20 loss. Now, the Bulls have the opportunity to pull off tremendous upsets in back-to-back seasons.