One of the most enjoyable things in sports is the big upset, and this is especially true in college football. Some of the best sports headlines come when a lower ranked, mid-major team beats down a higher ranked college football powerhouse on a fall Saturday afternoon. Even better than that is when a mid-major team, one that nobody has even heard of and has no business even being on a team's schedule, pulls off a the big upset victory. Here is our list of the top five most memorable mid-major upsets in college football history:
#5 - Boise St. 43 vs. Oklahoma 42 (2007)
Many college football fans do not include this game in a list of major upsets because Boise State was having one of the best years ever by a small school, in fact they went the entire 2006 season undefeated. But, as good as Boise State was that year, no one would have even thought of predicting that they would go all year long without losing a game. Then to appear in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day against a perennial football powerhouse like the Oklahoma Sooners, Boise State was truly playing out of their class. When the Broncos pulled out the win on a two point conversion in overtime, they secured their place in history as not only one of the best college football games of all time and a great upset... but also a great story.
#4 - Louisiana Tech 29 - Alabama 28 (1999)
It is true that this was a dangerous game for Alabama as Louisiana Tech had proven themselves to be a fairly potent team already and Alabama had lost to them two years earlier so they should have been prepared. That fact alone may make this upset even bigger than it seems. Alabama, having lost to LA Tech two years before, should have had no reason to not take the game lightly. The 1999 Alabama football squad would go on to win the SEC Championship, but the loss to Louisiana Tech definitely put a cloud over their season.
#3 - Cincinnati 17 - Wisconsin 12 (1999)
Going into this game, Wisconsin was ranked ninth in the country and was also one of the better teams in the Big Ten, if not the country. The Badgers had the experience of a Rose Bowl victory the previous year, had already scored a combined 90 points in their first two games of the season, and were armed with one of the more potent running games headlined by star player Ron Dayne. The Cincinnati Bearcats on the other hand had only won two games during the previous season and were coming off of a loss to a Division I-AA opponent. Cincinnati took advantage of hosting the bigger school on their field and although Ron Dayne rushed for more than 200 yards, the Badgers couldn't manage more than just one touchdown. The loss didn't stop Wisconsin from returning to the Rose Bowl, and it didn't turn around the Cincinnati football program as they went on to win just three games, but it is easily one of the biggest moments in Cincinnati Bearcats football history.
#2 - Temple 28 - Virginia Tech 24 (1998)
This game was truly the unthinkable. Virginia Tech was one of the more successful programs of the 1998 season when this game was played. They were undefeated and had already beaten the Miami Hurricanes. Temple on the other hand had an 0-6 record, was playing on the road in front of one of the more hostile crowds, and had lost ten of it's last eleven games. Going into the game, Virginia Tech was favored by 36.5 points, it wasn't even supposed to be close. As if all that hadn't made the game look like it was going to be bad enough for the Temple Owls, early in the game they found themselves trailing the Hokies by a score of 17-0. Not only did they upset the bigger and better team, they did it in a comeback fashion. Easily the proudest day in Temple football history.
#1 - Appalachian St. 34 - Michigan 32 (2007)
When sportswriters describe one team being better than another, they often use the words "they aren't even in the same league". In the case of Appalachian State playing Michigan, these words are not a saying, they are the truth. Appalachian State was a member of the NCAA Division I-AA, not the Division I-A like Michigan and all the other major football programs in the country. The Michigan Wolverines are a powerhouse that has won a great deal of conference titles, bowl games, and even multiple Division I national championships. Appalachian State on the other hand was a small school playing on the road at Michigan in front of almost 110,000 Michigan fans, against a team built to play against other major college football programs. . Michigan had been ranked in the top five during the preseason and there was even talk of the possibility of another national championship coming to Ann Arbor. Thankfully for the sake of football history, none of this seemed to matter to the Appalachian State players that Saturday afternoon. When Appalachian State closed the game out by blocking a game winning field goal by Michigan and almost taking it back the other way, this game went down as one of the greatest college football upsets of all time. When thinking about underdogs and upset stories, this play comes to mind for many college football fans nationwide.
There are few things more exciting and newsworthy in American sports than the big upset, this is true in the world of college football too. As great as upsets are though, they are even more impressive and meaningful when it is not just a lower ranked team beating a higher ranked team, but a school beating a superior school when they seemingly have no business being on the same football field with them.