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The Most-Likely Upset Loss For Every Top 25 Team

Collage of logos of top college football programs.

Upsets are a huge part of what makes college football so damn entertaining. 

Few things in sports are better than watching an undefeated, national championship-contending team go down in tragic fashion. 

Just last year, an undefeated Ohio State fell at home to Michigan State, an undefeated Alabama lost at home to Ole Miss and an undefeated Florida State lost on the road to Georgia Tech. All three of those games were among the most-entertaining of the season. 

People really love watching an underdog pull off a spectacular upset victory. 

The 2016 college football season is now exactly one month away. 

Upsets are on the way. 

Most college football teams will suffer at least one unexpected loss this fall. While it's tough to predict them (upsets are usually unpredictable by nature), we're going to give it a shot. 

Here is every top 25 team (in ESPN's preseason poll) most-likely upset loss. 

Start With No. 25 ??? >>>25. Louisville – at Marshall, Sept. 24 

The Cardinals should handle Charlotte and Syracuse in the first two weeks before taking on Florida State. Two weeks after playing the Seminoles, they travel to Clemson, but in between those two marquee match-ups is a potential trap game against the Thundering Herd. Marshall has recorded three consecutive 10-win seasons and has a promising young quarterback (Chase Litton) and a strong defense. Those are ingredients to beware on the road. 

24. Miami ��� at Georgia Tech, Oct. 1 

Georgia Tech had its 18-year bowl streak snapped last season as the Yellow Jackets finished 3-9. However, one of those three wins was a dramatic home victory over Florida State, and Paul Johnson's team should be improved in 2016. The triple option is always tough to defend, and GT has a good one running its offense in quarterback Justin Thomas. Bobby Dodd Stadium is never an easy place to play either. 

23. Iowa – at Minnesota, Oct. 8 

One prominent radio host thinks the Hawkeyes have the best chance out of any Big Ten team to reach this year's playoff. Still it will be tough to go 12-0 again, and while Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska are stronger opponents than the Golden Gophers, Minnesota has an intriguing shot at sneaking up on Iowa. The main reason? Dual-threat quarterback Mitch Leidner is capable of a huge performance. He threw for 259 yards and produced two touchdowns (one rushing) as UM nearly stunned Iowa on the road in 2015, losing 40-35. 

22. UCLA – at BYU, Sept. 17 

The Bruins squeaked by BYU 24-23 at home in 2015, and will likely be slightly favored on the road in Provo come September. BYU, meanwhile, will be well-tested after facing Pac-12 foes Arizona and Utah in its first two games. Sophomore quarterback Tanner Mangum is good enough to outgun Josh Rosen in a one-game setting, and this will be the team's first home contest of the season and the home debut for first-year head coach Kalani Sitake. Tough environment for the Bruins.

21. Texas A&M – at Mississippi State, Nov. 5

A&M is a sleeper in the SEC West, but the Aggies likely won't be favored in many games against divisional opponents. They should be favored on the road in Starkville, and even though Mississippi State is widely viewed as a last-place team in the SEC West, the Bulldogs are always tough at home and could be playing for bowl eligibility at this juncture of the season.

Next: No. 20 to No. 16 ??? >>>

20. TCU – at West Virginia, Oct. 22

TCU throttled West Virginia last year, and the Mountaineers will be raring to erase the memories of that 30-point blowout. Led by quarterback Skylar Howard and receivers Shelton Gibson and Daikiel Shorts, WVU has a potent passing attack. If its rebuilt defense is up to the task, an upset win over the Horned Frogs won't be much of a shocker at all. 

19. Oregon – at Washington State, Oct. 1 

Is this really an upset? After all, Washington State did beat the Ducks in Eugene last fall. Now that was a huge upset, but Oregon could be 4-0 heading into the Wazzu game and the Ducks are still projected to finish in front of the Cougars in the standings. As long as Wazzu has gunslinger Luke Falk running the show on offense, they have a strong shot to knock off UO once again.

18. North Carolina – Pitt, Sept. 24 

Upsets are more likely to occur on the road, but Pitt presents a tough test for the Heels at home. Pat Narduzzi-coached teams will always have a sturdy defense, and it looks like the Panthers will have a strong 1-2 running back duo of Qadree Ollison (1,121 yards and 11 touchdowns last season) and James Conner, who was the ACC's Player of the Year in 2014 before suffering a knee injury and battling Hodgkin's lymphoma. 

17. Houston – at Navy, Oct. 8 

The Cougars roughed up Navy at home in 2015, winning 52-31. Once again, Houston is favored to win the AAC West and possibly crash the College Football Playoff party, but the Midshipmen could play spoiler. Navy is a tough out in Annapolis and their contrasting style and grind-it-out option attack could be enough to keep the Cougars off balance. 

16. Washington – at Utah, Oct. 29

The Huskies are a trendy pick to win the Pac-12, and ESPN The Magazine has tabbed them to reach the College Football Playoff. Even though U-Dub lost to Utah at home in 2015, they should be favored when they make the trip to Salt Lake City this fall. Utah has established itself as a legitimate presence since emigrating to the Pac-12 in 2011, and is quite capable of knocking the Huskies off here. 

Next: No. 15 to No. 11 ??? >>>15. Michigan State – at Penn State, Nov. 26 

The Spartans certainly don't have an easy schedule in 2016, but they do bring most of their tough opponents to East Lansing, which helps things. The toughest road trip comes on September 17, when Mark Dantonio takes his club to South Bend to take on a Notre Dame team that should be in the College Football Playoff conversation this year. A loss under the gaze of Touchdown Jesus would hardly be an upset. The final game of the year at Penn State would be, however. No one really knows what to make of James Franklin's club this season, without quarterback Christian Hackenberg and with two new coordinators. Happy Valley is always a tough place to play, however, and it is conceivably that the Nittany Lions could be playing for their coaches' jobs, which always adds an interesting dimension to a game.

14. Oklahoma State – vs. Pittsburgh, Sept. 17 

Rough late season losses to Baylor, Oklahoma and Ole Miss aside, Oklahoma State had a very nice 2015 season, winning 10 games for the second time in three years. While often overshadowed by the rival Sooners and Big 12 monolith Texas, Mike Gundy has built a consistent winner in Stillwater. In week three, they bring in a very interesting Pitt team, which could take a jump under second year head coach Pat Narduzzi. If star running back James Conner is somehow ready to go after offseason cancer treatments, the Panthers could be very dangerous.

13. Ole Miss – at Arkansas, Oct. 15

It is really hard to think of any road loss in the SEC West as a real upset most years, but Arkansas hasn't made the leap into the upper-tier of the division under Bret Bielema, while Ole Miss has made it a habit of knocking off Alabama. This game in Fayetteville comes right at midseason when the Hogs tend to take their turn for the better, and Ole Miss could be caught looking ahead to the following week's game at LSU. 

12. Georgia – vs. Georgia Tech, Nov. 26 

The Bulldogs have made a habit of whupping on their rivals from Atlanta in "Clean Old Fashioned Hate," the 2014 game aside, but this year Georgia will be breaking in a new coaching staff. While Kirby Smart has a really impressive group of coaches, Georgia Tech always presents a unique test because of their spread option offense, which is a very unique style to prepare for. After a great 2014, Tech fell off a cliff in 2015 due to injuries and a ton of bad luck, winning just three games. The Jackets return a lot of experience this fall, and could take a large leap back to Paul Johnson's usual standard, which could make this a very tricky date for the Dawgs. 

11. USC – at Utah, Sept. 23 

USC is as talented as any team in the country, but is Clay Helton the right man to lead the Trojans? With Alabama in week one, he's getting thrown into the fire very quickly. No reasonable USC fan expects a win over the Crimson Tide, however. USC should be favored over the Utah Utes, though, if only because of the talent differential between the two programs. The Trojans will be facing Utah in front of a rowdy Friday night crowd in Rice-Eccles Stadium, where the Utes went 6-1 last year, including wins over Michigan, Jared Goff's Cal Bears, and Arizona State. 

Next: No. 10 to No. 6 ??? >>>

10. Tennessee – at Texas A&M, Oct. 8 

Tennessee has as much hype as any team heading into 2016, which means the weight of huge expectations as well. The Vols return a ton of talent, the product of a number of big, highly ranked recruiting classes from the early Butch Jones years. For the first time in a long time, the team is the favorite to head to Atlanta out of the SEC East. On October 15, the Vols face their biggest hurdle: rival Alabama. The week before, they travel to College Station to face the Aggies, who've largely flown under the radar, but have a lot of weapons, and an experienced if inconsistent quarterback in Trevor Knight. This is a classic look ahead spot for UT.

9. Ohio State – at Michigan State, Nov. 19 

Ohio State loses more than just about anyone to the NFL from its 2014 and 2015 teams, but they still have their quarterback, which counts for a lot. Michigan State is entering its post-Connor Cook era under center, but the Spartans defense is always great under Mark Dantonio, and trips to East Lansing can be brutal for any team. If Ohio State is to lose a game that is favored in this season, this is the best candidate.

8. Notre Dame – at USC, Nov. 26 

This may be the best team that Brian Kelly has had at Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish have to manage the same minefield-like schedule that they have most years. If they run through a slate that features Texas, Michigan State, Stanford, and Miami, the Irish will be sitting pretty for a College Football Playoff bid. One loss may even be okay. But Notre Dame finishes the year at USC, which as we said above, has as much talent on its roster as just about anyone in the sport. The Trojans would love the chance to end their rivals' playoff dreams.

7. Stanford – at Oregon, Nov. 12 

With all due respect to the Washington Huskies, the team riding the most hype heading into 2016 this side of Tennessee, we'll trust them to break into the top tier of the Pac-12 North when we see it. Stanford and Oregon have dominated the division since Jim Harbaugh and Chip Kelly roamed their sidelines, and both teams should figure into the equation again this year. The Cardinal and Ducks also tend to knock one another off at very inopportune times. If Dakota Prukop pans out at quarterback and masters Oregon's offense by November, a trip to Eugene could be very perilous for the Pac-12 favorites.

6. LSU – at Arkansas, Nov. 12

After nearly losing his job last season, this fall is a huge one for Les Miles. While much of the focus from his critics has been his inability to beat Alabama and former LSU head coach Nick Saban, the Tigers have lost to Arkansas twice in a row, in games that weren't particularly close (17-0 in 2014, 31-14 in 2015). Arkansas is usually hitting its stride late in the season, and LSU has to make the trip to Fayetteville. This game also comes right after what is sure to be a grueling one against the Crimson Tide.

Next: No. 5 to No. 1 ??? >>>

5. Oklahoma - at West Virginia, Nov. 19 

Playing in Morgantown, West Virginia is never easy. The Sooners will have played Baylor the week prior and face Oklahoma State next, so it's possible Bob Stoops' team could be looking ahead to a rivalry game. The Mountaineers' playing style provides for problems for everyone and a ramped up crowd should set quite the atmosphere. If the College Football Playoff-contending Sooners are going to fall in an unexpected upset, this might be the game it happens. 

4. Florida State - at Miami, Oct. 8

This is a rivalry game, so maybe it doesn't count as an "upset" in many of your minds, but the Seminoles will surely be favored in this one. This will be Mark Richt's first Miami-FSU game as the Hurricanes' coach, though, and Sun Life Stadium should (for once) be pretty raucous. FSU has won six straight games in this rivalry. Will the streak reach seven?

3. Michigan - at Rutgers, Oct. 8 

Yeah, this would be very unexpected. The Wolverines are a preseason top-five team and Rutgers will be lucky to make a bowl game. But this one will be a night game. Weird things can happen on the road at night. And Michigan's offense isn't supposed to be world beaters, so maybe the Scarlet Knights can snag a couple of turnovers, score some easy points and pull off one of the season's biggest upsets. 

2. Clemson - at Georgia Tech, Sept. 22 

It's really tough to imagine this Tigers' team suffering an upset loss (or any loss). With a stud, veteran quarterback, Clemson should come to play at a high level every week of the season. The Yellow Jackets are always respectable, though, and, like Michigan's game at Rutgers, this is a night contest. It's probably Clemson's best chance for an upset loss. 

1. Alabama - at Ole Miss, Sept. 17 

Of course this is the pick. The Rebels have upset the Crimson Tide twice in recent seasons, after all. Alabama will certainly be favored in this one, but Ole Miss coming away with a win wouldn't really be that surprising. The Crimson Tide could lose this game and still reach the College Football Playoff, too, like they've done both times they've suffered this loss. 


The Most-Likely Loss For Every Top 25 Team >>>