The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat. Everybody has experienced the highs and lows of college football — though some schools have more subject to one side of the equation than the other. Nevertheless, the element of unpredictability is what makes the game we cherish so special. Any given Saturday, as they say.
Last week, we ran through some of the most lopsided results ever seen in Big 12 Conference play. Now, it’s time we do our best to take you through the ultimate list of upsets since the league began play in 1996.
Before you ask, yes, this list is once again limited to conference play, so don’t freak out when you find that the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, 2014 Sugar Bowl, 1996 Nebraska-Arizona State and 2005 TCU-Oklahoma, among other games, are not on the list. Consider those honorable mentions though, if you wish.
Secondly, as tempted as I was to put it on here, I will warn you right now that Kansas-Texas (2016) did not make cut. Sure, the sight of the Longhorns losing to the Jayhawks for the first time since 1938 is one that none of us will forget anytime soon. It was indeed hilarious to many. But considering the Longhorns were a 5-5 team entering that contest in Lawrence, you know just as well as I do that putting the game on this list would be an insult to those who actually worked their tails off to upend powerhouse opponents.
So let’s begin. And emphasis on the word memorable. This isn’t just a countdown of the biggest point spreads overcome, though that certainly played a factor in coming up with the list, as did BCS/CFP implications and such.
12. Texas A&M 30, No. 1 Oklahoma 26
A year before 77-0 happened in Norman, it was pure elation at Kyle Field as Texas A&M defeated a No. 1 ranked opponent for the first time in school history. The undefeated Sooners had won three straight meetings with the Aggies entering that early November matchup in College Station, but that all came crashing down as 5-4 A&M — propelled by the unlikeliest of heroes in the form of freshman quarterback Reggie McNeal — came through when it counted down the stretch.
Momentum went in the Aggies’ direction for good when McNeal, who came off the bench that afternoon en route to 191 passing yards and 4 touchdowns, found Terrence Murphy for a 40-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass with 2:19 left in the third quarter to give A&M a 27-23 edge. The teams would trade field goals in the fourth quarter before Oklahoma had a shot to win the game in the waning minutes of the regulation, but the Sooners’ fate was sealed when quarterback Nate Hybl was picked off by Aggies defensive back Terrence Kiel with just 1:12 left on the clock.
The loss dropped Oklahoma to No. 4 in the AP poll, though the Sooners would jump up to No. 3 two weeks later before being upset by Oklahoma State — a loss that effectively ended their national title hopes that season once and for all. It wouldn’t be until 2010 that the Aggies once again took down Oklahoma.
11. Baylor 52, No. 1 Kansas State 24 - 2012
Betting line: - 11
November 2012 was not a pleasant stretch for teams at the top of the polls. One week removed from Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M pulling off the memorable 29-24 upset of No. 1 Alabama on the road in Tuscaloosa, undefeated K-State suddenly found itself at No. 1 in the BCS rankings as Bill Snyder & Co. prepared for a date in Waco with a 4-5 Baylor team that had lost five of its last six.
Quite frankly, the night in which the Wildcats entered at double-digit favorites at Floyd Casey Stadium couldn’t have gone much worse. Kansas State never led once in the game, trailing 28-17 at the half before being outscored 24-7 over the final two quarters. K-State quarterback and eventual Heisman finalist Collin Klein was picked off three times while Baylor tailback Lache Seastrunk rushed for 185 yards and three touchdown in the Bears’ victory.
Alas, K-State wasn’t the only team with national championship aspirations dashed that night, as No. 2 Oregon was simultaneously upset at home by Stanford in overtime. But it was a night to forget for the Wildcat faithful, and a night that ultimately cleared the path for the BCS title game snooze-fest that was Alabama vs. Notre Dame.
10. Texas Tech 41, No. 3 Oklahoma 38 — 2011
Betting line: -28
At the time of this game, Oklahoma losing at home was a foreign concept. The Sooners had won 39 (THIRTY NINE) straight games at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, and as four-touchdown favorite over Texas Tech, nobody suspected that the streak could be in jeopardy that October night. Oklahoma had one of the highest-octane offenses in the nation with all-time program leading passer Landry Jones at the helm. The Red Raiders, meanwhile, entered the game riding a two-game skid after a 4-0 start to the year.
It didn’t matter. By the early stages of the second half, Tech had amassed a 31-7 lead on the No. 3 team in the country as the Red Raiders torched Oklahoma for 572 yards of offense, including a 441-yard, 4 touchdown night for Tech quarterback Seth Doege. The Sooners didn’t go down without a fight nonetheless, outscoring the Red Raiders 31-10 beyond the 12:57 mark of the third quarter, but a missed Oklahoma field goal attempt with just 2:52 to play — one that bounced off the upright — ultimately made the difference. Inexplicably, the streak was over. If it’s any consolation for Sooners fans, Tech has still not defeated Oklahoma since this contest was played.
9. Iowa State 38, No. 3 Oklahoma 31 - 2017
Betting line: -31.5
As the point spread indicated, this was a game Iowa State had absolutely no business winning on paper. Entering that Saturday morning, the Cyclones hadn’t upended the Sooners since the Big 8 was still a thing. The team also hadn’t won more than three games in a season since 2012. And with Iowa State quarterback Jacob Park on a last-minute personal leave of absence, all the ingredients seemed to be in place for a lopsided Oklahoma victory as the Cyclones took on one of the hottest teams in the nation.
Instead, that day — thanks to the heroics of Kyle Kempt, Joel Lanning and Allen Lazard, among others — quickly became what many would consider a program turning-point for Iowa State football.
Oklahoma led 24-13 at the half, but it would quickly become all Cyclones for the final 30 minutes. Iowa State rallied for 18 unanswered points to begin the second half, punctuated by a 57 yard touchdown pass from Kempt to Trever Ryen that put the Cyclones ahead 31-24 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. The Sooners tied the contest at 31 with 5:28 to play, but that ultimately set the stage for Kempt to find Lazard in the end zone on 3rd & 7 for the winning score with just 2:19 to go. As for Lanning, the quarterback-turned-linebacker ended the day with one of the most dynamic single game performances in recent memory, tallying 25 passing yards, 35 rushing yards, eight tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
As the rest of the story goes, Iowa State would knock off a second top 5 opponent in TCU by the end of October to soar as high as No. 15 in the CFP polls en route to the first of two consecutive 8 win seasons.
8. Colorado 27, No. 4 Oklahoma 24 — 2007
Betting line: -27
Sorry, Oklahoma fans. Your beloved Sooners are going to be on here a lot, if you haven’t figured that out by now. The joys and pains of being a blue blood!
Courtesy of our friends at ESPN Stats and Info, we’ll let the numbers do the talking when it comes to this stunner. Prior to Oklahoma’s trip to Boulder that fall, the Sooners combined for 246 points in their first four games of the season, averaging a 49.8 point margin of victory. In the previous five meetings — all Sooner victories — Oklahoma outscored Colorado 156-44. Not to mention, the Buffs had been held to a combined 156 yards of total offense between the 2005 and 2006 meetings. Frankly, a 27.3 spread may have been generous.
So yes, it was hard to make sense of a Sooners offense that included Sam Bradford, Malcolm Kelly, DeMarco Murray and others and being held to a mere 24 points. Yes, it was hard to make sense of Bradford being held to 112 passing yards with 2 interceptions against 1 touchdown. And yes, it was hard to make sense of Oklahoma being outscored 17-0 in the fourth quarter as Colorado roared back to defeat the No. 3 team in the country on a last-second 45-yard field goal from Kevin Eberhart that sent Folsom Field into pandemonium. It wasn’t the only in 2007 that Oklahoma endured heartbreak with a No. 3 ranking either, and we’ll leave it at that.
7. Texas 37, No. 3 Nebraska 27 — 1996 Big 12 Championship Game
Betting line: -21
Dominant may not even be the appropriate word to describe Nebraska football during this era. Not for a team that — entering the 1996 season — had won five straight Big 8 titles and 2 consecutive national championships. Sure, the Cornhuskers had lost in stunning fashion at Arizona State earlier that fall, but Nebraska was the creme of the crop, and few folks gave 7-4 Texas — even riding a 4-game win streak — a chance against the Huskers as the inaugural Big 12 Championship game pitted the pair of blue-bloods against each other for the first time in 22 years.
Low and behold, a nail-biter unfolded at Trans World Dome in St. Louis, with Nebraska holding a 24-23 lead over the Longhorns entering the 4th quarter. The Huskers extended that lead to 27-23 on a field goal with 10:11 to play, but that would be the last time Nebraska found the scoreboard. Momentum swung once and for all when Texas quarterback James Brown found Wayne McGarity for a 66-yard touchdown pass with 8:53 left on the clock, giving the Longhorns a 30-27 edge. And the dagger: A 4th and 1 gamble for Texas — sitting on its own 28 yard-line — that led to a 61-yard gain and an ensuing 11-yard touchdown rush by Priest Holmes. For Nebraska, it marked the Huskers’ first loss to a conference opponent since 1992.
6. No. 10 Texas A&M 36, No. 2 Kansas State 33 (2OT) — 1998 Big 12 Championship Game
Betting line: -17
Even though the 1998 Big 12 Championship featured a top 10 matchup, undefeated Kansas State — No. 2 in the AP Poll and No. 1 in the Coaches’ Poll — entered as a double-digit favorite over Texas A&M as the Wildcats sat just one win away from their first ever trip to the national championship game. And for the first three quarters that day in St. Louis, it seemed inevitable that Bill Snyder was on the brink of taking Kansas State — up 27-12 — to the game’s biggest stage just a decade after the school was on the brink of shutting down the program.
Then came the fourth quarter.
In front of 60,798 at the Trans World Dome, the unthinkable unfolded: A Kansas State offense that suddenly couldn’t score and A&M offense that could, with the Aggies rallying for 15 unanswered points in the final 9:20 — including a 9-yard touchdown from Branndon Stewart to Sirr Parker and ensuing 2-point conversion with 1:09 to play — to send the game into overtime. After the teams traded field goals in the first overtime, the Aggies, needing at least a field goal to stay alive, sealed the deal with a stunning 32-yard walk-off touchdown pass in double overtime — once again Stewart to Parker — to win what would ultimately be the school’s lone Big 12 title.
As for Kansas State, the heartbreak didn’t stop at letting a trip to the national title game slipping away in gut-wrenching fashion. Despite a 11-1 record and No. 4 ranking, the Wildcats were left out of the BCS bowl lineup altogether following the loss, earning an Alamo Bowl date with 8-4 Purdue. Has a bigger injustice ever been committed in the sport? That’s up for you to decide (maybe December 2014?), but there’s no denying that K-State was shafted.
5. No. 22 Baylor 45, No. 5 Oklahoma 38 — 2011
Betting line: -16
Remember that weekend in November 2011 when three teams in the top 5 went down? Albeit a ranked matchup, few nights in Baylor football history compare to the Bears’ memorable upset of an Oklahoma team that began the season favored by many to win it all. Entering the game, Baylor was an all-time 0-20 against the Sooners — the closest of those being a 1-point loss on the road in 1997. And more importantly, it was this game that solidified Robert Griffin III as that year’s eventual Heisman Trophy winner.
In a battle that pitted Griffin against Landry Jones (the two would combine for over 900 passing yards that night), no team led by more than a possession at any point in the game until early in the fourth quarter when Griffin found Terrance Ganaway for an 11-yard touchdown pass that gave the Bears a 38-24 edge. Baylor maintained that 14-point lead into the final 6 minutes of play, but the the Sooners’ rallied, with Blake Bell scoring twice in a span of 5:04 to knot the game at 38 with just 51 seconds to play. Overtime seemed likely, but of course, Griffin and Terrance Williams had other plans with just 8 seconds left on the clock — a 34-yard touchdown that would propel the Bears to their first ever win against the bellcow of the Big 12.
Griffin ended the night with over 500 yards of offense — 479 yards in the air — and 4 touchdowns, and come the end of December, Baylor had secured both its first 10-win season since 1980 and its first Heisman winner in school history. As for Oklahoma, the loss effectively ended the Sooners’ national title hopes, as a win would have presumably shot the Sooners to at least No. 3 in the rankings given the results in Ames and Eugene just ahead of the shocker in Waco.
4. No. 15 Colorado 62, No. 1 Nebraska 36 — 2001
Betting line: -8
Entering the final week of the regular season, a date with No. 15 Colorado — a team that had not defeated Nebraska since 1991 — was all that separated the top-ranked, undefeated Huskers from a trip to the Big 12 Championship Game and possibly more. But it only took 15 minutes for Nebraska to find its national title hopes in dire straits that day in Boulder, trailing the Buffs 28-3 after one quarter. Though the Huskers would claw their way back to within 12 points entering the fourth, Colorado stampeded all over Nebraska’s last glimmer of hope by embarking on a 20-0 run to begin the fourth quarter.
When the dust settled, the Huskers could only ask themselves what went wrong in a 62-36 blowout loss — at the time the most points ever surrendered in a single game in program history, and double the previous season-high 31 points surrendered in a win over Texas Tech. Colorado’s 380 rushing yards — bolstered by a 198-yard, 6 touchdown performance from Chris Brown — were the most allowed by the Nebraska defense all season, as were the 582 yards of total offense surrendered.
As for the aftermath? One of just many notorious BCS controversies to come, as a string of ensuing upsets — including Colorado’s 39-37 victory over No. 3 Texas one week later in the Big 12 Championship — ultimately gave 1-loss Nebraska the ultimate mulligan: A bid to the BCS National title game with Miami despite not even making it to their own conference championship game. The Hurricanes would soundly defeat the Huskers 37-14 to win the national title — leaving 2-loss Big 12 champion Colorado wondering what could have unfolded if they were given a shot in Pasadena.
3. No. 15 K-State 35, No. 1 Oklahoma 7 — 2003 Big 12 Championship Game
Betting line: -21
Two years after the Nebraska-Colorado debate, the Big 12 once again found itself at the center of a major late-season BCS controversy — one that ultimately gave way to the dreaded split national championship.
Make no mistake about it. The 2003 Oklahoma Sooners were an otherworldly group. There was unanimous All-American and Heisman winner Jason White at QB at the helm of an offense that scored more 50 points on seven different occasions. There were blowout victories that are still talked about to this day, including the 77-0 bullying of Texas A&M that always provides a good chuckle or two, unless you’re Mike Lupica. Rightfully so, some pundits weren’t afraid of dubbing Oklahoma as the greatest college football team of all time that fall.
And of course, Bill Snyder — complete with his wizardry — had other plans when Kansas State went to battle against the No. 1 Sooners in the Big 12 Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium that December in Kansas City.
Though the Sooners held a 7-0 lead after the first quarter, that was all the fun Bob Stoops and Co. would have. The final three quarters saw the Wildcats completely dismantle Oklahoma in every facet of the game, scoring 35 unanswered points in what remains one of the most mind-blogging results in Big 12 history. White was held to 298 passing yards with 2 interceptions and zero touchdowns. A sturdy Sooners defense was shredded for 519 yards of total offense by — highlighted by a Big 12 title game record 235 rushing-yards by Kansas State running back Darren Sproles. Just like that, the group that looked invincible after spending 16 straight weeks as the consensus No. 1 team in the polls looked completely human.
Was it enough to rob Oklahoma of a trip to the BCS National Championship game? No, though USC fans will still give you an earful about how the Trojans deserved a trip to New Orleans over the Sooners, whose offense sputtered once again in 21-14 loss to Nick Saban and LSU while USC — out west — recorded a 28-14 win over No. 4 Michigan in the Rose Bowl. And of course, the Trojans would get their justice over Oklahoma one year later in one of the greatest national title game rompings in recent memory.
2. Iowa State 37, No. 2 Oklahoma State 31 (2OT) - 2011
Betting line: -27
Turn away, Pokes fans. Heading into that November Friday night in Ames, undefeated Oklahoma State controlled its destiny to the the BCS National Title game as just one of two perfect teams, along with LSU, left standing in the Power 5. The Cowboys were averaging 51.7 points per game behind an offense anchored by quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Joseph Randle, and even with an electric crowd on hand at Jack Trice Stadium, 5-4 Iowa State hardly appeared to be a hurdle.
Everything appeared routine into the early stages of the second half, with Oklahoma State up 24-7, but that all changed quickly. Two third quarter turnovers — a lost fumble and a Weeden interception — paved the way for Iowa State to rally for 17-0 run and tie the game with just 5:30 left in regulation. After Oklahoma State kicker Quinn Sharp missed on an attempted go-ahead field goal in the final two minutes of play — an extremely controversial miss, at that — the game ventured all the way into double overtime before Iowa State eventually prevailed on a 4-yard touchdown rush from Jeff Woody. Weeden ended the night passing for 476 yards and 3 touchdowns, but the performance was marred by three interceptions — the costliest one of all coming in double overtime.
Oklahoma State went onto finish the regular season 11-1 as the Big 12 Champion, but the loss ultimately doomed the Cowboys’ national title hopes, as 11-1 Alabama — lacking a conference title but with its one loss coming to No. 1 LSU earlier that fall — got the nod over Oklahoma State to face the Tigers in the national title game. If you tuned into the rematch in New Orleans that January, you know how entertaining that game was. Not.
1. No. 7 Texas Tech 39, No. 1 Texas 33 - 2008
Simply put, one would be hard pressed to find a more magical ending to any college football upset than what went down in Lubbock on Halloween Weekend 2008. The sight of utter chaos at Jones AT&T Stadium that night is one that all sports fans live for.
Not much of a game recap needs to be given for Texas Tech’s timeless upset of Texas that fall, other than that you may forget the Red Raiders were up on the Longhorns 22-6 at the half before Colt McCoy and Co. rallied back take a 33-32 lead — Texas’ first and only lead of the night — with less than two minutes to play.
As for Tech’s final ditch effort? Texas freshman safety Blake Gideon drops what would have been a game winning interception. Graham Harrell proceeds to find Michael Crabtree with less than 10 seconds to play. Crabtree pulls free. You know the rest....