College Football: Five Games That Could Be Huge Upsets

Kristofer GreenSenior Writer IAugust 14, 2008

In every college football season there are major upsets that get the whole nation talking. The 2007 college football season saw a major upset in almost every week of action.

From Appalachian State's stunning victory against Michigan in the first week, to the Stanford Cardinals shocking the home crowd at the Coliseum with their upset of the mighty USC Trojans, to the unbelievable collapse of West Virginia who was a lock to play for a national championship before they were handed defeat by the Pitt Panthers, the 2007 season was one to remember.

While most prognosticators don't believe this season will as full of upsets, there are bound to be a few along the way.

Here are five games where the favorite may need to be put on upset alert.

Wisconsin @ Fresno State

The Favorite: Wisconsin Badgers
Why they could lose:The Badgers will start a quarterback with very little experience. Allan Evridge, the expected starter, went 5 for 12 for 66 yards last season and with the exception of tight end Travis Beckum there are really no sure-thing weapons for him to throw to.
The Badgers do return starters on the offensive line, but they have had major problems with pass protection over the past few years, which means it will most likely be all about running the football. They will have to guard against becoming predictable in the running game, even with a slew of talented backs including P.J. Hill. Once defenses figure out how to stop the run, will the passing game be good enough to take over?
The Badgers also lost both their kicker and punter to graduation and will start true freshman in both positions and in a game that could be close, that could be a problem.

The defensive starters all seem to be coming off of injuries. The defensive line is a mess with all four starters coming off an injury with the biggest hits taken by defensive end Matt Shaughnessy (broken leg) and defensive tackle Jason Chapman (torn ACL). The secondary could be terrific, but projected starting corners Allen Langford and Aaron Henry are coming off torn ACLs suffered late last year.

Lastly, traveling cross country is never easy and the Fresno State Bulldogs will have this game circled.

The Underdog: Fresno State Bulldogs

Why they could win: Coach Pat Hill has been building toward this season. There have been great Fresno State teams in the past but this is his best, most complete team yet. The team is ready to turn the corner and become the national player Hill has been wanting his program to become.

Sure, they aren't going to be national title contenders but they could be the third WAC team to crash the BCS party in as many years.

It all starts on offense. They are talented, athletic, experienced, and should be dominant. They have so much speed in the secondary that it will be tough for defenses to catch them once they are in the open field. They also have an All-America caliber tight end, a running back tandem that could be in the top 20 in the nation, and a big and physical offensive line that likes to sack the quarterback.

While the defense won't be great they should be fine. The front seven should be able to contain the Wisconsin running game game enough to force the quarterback to put the ball in the air. And when they do watch for the veteran secondary look to pick those passes off. Forcing turnovers has been a focus of the defense during the spring and fall camps.

The game could be close, in which case, watch out for All-American returner A.J. Jefferson who averaged a whopping 35.8 yards and scored to return touchdowns last season.

Virginia Tech @ Nebraska

The Favorite: Virginia Tech Hokies

Why they could lose:The Hokies took a beating through graduation and dismissals, losing their top receivers, three-quarters of the starting defensive line, All-ACC linebackers Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall, leading rusher Brandon Ore, and steady place kicker Jud Dunlevy.

The offense will be looking for playmakers after losing Brandan Ore to dismissal and their top four wide receivers to graduation. The Hokies didn't exactly light things up last season (even with those players) finishing 100th in the nation and with so much attention being paid to the quarterback battle between Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor it won't matter who wins if there is no one to take those hand-offs or catch those passes.

The run defense will be very vulnerable this season after losing most of their defensive line and linebackers to graduation. The battle for the place kicker position is important for the Hokies considering the holes on offense. Whoever is named the kicker may be called on for a lot of field goal attempts.

The Underdog: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Why they could win:The Nebraska offense will score and score often this season. Returning senior quarterback Joe Gantz, who threw for 1,399 yards and 15 touchdowns in the three games he started at the end of last season, could be one of the best quarterbacks in the country.

The Huskers will run the ball really well with the return of Marlon Lucky who was one of the nation's top backs last season. And the offensive line, which had one of it's best seasons in years last season, will get several starters back from last season.

The defense will benefit from the coaching of defensive gurus Carl and Bo Pelini. The defensive line will be much improved, returning all four starters and all four back-ups from last season.

The special teams will be solid returning place kicker Alex Henery who was perfect on the season last year. Senior punter Dan Titchener is an veteran who averaged 41.3 yards per kick and placed 14 of 20 inside the 20 yard line.

Oregon @ USC

The Favorite: USC Trojans

Why they could lose: Although most assume that Mark Sanchez will be the next great Trojan quarterback many said the same about last seasons starter John David Booty. And now with Sanchez dislocating his kneecap, many wonder whether he may be passed by backup Mitch Mustain.

Whether it's Sanchez or Mustain who face the Duck one thing is certain they will be unproven.

The quarterbacks will be passing to a group of receivers that will need to take a step forward in consistency by running crisper routes, cutting down on dropped passes, and generally becoming more reliable targets for the quarterbacks.

With four starters gone from last season, the Trojan offensive line will be in a state of transition. The two deep roster is littered with first time starters and unproven underclassmen. The line has also suffered from a rash of injuries and spent a great amount of time rehabbing. Getting this group to gel early will be key, but getting them to gel with only three games under their belt before the Ducks come to town will be a tall order.

The Underdog: Oregon Ducks

Why they could win: The new breed of Oregon quarterback is a dual-threat who’s equally dangerous with his legs as he is with his arm, and probable starter Nate Costa fits the bill. Costa will be put in a position to succeed right away in Chip Kelly's spread option attack and he has the tools to put up solid numbers.

The running game won't see much of a drop off as the former super sub Jeremiah Johnson looks to blossom into a dynamite full-time player. He's the total package who does all the little things well and will be running behind a veteran offensive line. Subs Andre Crenshaw and LeGarrette Blount will share back-up duties as the Ducks will utilize the talents of three different running styles. The Ducks boast a dominating left side of the line that will be the focus of the offense’s running plays and quarterback’s rollouts.

Junior tight end Ed Dickson and senior receiver Jaison Williams lead a group of young but talented receivers.

The Ducks lose little from Nick Aliotti’s ball-hawking unit, retaining all six of the players who earned all-conference recognition a year ago. Up front, ends Nick Reed and Will Tukuafu are talented pass rushers who can also defend the run. The Jerome Boyd-led linebackers have a chance to be the best group in Eugene in years. The secondary, featuring Patrick Chung, Jairus Byrd, and Walter Thurmond, will be among the best in the West.
Cincinnati @ Oklahoma

The Favorite: Oklahoma Sooners

Why they could lose:The Sooner coaching staff has decided that in order to get the offense into a quicker tempo and into more of a rhythm to implement a no huddle offense. Problem is, during the spring, ultra effecient sophomore quarterback Sam Bradford struggled with the no huddle and started throwing interceptions. Is the coaching staff tinkering with something that didn't need fixed?

The Sooners do have a big offensive line line, but will they be able to keep up with the no huddle? No doubt they will be able to open some holes for the running game, but both returning rushers are coming off of knee injuries and the Oklahoma coaching staff is known for wearing down their backs. The staff did do a somewhat better job of rotating backs last season, but Sooner backs always seem to get hurt.

The receiving corps is young and with the exception of Juaquin Iglesias, there really is no one who has proven themselves.
Defensively the Sooners have several question marks starting with the linebacking corps which 247 tackles with Curtis Lofton and Lewis Baker gone, and now the corps is relying on Ryan Reynolds, who hasn't had any luck with injuries, to be a star to revolve the corps around. The corners are short on depth and proven talent.

The sooners will also have to replace place kicker Garrett Hartley. Redshirt freshman Jimmy Stevens will get the shot and may have to prove early on that he can be just as consistent.

The Underdog: Cincinnati Bearcats

Why they could win: While the NCAA denied quarterback Ben Mauk a sixth season of eligibility, senior Dustin Grutza has the experience to lead the team. And there are few coaches in the nation that can get more out of the position than Brian Kelly who will move forward with his "Cat Attack" offense.

The Bearcats have not one, but two big, physical backs who can move the pile and soften defenses between the tackles. The Cincinnati receiving corps is loaded, led by the duo of Dominick Goodman and Marcus Barnett, while top reserve Charley Howard caught everything in sight in the off-season.

The Bearcats retain many of the key parts from last season’s stingy, ball-hawking defense that lead the nation in takeaways, including three All-Big East performers. With defensive tackle Terrill Byrd back to clog the middle of the line and cornerback Mike Mickens cutting off half the field for opposing quarterbacks, Cincinnati could be one of the toughest defenses in the nation.


Auburn @ Ole Miss

The Favorite: Auburn Tigers

Why the could lose: The offense is undergoing an overhaul of styles with new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin stepping in and establishing his spread attack. The biggest question is who will run it? Both quarterback prospects are young and inexperienced and the SEC usually chews up and spits out young, inexperienced quarterbacks.

The receiving corps could be a work in progress where there could be a weekly changes in the depth chart.

Maybe he biggest question on defense will be the health of Antonio Coleman. He's expected to be fine, but if not the defensive line lacks a true pass rusher.

The Underdog: Ole Miss Rebels

Why they could win:The league’s worst scoring attack got a huge boost this off-season with the emergence of quarterback Jevan Snead, an immediate upgrade for the passing game. Now, the talented receiving corps, led by Shay Hodge and Mike Wallace, should do far more, while Dexter McCluster will be used in a variety of roles.

The strength of the offense should be up front with offensive tackle Michael Oher returning for his senior year to lead a big, beefy group of veterans. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis is gone, but pounding junior Cordera Eason had a good spring and star recruit Enrique Davis is almost certain to be used right away.

The Defensive line will get more pressure in the backfield with junior pass rushing sensation Greg Hardy who is a pro prospect with a tremendous speed burst off the ball and a great ability to close once he gets a bead on a quarterback. The steady star on the inside is senior Peria Jerry, an All-SEC tackle who anchored the front line making 58 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss.




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