Biggest CFB Upsets of the Last 10 Years

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistApril 10, 2020

Biggest CFB Upsets of the Last 10 Years

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    Iowa State crushed Oklahoma State's championship hopes in 2011.
    Iowa State crushed Oklahoma State's championship hopes in 2011.Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    In an overwhelming majority of cases, the favored team wins in college football. That's both an unsurprising fact and a reminder of why upsets are so enjoyable.

    That is, unless your favorite team is doing the losing.

    During the past 10 seasonsfrom 2010 to 2019, the Football Bowl Subdivision has featured a diverse group of stunning results. Whether it was a major point spread missing the mark, a Top 25 team falling, a Football Championship Subdivision program pulling off the stunner or a combination of both, the upsets rocked the sport.

    All of those factors shaped the list, which includes a couple of upsets that crushed national title dreams.

10. Howard 43, UNLV 40 (2017)

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    David J. Becker/Getty Images

    While the matchup itself had little effect on the national scene in 2017, Howard's victory over UNLV is the most shocking upset in college football betting history.

    UNLV entered as a 45-point favorite and outgained the visitors, but three turnovers and two missed field goals crushed the Rebels. They recovered from a 21-9 deficit and led 33-21, but Howard fought back to score three touchdowns in the last 17 minutes.

    Howard quarterback Caylin Newtonthe brother of NFL star Cam Newtontotaled 330 yards and three scores in the win.

9. Georgia Tech 22, Florida State 16 (2015)

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    Florida State went undefeated and won a national title in 2013. The Seminoles reached the College Football Playoff as a 13-0 team in 2014. They started 2015 at 6-0 and held a 25-game regular-season winning streak over ACC teams.

    Georgia Tech, meanwhile, opened the year 2-0 but had dropped five straight games entering this matchup.

    Though the Yellow Jackets played stout defense, they needed a last-minute field goal to even the score at 16 apiece. The 'Noles promptly drove down the field and set up a potential game-winning 56-yarder for Roberto Aguayo, the nation's best specialist.

    Instead of a dramatic win, though, FSU suffered a painful loss.

    Patrick Gamble tipped the ball, which deflected about 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Lance Austin scooped it up, headed to the opposite sideline and followed a convoy of blockers to the end zone for a stunning 78-yard touchdown and 22-16 win.

    And when Clemson defeated FSU two weeks later, the label of "ACC powerhouse" traded handsand hasn't changed since.

8. The Citadel 23, South Carolina 22 (2015)

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    Two seasons removed from the last of a third 11-win year in a row, Steve Spurrier called it quits during the 2015 campaign. South Carolina started 2-4, and the Head Ball Coach retired.

    It got worse.

    The Gamecocks toppled Vanderbilt in the next contest but dropped five straight to end the season. That streak included a dismal 23-22 loss to The Citadel, an FCS program that had previously lost 28 consecutive games to FBS opponents.

    South Carolina gave up 350 rushing yards to the triple-option offense, which attempted only three passes all afternoon. Pharoh Cooper seemed to catch a go-ahead 94-yard touchdown in the final minute, but a false start negated the score.

    The program's 3-9 finish marked its worst year since the winless 1999 campaign.

7. Old Dominion 49, Virginia Tech 35 (2018)

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    When the 2018 Virginia Tech Hokies took a 7-0 lead on Steven Peoples' 87-yard run, it seemed this would be business as usual for the 13th-ranked squad. Old Dominion, after all, limped into the game at 0-3.

    Even as the teams alternated touchdowns for three quarters, Virginia Tech never trailed. The Hokies took a 28-21 advantage into the final frame after Damon Hazelton's 72-yard touchdown catch. But the fourth quarter proved remarkably unkind.

    Josh Jackson broke his left fibulaan injury that ended the quarterback's Virginia Tech career.

    Old Dominion's offense scored four times in the last 15 minutes, flipping a 28-21 deficit to a 49-35 triumph. Blake LaRussa threw for 495 yards and four scores, and Jeremy Cox rumbled for 130 yards and two touchdowns to seal the upset.

6. Georgia Southern 26, Florida 20 (2013)

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    Look, the Florida Gators stunk in 2013. Yes, they had an injury-filled roster for this November game and finished the season 4-8.

    Nevertheless, losing to an FCS program that failed to complete a single pass is disastrous. Georgia Southern, a 27.5-point underdog, celebrated a 26-20 victory in The Swamp. It was, without a doubt, one of the worst losses in Gators history.

    Florida simply had no answers for Georgia Southern's option offense, ceding 429 rushing yards at a stunning 7.9 per carry. Future NFL back Jerick McKinnon paced the visitors with 125 yards and scored the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

    With a loss to rival Florida State the following week, the Gators ended 2013 on a seven-game losing streak.

5. Iowa 55, Ohio State 24 (2017)

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    Kinnick Stadium is a place for mayhem. Especially in the last decade, top-ranked teams have often failed to emerge unscathed.

    But a 31-point loss? By a 17-point favorite?

    The beatdown started on the first play from scrimmage, as Iowa safety Amani Hooker returned an interception for a touchdown. Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett threw four interceptions, and the Hawkeyes turned them into 17 points.

    "We just didn't play very well," then-Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said, understating the result.

    Nate Stanley tossed five touchdowns for Iowa, which effectively ended the sixth-ranked Buckeyes' hopes of a CFP bid.

4. Troy 24, LSU 21 (2017)

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    Not since 2000 had LSU lost a nonconference game at home; the Tigers boasted 49 straight wins over the impressive span. Troy ended the streak in emphatic fashion in 2017.

    The Trojanswho were 21-point underdogs in Death Valleyforced a fumble on LSU's first offensive snap and scored a quick touchdown. They took a 10-0 lead into halftime and extended the advantage to 17 points early in the third quarter.

    LSU, then ranked 25th, managed a desperation charge and scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. However, an interception from Tigers quarterback Danny Etling in the closing seconds iced the result.

    "At the end of the day, it was who wanted it more," LSU linebacker Devin White said. "You could tell they wanted it more."

    LSU paid Troy $985,000 for the loss on homecoming weekend.

3. UCF 38, Louisville 35 (2013)

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    After sharing the 2011 and 2012 Big East titles, Louisville had a tremendous team in 2013. Led by Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals could appear in a BCS bowl in the final season before joining the ACC and set up the program for major success in the near future.

    Turns out, the latter happened for UCF.

    The 14-point underdogs overcame a 28-7 deficit to stun No. 8 Louisvilleand didn't stop there. The Knights rattled off seven more wins and, behind a four-touchdown effort from Blake Bortles, capped the season with a Fiesta Bowl victory over Baylor.

    UCF plummeted to a winless year in 2015, but the 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes laid the foundation for 2017's resurgence and 13-0 season under Scott Frost.

2. James Madison 21, Virginia Tech 16 (2010)

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    While the letdown at Old Dominion was ugly, Virginia Tech merely finished 6-7 that season. The 2010 loss to James Madison was flat-out nonsensical for the 11-win ACC champions.

    Tyrod Taylor would ultimately lead the Hokies to a perfect conference record and appearance in the Orange Bowl. However, their successes followed a season-opening loss to Boise State and 21-16 defeat at the hands of FCS program James Madison.

    The Dukes mustered only 235 yards of offense, but they managed three touchdowns drives and generated three takeaways.

    "I don't know what's going on," Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams said after the loss. "I really don't."

1. Iowa State 37, Oklahoma State 31 (2OT) (2011)

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    Fresh off a 60-point demolition of Texas Tech, Oklahoma State traveled to Iowa State in November 2011 holding a 10-0 record for a Friday night contest. Mike Gundy's squad only needed two victories for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

    Early in the third quarter, the second-ranked Cowboys opened a 24-7 gap. That was no surprise for the 28-point favorite.

    But then OSU's offense stalled in a massive way.

    Joseph Randle fumbled. Three-and-out. Brandon Weeden threw an interception. Punt. Punt. And late in the fourth quarter, Quinn Sharp missed a potential go-ahead 37-yard field goal. Iowa State ended up pulling off the win in double overtime after Weeden tossed his third pick of the game.

    Considering the Cyclones had trampled Oklahoma State's championship dreams, it seemed fitting the crowd stormed the field.


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