The college football world was stunned by Old Dominion’s upset of Virginia Tech this past Saturday. For Hokies fans, it brought back bad memories of the team’s loss to James Madison in 2010. Because FCS vs. FBS upsets are becoming more and more common, those are the moments that crowd this conversation.
That’s a shame. Many FBS teams have had seasons that start with championship aspirations end in unfulfilled potential because they lost to another team that went back to being terrible after its one great game. Including Saturday’s monumental upset, here are the five most memorable times that has happened.
5. Cincinnati 17, Wisconsin 12
Cincinnati, Ohio (Sept. 18, 1999)
The Bearcats lost to I-AA Troy State (now Troy from the Sun Belt) the week before, so they seemed like easy work for the eighth-ranked Badgers. However, Cincinnati put together a solid rushing attack and Wisconsin committed a cornucopia of errors as the Bearcats scored their first-ever win over a ranked opponent. All was not completely lost for the Badgers, however, as they went on to win the Big Ten title and running back Ron Dayne won the Heisman Trophy.
4. Old Dominion 49, Virginia Tech 35
Norfolk, Va. (Sept. 22, 2018)
Despite the five-hour road trip, this seemed like a safe game for the Hokies. The Monarchs were winless and Virginia Tech was by far their toughest opponent of the season on paper. But Tech could not keep pace with Old Dominion’s offense and lost a shootout. The Hokies still control their destiny in the ACC, but even if they win the conference, it will be a tough sell to put them in the College Football Playoff.
3. Georgia Tech 24, Alabama 21
Birmingham, Ala. (Sept. 12, 1981)
Having gone 1-9-1 the season before, no one gave the then-Independent Yellow Jackets a chance against second-ranked Alabama. Instead, Georgia Tech stunned the Tide, putting together a game-winning, 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Alabama went 8-0-1 in its next 10 games before losing to Texas in the Cotton Bowl. For Georgia Tech, the upset was its only win of the entire season.
2. Southern Miss 30, Florida State 26
Jacksonville, Fla. (Sept. 2, 1989)
Golden Eagles quarterback Brett Favre led an offense that racked up more than 400 yards in the season opener against the Seminoles and won in the final seconds. Many figured that Southern Miss would be off to a great season, but the Eagles went 5-6. Florida State lost the next week to Clemson, but did not lose again, and finished the season ranked No. 2.
1. Holy Cross 55, Boston College 12
Boston (Nov. 28, 1942)
Top-ranked Boston College was 8-0 and had held its opponents to a total of 19 points. All the Eagles had to do was beat a 4-4-1 Holy Cross team and the national championship was theirs (Remember, this was the era when the national champion was crowned before the bowl games.). Instead, the Crusaders beat the Eagles 55-12, in an upset that may very well have saved their lives. Boston College had planned to host a celebration at the city’s Cocoanut Grove nightclub, but that was cancelled. That night, a fire in the club killed 492 people.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Top photo courtesy of @ODUFootball)