During every college football season, there are upsets that make us question, did that really just happen? It is somewhat easy to peg certain conference upsets based on schedules and other factors. How about non-conference upsets? I decided to put together a list of 10 non-conference upsets to watch for!
These games are ranked based on my confidence level in these happening. However, it must be said that I am confident in each of these upsets actually happening. Check it out!
10 non-conference upsets
10) Troy over Missouri
When – Saturday, October 5
Where – Memorial Stadium – Columbia, MO
Why – Troy has beaten Power Five teams on the road in each of the last two seasons. In fact, they won at Nebraska 24-19 last year while winning at LSU 24-21 in 2017. The Trojans return a senior quarterback in Kaleb Barker, a nearly 1,200-yard rusher in BJ Smith along with several key starters on both sides. They are unafraid of big-time road environments. Meanwhile, Missouri replaces Drew Lock with Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant at quarterback. The Tigers will be coming off of a bye week and appear to be a solid team. However, Troy has snuck up and won games like this before. Therefore, this game deserves to be on the 10 non-conference upsets to watch for list.
Series history – Missouri leads 2-1 including a win in their last meeting in 2005. Troy won in 2004 while the Tigers won the first meeting in 2002.
9) Houston over Oklahoma
When – Sunday, September 1
Where – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium – Norman, OK
Why – Oklahoma is employing an all-new defensive scheme and their first test is against one of the most prolific offenses in college football. Houston is led by the electric D’Eriq King at quarterback along with a plethora of weapons. The Cougars will give the new look Sooner defense plenty to think about in this game. With that said, the OU defense will grow strong under new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch as the year progresses. Oklahoma can certainly win this game in a shootout, considering how awful Houston’s defense is likely to be. Also, consider that this is Jalen Hurts first game in a Sooner uniform. This is certainly one of the 10 non-conference upsets to watch for in 2019.
Series history – Oklahoma leads 2-1, although Houston won the last meeting in 2016 by a score of 33-23.
8) Cincinnati over Ohio State
When – Saturday, September 7
Where – Ohio Stadium – Columbus, OH
Why – Certainly, Ohio State is loaded, so calling for this game to be on the 10 non-conference upsets to watch for is seemingly crazy. In fact, the Buckeyes return nine starters on defense. They bring in Georgia transfer Justin Fields to take over at quarterback. Additionally, Ohio State returns JK Dobbins at running back along with a plethora of receivers. However, they do have to replace four offensive linemen along with head coach Urban Meyer.
Cincinnati is absolutely ready to win a game like this after churning out 11 victories last year. Led by dynamic quarterback Desmond Ridder and elusive running back Michael Warren, expect the Bearcats to do damage, even on a solid OSU defense. Also, expect Ohio State to come out of the gate a bit slow, being this is their second game of the season under new head coach Ryan Day.
Series history – Ohio State leads 14-2. Interestingly, the last time Cincinnati defeated the Buckeyes was in 1897. Yes, that reads 1897, not 1997.
7) Toledo over Kentucky
When – Saturday, August 31
Where – Kroger Field – Lexington, KY
Why – Kentucky is retooling their entire secondary as well as replacing important front seven players such as Josh Allen. Additionally, they lost the best running back in school history, Benny Snell. Moreover, they are replacing three starters on the offensive line. In other words, UK is going to have an adjustment period as they break in new players. Thus, the entry into the 10 non-conference upsets to watch for is justified. Granted, Mark Stoops has recruited well and the Wildcats will be solid this year. However, Toledo is a dangerous first matchup of the season. Toledo has to replace a lot of important pieces as well, however, they have an experienced quarterback, a good running game and three returning starters on the offensive line.
Series history – First meeting
6) Southern Miss over Mississippi State
When – Saturday, September 7
Where – Davis Wade Stadium – Starkville, MS
Why – There are plenty of reasons why this game appears on the 10 non-conference upsets to watch for list. Southern Miss is a potential surprise team out of Conference USA this year. They are set up for a big season with plenty of experience and talent on the offensive side of the ball. Certainly, Jack Abraham is an up and coming quarterback. Additionally, they return all five starters on the offensive line. On defense, they do lose several pieces, however, Mississippi State may not be able to take advantage.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have uncertainty at quarterback, plus a lack of production at receiver. Kylin Hill is a capable running back but will have to have a big game in this one. Despite returning solid talent, State loses six starters on defense. Southern Miss certainly presents a dangerous early-season test for Mississippi State.
Series history – Tied 14-14-1 with Mississippi State winning the last four meetings since 1989.
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5) Western Michigan over Syracuse
When – Saturday, September 21
Where – Carrier Dome – Syracuse, NY
Why – Syracuse, coming off of a 10 win season, is replacing dual-threat quarterback, and inspiring leader, Eric Dungey. While their defense improved last season and returns most of their top tacklers, there are still question marks. Particularly when facing a dangerous and balanced offense like Western Michigan. The Orange have some weapons on the offensive side, however, this is still early enough in the season where a game like this is problematic. Plus, Western returns 13 of their top 14 tacklers on defense. This game deserves to be on the 10 non-conference upsets to watch for list.
Series history – Syracuse won the only meeting 55-42 last year on the road in Kalamazoo, MI.
4) Appalachian State over South Carolina
When – Saturday, November 9
Where – Williams-Brice Stadium – Columbia, SC
Why – It should come as no surprise to see Appalachian State on a list of 10 non-conference upsets to watch for. Obviously, we all know what they did to Michigan in 2007. Last year, App State almost pulled off an upset of Penn State on the road, falling 45-38. In 2016, they played within a touchdown of Tennessee in Knoxville. First-year head coach, Eliah Drinkwitz, takes over the program which is coming off an 11 win season. The offense is loaded and will continue to be highly productive while the defense will be strong. It is totally plausible to think South Carolina will underachieve as well as be a bit beat up by this point of the season. Thus, it makes sense to have this game on the upsets radar.
Series history – South Carolina leads 8-1 with the last meeting coming in 1988, a Gamecock victory. Appalachian State’s lone win came in 1975.
3) Ohio over Pittsburgh
When – Saturday, September 7
Where – Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, PA
Why – Despite taking Pitt to the ACC title game last season, Pat Narduzzi remains on the hot seat. After all, they finished the season at 7-7. Kenny Pickett is still clearly unproven at quarterback. The rest of the offense also has questions outside of Maurice Ffrench and Taysir Mack. The Panthers will have a solid defensive unit, however, Ohio will present some challenges for them, particularly early in the season like this. Nathan Rourke is undoubtedly one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in college football. Additionally, Frank Solich certainly knows what he is doing as head coach. Ohio’s defense should be able to handle the Pitt offense in this game. This game is an obvious inclusion as one of the 10 non-conference upsets to watch for.
Series history – Pittsburgh leads 6-1 with the last meeting occurring in 2005, an Ohio victory.
2) North Texas over California
When – Saturday, September 14
Where – California Memorial Stadium – Berkeley, CA
Why – Electric quarterback Mason Fine leads North Texas and their prolific offense into this game. This is a classic strength on strength matchup as they will face Cal’s tough defense. However, Cal struggles mightily on offense, which means if the Mean Green get it going, it could be a long day for Cal. Including Fine, North Texas returns eight starters on an offense that averaged 461 yards per game along with 35 points. Again, despite Cal’s strong defense, this game is highly dangerous for the Golden Bears.
Series history – First meeting
1) South Florida over Wisconsin
When – Friday, August 30
Where – Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, FL
Why – Let’s face it, Wisconsin is down. Certainly, the cupboard is not bare with Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor at running back along with decent weapons at receiver. However, they replace four offensive linemen. Plus, it appears they will start a true freshman quarterback. Defensively, there is talent remaining despite having to replace four of their top five tacklers. Meanwhile, South Florida catches Wisconsin at the perfect time, the first game of the year. USF returns nine starters on offense as well as six on defense. This game seems like too easy of a pick for this 10 non-conference upsets to watch for list.
Series history – Wisconsin won the only meeting in 2014 by a score of 27-10 in Madison, WI.
These are the 10 most likely non-conference upsets in college football. Below are more to keep an eye on. Are there any that you have your eye on that are not included in this list?
Others considered: Army over Michigan, Northern Illinois over Vanderbilt, Nevada over Purdue, Air Force over Colorado, San Diego State over UCLA, FAU over UCF, Temple over Maryland
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