The opening week of the 2014 college football season is less than two weeks away, and the slate of games that will welcome us back from the long offseason features plenty of great matchups. Gone are the days where all of the power programs open against Creampuff University, as there are 11 games pitting two teams from power conferences, and four of those are league tilts.
There are also plenty of opportunities for early-season upsets—the kind of games that could serve as a launching point for the underdogs and major obstacle for the goals of the favorites.
Most upsets occur when a perceived underdog (based on point spreads, such as those compiled by VegasInsider.com) is playing at home against a ranked or higher-ranked team, or against a team with a better record. Others occur when an under-appreciated visitor, such as one from a lesser conference or from the FCS ranks, capitalizes on a team that doesn't play to its full potential.
In 2013, the first week of play gave us several upsets; FCS teams Eastern Washington, North Dakota State and Northern Iowa took down Oregon State, Kansas State and Iowa State, respectively. We also saw Virginia take out BYU and Northern Illinois triumph at Iowa, as well as a few near misses such as Auburn's narrow win over Washington State and Nebraska's slim victory over Wyoming.
Week 1 in 2014 could give us just as many upsets, if not more. While nearly every game provides the opportunity for an upset, each week there are some so-called "best bets" because of a variety of factors that include the venue, the quality of the underdog (based on past performance) and the pressure put on the favored team to win easily. During the opening week of a season, the uncertainty of what to expect from both teams can also lead to many upsets that turn out not to be so surprising as the year goes on.
With that in mind, here's a look at the 10 teams that have the best shot of any to pull off a season-opening surprise.