College Football Upsets: Small Colleges (FCS) Defeating Ranked Opponents
Posted by Andrew McKillop on August 5, 2011
When Appalachian State defeated #5 Michigan in 2007, the media reported it as the first time a FCS team defeated a ranked FBS team. It wasn’t the first time though. In 1983 Cincinnati was temporarily classified as a I-AA (FCS) team, and defeated the defending national champions and 20th ranked Penn State Nittany Lions.
It’s also important to note that the FCS (I-AA) classification only goes back to 1978. Small colleges had upset ranked opponents before 1978. Listed below is a list of games I found in which a non-major school defeated a ranked (AP Poll only) opponent.
Determining the classifications of schools is tricky; especially before 1973. There is a lot of debate on who is a major school and who isn’t. To determine classification I have used a number of sources: College Football Data Warehouse, James Howell Historical Scores, and Tex Noel from the Intercollegiate Football Researchers Association.
If anybody has any additions to the list below please contact me.
I didn’t include games involving military bases during WWII due to the complexity in understanding their classification.
|11/20/1970||Long Beach State||14||San Diego State||27-11|
|9/10/1983||Cincinnati ¹||at||20||Penn State||14-3|
|09/11/2010||James Madison||at||13||Virginia Tech||21-16|
¹ Cincinnati was technically an I-AA team in 1983.
Note: Miami Florida (1945) was classified as a non-major school by some sources when they defeated major opponent #13 Holy Cross in the 1946 Orange Bowl.
References: College Football at Sports-Reference.com, James Howell Historical Scores, College Football Data Warehouse