Everybody loves it when college sports produce upsets. Let’s be real, some schools invest millions of dollars in their programs and have massive advantages like the pick of every high school in their districts. For many fans, that’s why it’s so satisfying to see them lose and suffer humiliation.
NCAA tournaments and bowls produce moments of outstanding quality. So today we’ll look at 25 of the most stunning upsets in college sports history. Most of these teams didn’t belong on the same field or court but played above their pay grade. Check out the list below via 247 Sports.
25. Montana vs. Washington (2021)
Washington came into this game as the number 20-ranked school in the nation. They paid FCS underdogs Montana $675,000 for the privilege of being their punching bag. But things didn’t turn out the way the Seattle school expected. In fact, Montana became the first non-FBS school to hold a PAC-12 opponent below 10 points since 1985.
It was a stunning victory and just the fifth time an FCS school defeated an FBS rival. Meanwhile, The Big Sky is the only lower conference with two wins over FBS teams. Montana won the game 13-7 (via CBS Sports). Meanwhile, Huskies’ fans called it one of the most embarrassing days in their history.
One of the most recent upsets, Oral Roberts stunned Ohio State during March Madness earlier this year. This was the type of result that makes a program reevaluate itself. The Golden Eagles showed no fear against the Buckeyes in a brave 75-72 victory. But it was no fluke as they deserved their victory.
Then, they went one step further and defeated the Florida Gators 81-78 in the second round (via ESPN). Ultimately, Arkansas stopped the plucky #15 seed in their tracks. But the private college had already captured the hearts of the nation. They represented the Summit League with pride.
On paper, Fresno State had no right to win the College World Series in 2008. But that’s exactly what they achieved with a glorious victory over Georgia in the final. In the process, the Bulldogs became the first No. 4 seed to win the championship. But they had to fight for the title.
After dropping the first game, Fresno bounced back to win the last two matches of the series. According to Omaha.com, they weren’t even the best team statistically in Nebraska (via Omaha World-Herald). But they still overcame all of the odds to seal their place in history.
The Sooners were favorites against Boise State in the ’07 Fiesta Bowl, but it wasn’t a total mismatch. However, Boise still pulled off one of the craziest upsets ever after with a storybook ending. The Broncos received a lot of patronizing attention in the build-up to the game against their Big 12 opponents (via Idaho Statesman).
But the WAC champions showed their quality in a brilliant game. They quickly put it on their highly-vaunted opponents and took the lead. The Sooners came storming back in the fourth quarter before the Broncos desperately sent the game to overtime. Then there was an epic finish as Boise won the Bowl.
This wasn’t the strongest edition of the Blue Devils but make no mistake, they were still heavy favorites against Lehigh. The pair met in a major bracket-buster in the 2012 NCAA tournament. C.J. McCollum exploded into life and stunned Duke with a game-high 30 points (via NBC Sports).
In the end, Lehigh won the game 75-70 in one of the tournament’s biggest-ever upsets. They lost in the next round against Xavier, but nobody can take this result away from them (via NBC Sports). It was unlikely and unexpected. That’s everything fans love to see when a small fry takes on the big guns.
This was the Spartans’ first postseason appearance since 1971 and they made the most of it. They faced Florida in the Waco Regional and performed beyond expectations. San Jose won the series 3-1 in one of the most historic years in program history.
Then, they went one better and overcame Houston in the Super Regionals. It was phenomenal to produce back-t0-back upsets, but they overcame the odds. Furthermore, it was only the third postseason run in their history. It just goes to show that every school can win.
The Longhorns are one of the most celebrated programs in college football. But when No. 1 Texas ran into N0. 7 Texas Tech in 2008, the underdog won the game. Texas was a major powerhouse at the time with nine consecutive 10-win seasons and a recent national championship. But the Red Raiders slung mud in their face.
Texas Tech came into this game with a chip on their shoulder and led for a chunk of the game. But the Longhorns came back to lead 33-32 (via ESPN). Then receiver Michael Crabtree produced a stunning moment as he scored an iconic touchdown with only a second left on the clock.
Florida Gulf Coast was the No. 15 seed coming into the 2013 NCAA tournament. But they showed that they weren’t there just to make up the numbers. Coach Andy Enfield developed an organized system that maximized his player’s potential. This culminated in a glorious victory over the mighty Georgetown Hoyas.
They weren’t finished creating upsets because they overcame San Diego State in the next round. FGCU won the hearts of the watching fans with its fearless and energetic style (via Bleacher Report). Meanwhile, Enfield’s coaching process earned him national acclaim and the USC job.
The Seminoles were already celebrating before Georgia Tech brought them crashing down to earth. Roberto Aguayo wasted FSU’s opportunity to seal the win. Then, the Yellow Jackets’ Lance Austin returned the ball for a 78-yard touchdown. It was staggering.
Some call it the “Miracle on Techwood” because it was such a staggering result. This was only the second loss in three seasons for the Seminoles which made victory all the sweeter for Georgia. Fans poured onto the field after one of the most improbable upsets in their history (via USA Today).
Even VCU students didn’t expect to make the NCAA tournament. But that’s exactly where they found themselves in 2011 despite a patchy season. Nobody expected much from the Rams but they went on a roll. They launched a series of upsets as they defeated USC, Georgetown, and Purdue before a clash with Kansas.
Then, they met the Kansas Jayhawks in Elite Eight. This was supposed to be the end of their magical run. However, they overcame the No.1 seed in style (via Sporting News). They won the game by 10 points and inspired other schools in the process. Even though they eventually lost to Butler, they still defeated ‘better’ teams from five conferences.
Despite being such a prestigious program, Duke has endured some shocking upsets over the years. Two years after Lehigh humiliated them, the Blue Devils suffered another embarrassing defeat. This time it came at the hands of the Mercer Bears in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Hilariously, North Carolina fans bought jerseys off the backs of the Mercer students (via Washington Post). They still wear them when they play Duke because it infuriates their rivals. Mercer put in a great team performance because they didn’t have an outstanding individual like some of the schools on this list.
West Lafayette saw a thrilling and emotional encounter between Purdue and the Buckeyes. Coach Urban Meyer doesn’t lose very often but the Boilermakers inflicted pain upon him. They blew Ohio State out 49-20 in one of the most eye-catching upsets of the year (via SBNation).
Furthermore, Purdue had an emotional external motivation. They played their hearts out for Tyler Trent, a fellow student with terminal cancer. Despite this, it was still remarkable that they overcame the No. 2 team in the nation. However, it brought smiles to everybody’s faces.
Some teams don’t belong on the same court. That was the thought of many commentators before Norfolk State’s game against Mizzou in 2012. But the No. 2 seed suffered a humiliating loss against their No. 15 seed opponents. This was also Norfolk’s first win against a ranked opponent (via The New York Times).
Norfolk demonstrated the exciting nature of March Madness. Anybody can beat each other in a single game and that’s why fans love it so much. Missouri would beat them eight times out of 10 any other given year. However, it only takes one time to make history.
The Cyclones blew the Cowboys away in 2011 in double overtime and shook up the BCS. Oklahoma State was the No. 2-ranked team in the country. Meanwhile, Iowa didn’t even have a ranking next to their names. They also came into the game with an average 5-4 record and were 27-point underdogs (via SBNation).
This was the game that changed the postseason because of Iowa State’s success. They won the game 37-32 after Cowboys kicker Quinn Sharp missed a chance to win the game. It was one of the most controversial moments of the college season yet gloriously entertaining.
Most March Madness upsets happen in the opening rounds. But it’s rare that teams are able to repeat the same stunning results against the best teams. However, in 2006, George Mason belied their lowly status and made it all the way to the Elite Eight against the Huskies (via Yahoo).
The 11th-seeded school played without fear after beating the reigning champions, North Carolina. It was a close game but the Patriots squeaked past Connecticut by two points. They totally deserved their place in the Final Four after winning 86-84 thanks to their incredible story.
Sometimes teams are much stronger than the media depicts them. That was the case in Stony Brook’s situation in the Coral Gables Regional. They seemingly came from nowhere to beat Central Florida 4-1 in style. Nobody expected the Seawolves to beat the likes of LSU or Miami, but they did.
Of course, their roster was stronger than a lot of people realized with the likes of Travis Jankowski. But they still had to do their business and it was one of the biggest upsets in college baseball history when they won. Sometimes smaller teams deserve more respect.
Howard came into this game against the Rebels as a staggering 45 point underdog. Meanwhile, ESPN gave the Bison just a 1.2 percent chance of winning. But the Bison overturned the tables in a rousing and unlikely victory. This game was also notable because of Caylin Newton’s inspirational performance.
The brother of NFL star Cam was electrifying as he rushed for 190 yards with two touchdowns and 21 carries (via Las Vegas Review-Journal). Howard was behind by 12 points in the third quarter but they rallied impressively. They put another 22 on the board to secure a brilliant win as they made history.
Baseball throws up the odd Cinderella story. This was definitely one of them because Davidson didn’t belong on the same field as No. 2 seed North Carolina. They only had three scholarships on their entire roster against one of the strongest programs in the nation (via Charlotte Observer).
Despite this, they overcame the odds to beat their highly-favored opponents. They pulled off the most shocking of upsets as they won the Chapel Hill Regional in nailbiting fashion. After barely scraping a place in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament, they made sure America knew their names.
Two of the biggest rivals faced each other in the Iron Bowl. While they are both football powerhouses, the Crimson Tide traditionally has the edge over the Tigers. Even though they’re both strong teams, Auburn pulled off one of the most incredible upsets at Jordan-Hare Stadium (via Athlon Sports).
Alabama should have killed them off with a 57-yard field goal but it fell short. Then, the Tigers’ Chris Davis caught the ball and charged upfield. Miraculously, he scored the game-winning touchdown as he ran for over 100 yards. This was a sensational moment, yet the Crimson Tide should never have allowed it.
They call it March Madness for a reason. Middle Tennessee brought this to the next level against the Spartans in 2017. Michigan State was the second-favorites to win the entire tournament. But the Blue Raiders sent them home early in one of NCAA Basketball’s biggest upsets ever.
Tom Izzo was one of the most experienced coaches in the sport but he couldn’t save his team from humiliation. The No. 15 seeds won 90-81 and upset gamblers all across the world (via USA Today). However, they instilled joy in the hearts of every watching neutral because this is what fans love to see.
It’s still crazy that Temple defeated Virginia Tech in this massive Big East upset. The Owls had one of the weakest rosters in the country but still managed to overcome the Hokies. There was no reason to believe that Virginia Tech would lose this game as they were riding a 5-0 unbeaten run.
Meanwhile, lowly Temple was down to their bare bones. After a spate of injuries, third-choice QB Davon Scott started (via Bleacher Report). However, the freshman had a day to remember as he inspired Temple to victory. The Owls claimed the title after putting Virginia Tech back in their place.
Everybody took it for granted that Virginia had this game in the bag. However, the Hoos proceeded to suffer a chaotic meltdown in front of the entire nation. UMBC rattled their foes and overcame the 20.5 favorites. Insanely, UMBC was the 168th ranked team in the U.S on KenPom (via SBNation).
They also suffered some embarrassing and crushing losses earlier in the season. But they rocked Virginia to become the first No.16 seed to beat a No.1 seed. This shouldn’t have happened because of the difference in scale between their programs. In the end, magic happened and the Retrievers won 75-54.
Stanford put up a big performance against the Trojans to end USC’s 35-game home winning record. This shouldn’t have happened because Stanford hadn’t had a winning season in seven years. Meanwhile, they came into this game with a record of 1-3.
But they pulled off a miraculous 24-23 win against the 41-point favorites. USC ran into Stanford again in 2021 when they suffered a crushing 42-28 loss (via SB Sun). Stanford also came into this game on a losing run but crushed their powerhouse rivals. They’re the definition of a bogey team.
Villanova didn’t have a hope of beating Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown in 1985. The schools met for the third time that year in NCAA Final. Georgetown had already crushed their rivals twice earlier in the season. But Villanova was out for revenge in one of the most stunning NCAA upsets ever.
They fought hard against the Hoyas with a stunning 79% accuracy rating from the field (via Inquirer). This was crucial because Georgetown outshot the Wildcats 53 to 28. Meanwhile, Ewing played well but Villanova didn’t give in. In the end, they held out for a glorious and unlikely 66-64 victory.
The game that Sports Illustrated called ‘the greatest upset of them all.’ They’re absolutely right because this was a wild game of football. The prestigious Michigan program paid Appalachian State $400,000 to play an opening day game. But nobody expected the FBS heavyweights to receive one of the biggest upsets ever.
That’s exactly what happened because the tiny North Carolina school came out strong. Quarterback Armanti Edwards had a career-defining game as the Mountaineers won 34-32. Remember, none of the Appalachian players would have even made the Michigan roster. What a stunning victory this was.