The Most Unexpected Wins of the Year in College Football

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistNovember 15, 2013

The Most Unexpected Wins of the Year in College Football

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    Stanford's upset of Oregon ruined the Ducks' national championship hopes.
    Stanford's upset of Oregon ruined the Ducks' national championship hopes.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Upsets are often the adrenaline of big-time sports.

    Any time a lesser team can find a way to beat a better team, it speaks to the human condition.

    When the little guy beats the big guy, it can be glorious. There may not be that many chances for upsets to happen in day-to-day life, but there are a lot of chances in college football.

    Whenever it happens, it is always unexpected. And when an Ole Miss can beat a Louisiana State or a Utah can beat a Stanford, it reverberates for weeks at a time. 

    Those upsets don't just go away. They resonate and they give hope to any lesser team that wants to improve and hang with the big boys.

    Here's a look at the most unexpected wins of the the year in college football.

Mississippi 27, Louisiana State 24

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    Ole Miss appeared to be in over its head when it welcomed Louisiana State to Oxford Oct. 19, but the Rebels were not in a mood to roll over for the No. 6 team in the nation.

    Instead, fast starting Mississippi rolled to a 17-0 lead before the Tigers rallied to tie the score 24-24 in the late going. But the Rebels, who had a series of strong efforts dating back to last season against outstanding teams, found a way to get over the hump and register the upset.

    The game came down to Andrew Ritter's field goal attempt with two seconds remaining. He kicked a 41-yard field goal that gave Ole Miss the victory. 

    Ritter never would have been in a position to win if quarterback Bo Wallace had not had the game of his life. Wallace completed 30-of-39 passes for 345 yards and he did not throw an interception. Running back Jaylen Walton was superb as well, running the ball 18 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns.

Auburn 45, Texas A&M 41

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    The 24th-ranked Auburn Tigers were supposed to get hammered when they went to College Station Oct. 19 to take on Johnny Manziel and the seventh-ranked Texas A&M Aggiies.

    It was basically just a matter of how large the margin of victory was going to be. Manziel, the defending Heisman Trophy winner, was going to light up the scoreboard, and Auburn was not expected to put up much resistance.

    Nobody got hat message across to the Tigers. Perhaps they were thinking about the 63-21 beating Texas A&M had laid on them in 2012. That defeated motivated Auburn to go to Kyle Field and pay the Aggies back.

    Running back Tre Mason scored the go-ahead touchdown for Auburn on a five-yard run with less than two minutes to play and Dee Ford sacked Manziel on fourth down to clinch the victory.

    Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more to lead the Tigers' offense. 

    Manziel was stellar in defeat, passing for 454 yards, four touchdowns and running for one touchdown.

Utah 27, Stanford 21

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    Utah appeared to have an all but impossible task when fifth-ranked Stanford came calling Oct. 12.

    The Cardinal were a robust 5-0, while the Utes were 3-2 and didn't appear to have the strength on either line to stay with Stanford.

    But Utah was not about to let Stanford come into Rice-Eccles Stadium and dictate the outcome of the game. The Utes kept the Cardinal off balance by mixing up draw plays and wide receiver screen passes. Nobody benefited more than Dres Anderson, who scored on a 51-yard pass play and also scored on a short run.

    Bubba Poole also played a key role for the Utes as he ran for 111 yards. Quarterback Travis Wilson passed for 234 yards and two touchdowns.

    Utah built a 27-14 fourth quarter lead before Stanford attempted to come back on Kevin Hogan's seven-yard touchdown pass to Devon Cajuste. However, the Cardinal could not rally after that and their 13-game winning streak came to an end.

Texas 36, Oklahoma 20

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    Texas and Oklahoma were going in opposite directions when they met in the Red River Rivalry in Dallas Oct. 12.

    The Longhorns limped into the Cotton Bowl with a 3-2 record against the 5-0 Sooners, who were the No. 12 team in the nation coming into the game.

    Oklahoma had won the last three games in the series, including the previous two by 38 points or more.

    The critics were clearly lining up for a piece of Texas coach Mack Brown, but his players were not about to let their veteran leader down. Quarterback Case McCoy threw two touchdown passes and defensive tackle Chris Whaley returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown to give Texas control of the game.

    Oklahoma was in a position to come back and take the lead in the fourth quarter, but the Longhorns' defense would not let that happen. Oklahoma had cut the Texas lead to 30-26 and had driven into the Texas red zone with six minutes to go.

    Jackson Jeffcoat put an end to the rally when he sacked Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell on fourth down and that clinched the 36-20 Texas victory.

    Nobody was happier than Brown, who was able to take a deep breath and quiet his critics.

Vanderbilt 31, Georgia 27

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    Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

    It looked like another painful defeat when the Vanderbilit Commodores welcomed the No. 15 Georgia Bulldogs to Vanderbilt Stadium Oct. 19.

    Not only were the Commodores underdogs in the game, they had not defeated a top-25 team under head coach James Franklin, and they hadn't beaten the Bulldogs since 1991.

    The game was not going well for the Commodores, as they trailed 27-13 heading into the fourth quarter. But instead of continuing to get pounded, Vanderbilt decided to punch back.

    The Commodores scored 17 fourth-quarter points to defeat the Bulldogs. Jerron Seymour's 13-yard TD run with 2:53 left in the game provided the margin of victory.

    Vanderbilit outgained Georgia 337-221 and held the ball for 35 minutes. The Commodores' defense limited Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray to 114 passing yards.

Penn State 43, Michigan 40 (4 OT)

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    Michigan had started the season with five straight wins and had dreams of glory for the 2013 season.

    Brady Hoke's 18th-ranked Wolverines had an explosive offense and while there were a few issues on defense, it didn't appear that Bill O'Brien's Penn State team had enough firepower to exploit those problems when the Nittany Lions hosted the Wolverines Oct. 12.

    However, Penn State found its offensive identity late in the fourth quarter. The Nittany Lions trailed 34-27 with 50 seconds to go. However, they had the ball at their own 20 and did not have a time out.

    Despite the impediment, quarterback Bill Hackenberg led Penn State downfield quickly and he scored the tying touchdown when he crashed into the endzone from one yard out.

    In overtime, each team had registered field goals through the first three sessions. Michigan put another three-pointer on the board as they led off the fourth extra session, but O'Brien decided to eschew another field goal attempt when his team faced a 4th-and-1 from the Michigan 16. 

    Running back Bill Belton crashed through the Michigan defense for a first down and then ended the game when he bolted into the endzone from two yards out to give Nittany Lions the upset.

Pittsburgh 28, Notre Dame 21

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    Notre Dame brought a four-game winning streak as the Fighting Irish attempted to take down the Pitt Panthers Nov. 9, and put themselves in position to land a top bowl bid.

    However, the Notre Dame defense could not stop Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage, who passed for 243 yards and two touchdowns. That allowed the Panthers to take down the 24th-ranked Fighting Irish 28-21, and ruin their chances of going to a BCS Bowl for a second straight season. 

    Notre Dame had only itself to blame for the defeat. Two Tommy Rees interceptions in the fourth quarter gave the Panthers the momentum they needed. Notre Dame also lost a fumble and committed numerous penalties to keep Pittsburgh drives alive.

    Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was shocked at his team's sloppy performance. "Our mantra is you can't start winning until you stop losing and we did things tonight that caused losing," Kelly told reporters after the game.

Stanford 26, Oregon 20

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    On the surface, it seemed that fifth-ranked Stanford was a relatively even matchup for third-ranked Oregon, especially since the Nov. 7 game was hosted by the Cardinal.

    However, college football insiders expected the Ducks to roll over their hosts. Stanford had a solid, hard-hitting defense and a very basic and vanilla offense. Oregon had one of the most explosive attacks in college football and they could easily light up the scoreboard for 55 points or more, something they had done in five previous games.

    Instead of getting dominated by the Ducks, Stanford played smashmouth football and won the game 26-20.

    Tyler Gaffney keyed the Cardinal win, running for 157 yards as the powerful ground attack had Oregon on its heels for three quarters.

    Oregon rallied to make it close in the final 15 minutes, but quarterback Marcus Mariota did not play to his Heisman pedigree as he was inaccurate for most of the night. Stanford clinched the win when it recovered Oregon's late onside kick and ran out the clock.

    The defeat will almost certainly keep Oregon from appearing in the national championship game.