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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / The Grueling Truth's Top 10 Sports Lists / Top 10 Biggest Upsets in College Football History

Top 10 Biggest Upsets in College Football History

Publish Date: 05/28/2024
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Upsets occur every season, and I have seen a ton in my 55 years. Today, we will look at the greatest upsets of all time. You have a mix of old games and relatively new games, but at the time these games were played, the upsets were huge, and looking back years later, this list of ten games is still surprising.


The criteria are pretty cut and dry. These are games in which no one really doubted who would win before the game started. Upsets happen every year, but these ten were a little different.

10) Notre Dame beat Oklahoma (1957)

Oklahoma entered this game against Notre Dame with an impressive 47-game winning streak spanning four years without any defeat! Incredible?

For nearly this game, neither team could reach the end zone with any success.

Oklahoma appeared disinterested and seemed confident Notre Dame would easily give them victory.

Irish defense forced a late turnover and capitalized with an impressive 20-play scoring drive to end their opponent’s win streak, winning 7-0.

Both of these Programs rank as two of the greatest college football programs of all-time.

Video: 1957 vs. Oklahoma - Ending The Streak - 125 Years of Notre Dame Football - Moment #064

1957 vs. Oklahoma – Ending The Streak – 125 Years of Notre Dame Football – Moment #064

9) Stanford Defeats Notre Dame (1990)

Notre Dame was national champion in 1988, defeating Colorado 21-6 in the Orange Bowl to finish with an 11-1 record and No. 2 ranking nationwide.

Going into 1990, they looked just as strong, notching three wins against Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue to begin the campaign.

Stanford proved too much for them in their fourth matchup of the season, defeating Notre Dame by 36-31.

Video: 1990 Stanford football highlights: Stanford 36, Notre Dame 31

1990 Stanford football highlights: Stanford 36, Notre Dame 31

8) Temple Besieges Virginia Tech in 1998

Temple was coming into this game winless; Virginia Tech was fifth-ranked and was heavily favored.

At halftime, Temple was behind by 17 points but rallied back to defeat Virginia Tech by 28-24.


7). Kansas Beats Oklahoma (1975).

Oklahoma Sooners football was unrivalled at that time. Riding a 37-game winning streak and coming into 1975 as the No. 2-ranked team and reigning national champions.

Kansas entered this matchup unranked and without having defeated Oklahoma for 11 years – let’s be real: Kansas is known for basketball more than football!

On this day, however, this trend abruptly stopped as Oklahoma turned over eight times and allowed Kansas to run away with a 23-3 win.

Oklahoma would eventually win their second consecutive national title that year despite their initial setback, defeating Wisconsin 4-0 and going on to claim victory at the championship game.


6). Stanford Defeats USC (2007)

Remarkable memories come to mind whenever games expected to be blowouts turn out differently.

Here is the perfect example.

In 2007, No. 1-ranked USC and Stanford squared off against each other in Los Angeles with USC holding an overwhelming 40-point advantage.

Stanford quarterback T.C. Ostrander had suffered a seizure shortly after their win against Arizona State and had to sit out this matchup against USC as a result.

Tavita Pritchard would make an ideal backup decision. They would not regret making that choice one bit!

Late in the fourth, Stanford would make its comeback from 23-14 down and go on to score 10 unanswered points, culminating with Pritchard passing to Bradford a 10-yard touchdown pass for an unlikely 24-23 victory.

Video: Stanford-USC 2007

Stanford-USC 2007

5). Columbia Over Army (1947).

At their previous game against Columbia, Army had amassed an unbeaten streak that extended across 32 games. Army was expected to make quick work of Columbia but might experience some resistance.

At first, Army appeared destined for victory as they led 20-7 at the half. But thanks to two touchdown runs from Lou Kusserow, Columbia managed a shocking 21-20 win!

Video: Columbia Ends Army's 1947 32 Game Unbeaten Streak (October 25, 1947)

Columbia Ends Army’s 1947 32 Game Unbeaten Streak (October 25, 1947)

4) Michigan Over Ohio State (1969).

The 1969 Ohio State football team has long been considered to be one of the greatest in college football history. Led by head coach Woody Hayes, they boasted an unprecedented 22-game win streak and were reigning national champions. Check out the dirtiest College Football coaches of all-time.

Michigan was in search of rebuilding during an era that saw them make just one Rose Bowl appearance out of 17 attempts.

On this day in 1902, one of college football’s greatest rivalries, Woody vs Bo, began. The Buckeyes played far below expectations – turning over seven times with six interceptions as they lost to Michigan 24-12. Woody became Bo’s opponent.

Video: 1969: Michigan 24 #1 Ohio State 12 (PART 3)

1969: Michigan 24 #1 Ohio State 12 (PART 3)

3) Centre College Against Harvard (1921)

Harvard may no longer be known for football, but in their day, it was an integral part of school life – and its Crimson were great teams!

Their match against Centre College became even more one-sided as a result.

Centre College had a solid defensive front that held Harvard at bay; scoring one touchdown during the third quarter despite missing its extra point was irrelevant; Centre eventually prevailed with ease in this matchup.

The unequaled victory belonged to them 6-0.


2) Carnegie Tech Beats Notre Dame (1926)

Knute Rockne wished he hadn’t played this game. Notre Dame shouldn’t have lost.

Rockne was so confident of his success in winning that year that he made plans to head up to Chicago and attend the Army/Navy game there.

Carnegie Tech took control of this game early, leading by 13-0 at halftime and not letting up, defeating the Irish 19-0 to end their national championship hopes for the year.

Rockne was one of the best football coaches of all time, but this was a game he would soon forget.

Video: Notre Dame once lost to Carnegie Tech in one of the greatest upsets ever | CBS Sports

Notre Dame once lost to Carnegie Tech in one of the greatest upsets ever | CBS Sports

1) Appalachian State Triumphs Over Michigan (2007)

Appalachian State, a second-tier Division I team, had come to Ann Arbor hoping for the payoff they were promised: roughly $400,000.

The Wolverines needed a light non-conference opponent as a warmup.

Instead, they were treated to an unexpected sight – a blocked field goal at the end of a game and an up-close glimpse at this small school no one knew anything about celebrating on their field.

The Wolverines and their fans were shocked at what unfolded on the field before them.

Imagine an unexpected 34-32 victory by now-famous Appalachian State.

Video: When Appalachian State football stunned Michigan in 2007 | SportsCenter | ESPN Archives

When Appalachian State football stunned Michigan in 2007 | SportsCenter | ESPN Archives

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