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What Just Happened?! The 7 Biggest Football Upsets Ever (And What They Taught Us)

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Want to know the quickest way to turn $100 into more than $50,000?

Bet it on a 45-point college football underdog…and then pray like you’ve never prayed before for one of the biggest football upsets of all time!

Those kinds of football upsets are rare. But one took place back in September 2017 when Howard University traveled to Las Vegas of all places to take on UNLV as 600-to-1 longshots.

Howard shocked UNLV—and the sports betting world—by beating UNLV in the biggest point-spread upset in college football history. It would have netted some lucky sports bettor more than $50K if only they’d had the foresight to drop $100 on Howard.

Sports bettors learned a valuable lesson when Howard beat UNLV that day: That anything is possible. They’ve also learned lessons from other football upsets over the years.

Here are the seven biggest football upsets ever and what they taught us.

1. Stanford Over USC as 40.5-Point Underdogs in 2007

When this game was played, Stanford was coming off a 1-11 season, while USC was in the process of trying to win its third national title in five years. On paper, it looked like it would be a lopsided affair.

But college football games are, of course, not played on paper. They’re played on the field, and on the field that day, Stanford shocked USC 24-23 with a touchdown in the final minute.

It was the first signature win for new Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh. And it taught us not to look too far forward or too far back when trying to predict what might happen on the football field on any given day.

Just because a team was 1-11 last season doesn’t mean they’re going to play like a 1-11 team this season—and just because a team appears to be a national title contender doesn’t mean they’re going to blow by teams at the bottom of their conference.

2. Texas State Over Houston as 35-Point Underdogs in 2012

Texas State was playing in its very first Division I-FBS contest. Houston, meanwhile, was playing in its first game following a 13-1 campaign in 2011.

Easy money for Houston bettors, right? Seeing as how this game is included on a list of football upsets, you know what happened next.

Texas State didn’t just beat Houston; they dismantled them. They won the game 30-13 to prove that they belonged at the FBS level.

This upset taught us not to sleep on the little guy when you’re thinking about which teams to bet on. We’re guessing Houston learned the same lesson that day.

3. Temple Over Virginia Tech as 35.5-Point Underdogs in 1998

During most of the football upsets on this list, the underdog either jumped out to a lead at the beginning of the game or hung around with the favorite for most of the game. That was not the case during this game.

Temple—a team that was 0-6 entering this contest—fell behind an undefeated Virginia Tech team 17-0 at the start. But they turned things around following their slow start and scored 28 of the last 35 points in the game to win 28-24.

This upset taught us that there are no sure things when it comes to college football. An undefeated team playing at home against a winless team should win when they jump out to a double-digit lead. But it’s far from a guarantee.

4. Syracuse Over Louisville as 37-Point Underdogs in 2007

During their first three games of the 2007 college football season, Syracuse lost, lost, and then lost again by an average of more than 28 points. Louisville, on the other hand, was nationally ranked and hadn’t lost at home in 20 games.

Cue the upset alert!

Syracuse jumped out to a commanding 38-21 lead heading into the fourth quarter. And while Louisville managed to score two unanswered touchdowns in the final frame, Syracuse held on to win 38-35.

The lesson here? Have a very short memory if you’re going to be a successful sports bettor. It would have been easy to pick against Syracuse after seeing their first three games, but that would have turned out to be a big mistake.

5. Liberty Over Baylor as 34-Point Underdogs in 2017

If not for the aforementioned Howard/UNLV stunner, this would have been the lead story on ESPN back on September 2, 2017.

Baylor had beaten up on FCS teams like Liberty heading into this game, winning nine games by an average of more than 46 points. It made the 34-point spread seem a little low to some people.

But once the game kicked off, it was clear that Liberty was going to be able to keep up with Baylor’s high-flying pace. Their quarterback threw for almost 450 yards en route to a 48-45 victory.

The game taught us not to overlook FCS teams when they play against the big boys. It also taught us that teams like Baylor that don’t value playing good defense can be beaten by lesser teams under the right circumstances.

6. Central Michigan Over Western Michigan as 34.5-Point Underdogs in 2000

Team A has lost seven straight games. Team B has won eight games in a row. Which team are you taking to win straight up when the spread is almost five touchdowns?

Anyone with half a brain would have picked Western Michigan, the winners of eight straight, to knock off Central Michigan, a team on a seven-game skid. But pride was on the line during this game between in-state rivals—and Central Michigan refused to go down without a fight.

Central Michigan fought so hard that they found themselves on the right end of one of the biggest football upsets ever when the game was over. It taught us that rivalries are real and that they can put a spark in an otherwise lifeless team in an instant.

7. Appalachian State Over Michigan as 33-Point Underdogs in 2007

When you think about college football upsets, this is probably one of the first ones that comes to mind—and for good reason. It got the 2007 season off to one heck of a start.

Michigan was the fifth-ranked team in the country to start that season, and they were playing at home in “The Big House.” Appalachian State was the two-time defending FCS champion, but it didn’t look like that was going to matter much against a hungry Wolverines team.

Appalachian State didn’t back down from the challenge, though, as they took a two-point lead with less than 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter on a field goal. And they rose to the challenge one more time a short time later when they blocked a game-winning field goal attempt from 37 yards out to win 34-32.

In the end, this upset taught us that looks can be every bit as deceiving in college football as they can be in other areas of life.

Learn From Football Upsets When They Happen

Football upsets take place almost every week in both college football and the NFL. Football is a wild sport that is pretty much designed to provide fans with their fair share of upsets.

There will be times when you win big thanks to an underdog pulling off an upset. There will also be times when you lose a fortune when you’re pulling for a favorite and they get upset.

Learn from the football upsets that you see and think about what you could have done better when betting on them. It’ll help you turn yourself into a more profitable bettor over time.

Come be a part of one of our betting clubs so that you can get the inside scoop on potential football upsets.