Group of Five upsets
Ohio University knocked off Iowa State in its first upset win over a P5 in six years (PHOTO CREDIT: Ohio U. Athletics)

College Football Has 11 Group of Five Upsets Already in 2023

Group of Five upsets aren't as rare as you think. So far this year, there have been seven of these upsets over Power Five teams.

It's popular to think Group of Five upsets over a Power Five team rarely happen. The thought is, a P5 team will nearly always defeat what are considered "lower level" FBS programs from the AAC, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt. The Power Fives have more money, better TV deals, typically much larger stadiums and attendance ... etc. etc.

But the truth is? Group of Five upsets do happen more often than one might think. In fact, we already have 11 examples (and counting) of it in the first three weeks of 2023. Last year during the bowl season, Tulane impressed the nation when it knocked off Southern Cal in a New Year's Six game, which is another great example.

While these upsets are all within the confines of the FBS, they're still a massive deal to the schools you'll see highlighted below. So we break down the examples we've seen so far (and counting) — with four of these wins coming in overtime.




OHIO U. 10, IOWA STATE 7: This matchup was a scoreless stalemate at halftime. One advantage for Ohio U. was Iowa State actually came to Ohio to play this game — it wasn't the typical "payout game" where the P5 with its larger crowds paid the G5 to come in and be the sacrificial lamb. The Bobcats were able to put together 10 points in the second half, and Iowa State didn't get its first points on the board until the final minute of the game. The truth is, Ohio U. is beginning to look like one of the more formidable teams in the G5 nation. It was the biggest upset win for Ohio U. since it knocked off Penn State in 2012.

MIAMI-OHIO 31, CINCINNATI 21: Both are Ohio schools, and Cincinnati is in its first year as a Big 12 schools. The Redhawks showed why they're one of the top MAC schools.

SOUTH ALABAMA 33, OKLAHOMA ST. 7: If you're wondering how strong the Sun Belt Conference is this year, look no further than this game. The Jaguars of southern Alabama took the trip to Stillwater, Okla. and picked up the win and a sack of cash — and were ahead 23-0 at halftime.

UNLV 40, VANDERBILT 37: Vandy went up 17-0 first, then UNLV scored 30 unanswered. Then? Vandy roared back to tie things at 37 and UNLV won it all with a 36-yard field goal with five seconds left. The Mountain West beat the SEC.

FRESNO STATE 29, ARIZONA STATE 0: Five made field goals were key for Fresno State, who spun a shutout against a Power Five program. This marks the third time in the past four games (including last year's bowl game against Washington State, where Fresno State has knocked off a P5 team.


Group of Five upsets

James Madison QB Jordan McCloud led the Dukes to a win over Virginia (PHOTO CREDIT: JMU Athletics)

JAMES MADISON 36, VIRGINIA 35: In the first matchup between these two schools in decades, James Madison had to rally in the fourth quarter to defeat its "big brother" in the Commonwealth. JMU's defense completely shut down the Cavaliers' run game (35 attempts, only 18 yards), while the Dukes rushed for 167 yards.

RICE 43, HOUSTON 41 (2 OT): In the second overtime period, the difference came down to Daelen Alexander's two-point conversion run and Houston's inability to do the same when the Cougars scored a touchdown during their possession. Houston has only been a P5 school for the past year, but the Cougars were easily one of the powerhouses in the G5 before ascending to the Big 12. Rice hosted this game in Houston and got the best of the old rivals, dating back to the days of the old Southeast Conference.


Group of Five upsets

Fresno State QB Mikey Keene had a great game in a win over Purdue this weekend (PHOTO CREDIT: Dennis Silvas/Fresno State Athletics)

FRESNO STATE 39, PURDUE 35: Finding themselves down by three points with less than a minute remaining in this shootout, Eric Brooks caught a 22-yard touchdown from red-hot Fresno State quarterback Mikey Keene (366 yards, 4 TDs), triggering the upset in Indiana. Fresno State never led in the game until the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs picked up right where they left off during the bowl season: They knocked off a P5 opponent (they beat Washington State 29-6 in their 2022 bowl game).

NORTHERN ILLINOIS 27, BOSTON COLLEGE 24 (OT): Rocky Lombardi plunged in from the 1-yard line in the first overtime to win the game. NIU led most of the game until Boston College tied things up with 1:44 left in regulation, but the Eagles could only muster a field goal during their OT possession, leaving things open for the Huskies to score a touchdown and come away with the win in Massachusetts. It was one of the biggest upsets for NIU since the Huskies knocked off Alabama in 2003.

TEXAS STATE 42, BAYLOR 31: In the only non-nailbiter among the seven upsets so far, Texas State jumped out to a 28-13 halftime lead and never really looked back as the Bobcats picked up their first-ever win over a Power Five Conference program.

WYOMING 35, TEXAS TECH 33 (2 OT): In the second overtime period, it was Wyoming's Sam Scott who busted through for a two-point conversion that made all the difference for the Cowboys at home. Texas Tech had gotten off to a 17-0 lead in the first period of the game, only to have Wyoming outscore them 35-16 the rest of the way. It was clearly the biggest upset in the program since the 'Pokes knocked off Tennessee in Nov. 2008.

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