If college football is not your forte, it never hurts to familiarize yourself with the teams by using the preseason rankings. While this won’t necessarily provide you with all the information, it’s always beneficial to know which clubs are considered contenders entering the new year. But once the teams take the field, all bets are officially off. Rankings are pushed aside and scores will be settled on the gridiron. If you’re lucky, an underdog — or multiple underdogs — will rise to the occasion and topple the giants.
We’re only one week into the 2016 college football season and already we’ve experienced some shocking results. Teams we expected to win came up short, clubs we completely overlooked made a significant splash, and once again we were reminded that, sometimes, preseason rankings are just a number, not a guarantee. With that in mind, here’s a look at the four biggest upsets in college football in Week 1.
1. Aggies answer the call
Although Kyle Field isn’t exactly the easiest environment to play in for visiting teams, the UCLA Bruins, led by Heisman candidate Josh Rosen, still entered their Week 1 clash with the Texas A&M Aggies as the highly-touted club, sporting the No. 16 ranking in the country. Unfortunately, despite our preconceived notions heading into the new season, the Bruins were unable to live up to the hype. The Aggies put up 203 yards on the ground, forced three UCLA turnovers (all interceptions from Rosen), and shocked the visiting team with a 31-24 victory in overtime. While this win doesn’t remove Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin from the proverbial hot seat, it definitely provides him with a bit of breathing room.
2. Badgers beat the Tigers
When you have a running back as gifted as Leonard Fournette — considered one of the Heisman frontrunners in the eyes of most pundits — you have to feel pretty good about your chances each week. Of course, just because the back gives you 138 rushing yards in the first game of the season, that doesn’t mean the rest of the team will be able to follow his lead. Football is, after all, a team game.
Playing on the heralded grass at Lambeau Field, Les Miles’ No. 5-ranked Tigers turned the ball over three times, gave up 339 total yards while only managing 257 of their own, and fell to the lowly — and unranked — Wisconsin Badgers by the score of 16-14. With a opening performance like this, it’s hard to imagine LSU redeeming itself in 2016.
3. Do you hear Houston now?
Despite finishing the 2015 season with a 13-1 record and a 38-24 victory over the Florida State Seminoles in the Peach Bowl, the Houston Cougars were shown little respect entering 2016, garnering just enough love to earn a No. 15 ranking in the preseason poll. Something tells us that after their Week 1 showing, that’s all about to change.
Going up against Bob Stoops and the No. 3-ranked Oklahoma Sooners at NRG Stadium in Houston, the Cougars amassed 25 first downs, compiled 410 total yards, and put the rest of the college football world on notice with an impressive 33-23 victory. With coach Tom Herman calling the shots and quarterback Greg Ward Jr. making plays with both his arm and legs, this Houston team is good enough to go toe-to-toe with any team in the nation. Perhaps it is about time we finally show the Cougars some respect — they’ve clearly earned it.
4. A Texas-sized turnaround
It was only a year ago that Texas got manhandled by Notre Dame 38-3 in the opening game of the season. What a difference a year makes.
Playing the No. 10-ranked Irish, this time in front of their home crowd at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, the Longhorns, led by freshman quarterback Shane Buechele, were not overwhelmed by the moment. Instead, they came out strong (no pun intended), rallied when Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer appeared destined to take over the game, and showed surprising toughness, grinding out a 50-47 victory in double overtime.
Does this win make the Texas Longhorns elite? Not really. Does it make them relevant again? Absolutely — and that’s a good place to start.