College Football’s Top 5 Friday Upsets
For the last decade, a number of conferences throughout college football have been making a push for more games on Fridays. This has certainly been met with a lot of contention, but nonetheless, the rise of Friday games has given a platform to lower-tier programs. Their games can now be given more national coverage, considering that there may only be three or four games on Friday compared to the 40 or more held on Saturday. Numerous programs have utilized this grander stage to knock off heavyweight opponents in the past. With No. 12 Penn State heading to College Park for a Friday night bout with unranked Maryland in what could be a potential trap game, let’s recount the top five biggest Friday upsets in the last 10 years of college football.
5. Baylor 50, No. 14 TCU 48 (Week 1, 2011)
The Horned Frogs came into this matchup as reigning Rose Bowl champions and winners of their previous 25 regular season contests. They squared off against an unknown Baylor squad to begin their 2011 season, and the matchup proved to be a test right from the opening kickoff. Junior quarterback Robert Griffin III led the charge for Baylor, throwing five touchdowns in the first three quarters and securing the Bears a 24-point lead heading into the fourth. TCU stormed back to take a 48-47 lead with under five minutes remaining, but the Bears were able to respond with a game-winning 37-yard field goal. The victory marked Baylor’s first win over a top-15 team since 1991, and it served as the first signature moment in RGIII’s remarkable Heisman campaign.
4. UCF 38, No. 8 Louisville 35 (Week 8, 2013)
Following a Sugar Bowl victory over No. 3 Florida in 2012, Louisville steamrolled through its first six games of the 2013 season. At the helm of the Cardinal offense was the explosive Teddy Bridgewater. Against UCF, the Heisman contender put the Cardinals ahead 28-7 midway through the third quarter. However, Blake Bortles and the Knights managed to tie the game in just a 7:22 span. UCF eventually took the lead with a field goal, only for Louisville to reclaim it with a touchdown. But it was the Knights who got the last laugh. A touchdown pass from Bortles with 23 seconds left sealed the upset for the emerging Knights: their second win against a ranked team in program history.
3. Pittsburgh 24, No. 2 Miami 14 (Week 13, 2017)
Miami’s performance in Mark Richt’s second year as head coach, along with the advent of the Turnover Chain, had officially brought the swagger back to The U. Winners of an FBS-best 15 straight games, Miami rolled into Heinz Field looking to cap off its perfect regular season, but the 4-7 Panthers absolutely controlled the second-ranked Hurricanes. Miami was only able to muster 232 yards of offense in the contest: a season low. The Hurricanes still had a shot at the College Football Playoff despite the ugly loss, but their true colors had been revealed, and there was no going back. They were obliterated by Clemson in the following week’s ACC championship game, and after another disappointing loss in the Orange Bowl, the Hurricanes slipped back into mediocrity. They simply haven’t been the same since that Friday loss to Pitt.
2. No. 19 Nevada 34, No. 4 Boise State 31 (Week 13, 2010)
Ever since their upset of Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, the Boise State Broncos had been knocking at the door of the BCS. With Kellen Moore entering his third year as a starter in 2010, the Broncos were ready to burst right through it. Coming into the matchup against Nevada, Moore was an astounding 36-1 as the Broncos’ starting QB. Boise State had also beaten Nevada 10 straight times, but the Wolf Pack fought hard to give themselves a chance late in this Friday night matchup. Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick led a 14-play, 79-yard drive to tie the game in the final minute, but the Broncos managed to put themselves in position for a game-winning 26-yard field goal as time expired. It was shanked. When the Broncos got the ball first in overtime, they attempted a 29-yard field goal. That was shanked as well. The Wolf Pack took over on offense and ultimately nailed a 34-yarder to secure their biggest win in school history. Boise State, on the other hand, lost all hope of playing for a national championship.
1. Syracuse 27, No. 2 Clemson 24 (Week 7, 2017)
Clemson beat Syracuse 54-0 in 2016, but the Orange looked to turn heads when the Tigers rolled into town the following year. Syracuse came out firing in just its second nationally-televised game all season, and the Orange took a lead that they would never relinquish for the full 60 minutes. Clemson was on a short week, about to head into a bye, and had to go from playing in front of 80,000 fans at home to playing in a basketball arena. It was clear that the Tigers were unmotivated from the start, and they were flat-out beaten in every facet because of it. Quarterback Kelly Bryant left the game with a concussion at the end of the first half, but Clemson’s woes went far deeper than that. To put things in perspective, the Tigers racked up 119 penalty yards—six more than they had on the ground all game. Syracuse did its part on both sides of the ball to take full advantage of Clemson’s poor performance. The Orange took down the defending national champions to gain their second win in program history over a top-2 team.
Connor Griffin is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.