College Football & Basketball Fans

College Forums | Team Apparel & Merchandise | Articles | CFB Playoff & Bowls | NCAA Tournament

The Year of the Upset: What Gives an Underdog the Advantage?


College football never fails to thrill. Teams come and go, rivalries are born and rekindled, and fans use catch phrases to describe big moments similar to the NFL’s “the drive,” Doug Flutie’s “Hail Mary,” and teams like “The Cardiac Kids.” If there were one phrase to describe the topsy-turvy college football season of 2007, it would be this:

The Year of the Upset.

This year, an unranked or lower ranked team beat teams higher in the rankings a whopping 59 times. Twelve of those upsets were unranked teams beating a top 5 team. Apparently the 2-spot was cursed, since the team in the #2 position was beaten 7 times by a seemingly lesser opponent. It all started with the big upset from Appalachian State pulling a big victory out of their match up against the #2 Michigan Wolverines. The most recent were #9 Oklahoma topping #1 Missouri and the unranked team from Pitt pulling a out a “W” against #2 West Virginia.

What is going on? I have my theories, but the bottom line is that nothing is certain in the world of college football.

Regardless of whether it’s a regular season game or Bowl Week, I love to cheer for the underdog. Being an Irish fan, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to do that this year. It makes the game exciting and I’ll be honest, I was happy for Navy to get their first victory over the Irish in 43 years. Might as well happen this year, right?

What does it take for the team that is looked over as easy prey to beat a highly competitive team? There are several key components for them to pull out an unbelievable – and unpredictable – win.

  1. They believe in themselves. I’m not talking about smack-talk and the hype that surrounds a team that talks it up and doesn’t deliver the goods. I’m talking about the teams that truly believe they can be victorious.
  2. True Teamwork. The teams that will come out on top are the teams that work well together in all aspects of the game. Rarely do they have just a single standout player that carries the team (although this does happen). They not only make big plays together, but there is a true camaraderie that is irreplaceable in the sports world. They anticipate what their teammates will do next and shift themselves to compliment what is happening in the big picture.
  3. Great Coaching. Like I’ve said before, coaches who back up their players and are amazing motivators, head up great teams. They may not win a National Championship, but when push comes to shove, they can deliver when the pressure’s on.
  4. The media ignores them. Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN made a big fuss about the fact that Michigan was playing Appalachian State and called it, basically, a waste of Michigan’s time. He rightfully made an apology to Appalachian State saying that they had definitely come to play. When the hype is on you, it’s easy to get caught up in it all and be distracted. The media also tends to add an enormous amount of pressure to teams and those that can fly under the radar undetected generally have an advantage.
  5. They have nothing to lose. These teams are truly the most dangerous. They’re not afraid to make mistakes and they can push themselves without worrying about next week’s polls or the bowl craze.


When it’s all said and done, I guarantee you that on the whole, fans won’t be breaking down every play of the big bowl games except those that result in a huge upset. The games that will get the most attention are the shockers that no one really saw coming. They’ll get the longest highlight reels and the most blog coverage the next morning. The teams that everyone will stand up and notice will be the teams that had all the chips stacked against them still ended up on top of the heap as the victorious ones.


by Angela Moore Guest Writer


More articles by Moore:

  is the home of the Dash Fans Network of independent college sports fan sites. If you are interested in having a link to your site from College Sports Fans or in joining the Dash Fans Network, or if you are interested in advertising on the Dash Fans Network, please visit our Contact Info page.

CSF Home | Sports Writing Positions | College Sports Fan Sites | College Sports Featured Articles | Sitemap


Directory of College Sports Message Boards & Forums by Conference



Copyright 2005-2015, and the Dash Fans Network of Independent Sports Fan Sites.