We all love upsets, and for obvious reasons. When one team isn't supposed to be competitive, much less win, it makes it all the sweeter when they do. A good upset usually starts with amused disbelief that the underdog is keeping it close, followed by rising incredulity that they might just win, and culminates with the thrill of watching them pull it off. Let's take a look at the biggest upsets of 2022.
All the Colts had to do to punch their playoff ticket was beat lowly Jacksonville, the NFL’s worst team in 2021. The Jaguars were 15.5-point underdogs for the majority of the week. Though they had managed a shocking win over the Bills earlier in the season and hadn’t lost at home to Indianapolis since 2014, virtually no one gave them a chance. When the game started, though, the Colts looked like the team that didn’t belong. Indianapolis fell behind early and Carson Wentz’s sloppy play – an interception and a lost fumble – doomed all of their comeback efforts. The beneficiary in all of this? The Steelers, who made the playoffs thanks to Jacksonville’s win, and the Raiders narrowly averting a tie with the Chargers.
If you were paying close attention to St. Peter's and Kentucky from the start, chances are you had money on the game. If, by some chance, you picked the Peacocks to win, you might be reading this from a luxury yacht. St. Peter's became the 10th 15-seed to win a first-round game since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and did it on the strength of 27 points from Daryl Banks III, plus 20, and some clutch free throws from Doug Edert. This might not be the last you see of the mighty Peacocks, though.
Clark is one of the biggest stars in women's basketball - at any level - and her game calls to mind Steph Curry. She goes bombs away from anywhere on the court and can fill up a box score in a hurry. The Bluejays did not much care about any of that in their second-round matchup, building a 6-point halftime lead and winning thanks to a late Lauren Jensen 3-pointer. Creighton also held Clark in check; she shot just 4-for-19 and 3-for-10 from three-point range.
Eight months prior, Italy won the European Championships. Furthermore, they had lost just one of their last 39 matches. That did not matter against North Macedonia, 67th in the FIFA rankings and boasting a whopping 1.83 million people (just a little less than the Virginia Beach metropolitan area). Italy controlled play but could not find the back of the net, and North Macedonia's Aleksandar Trajkovski struck for the game's only goal in the second minute of stoppage time. The loss was Italy's first in 60 home World Cup qualifiers and caused them to miss their second-straight World Cup.
Having already bagged a big scalp in the form of Kentucky, the Peacocks were looking for history against Purdue. No 15 seed had ever made it to the Elite Eight, but 14 points from Daryl Banks III and clutch foul shooting as a team - the Peacocks went 19-of-21 from the line - fueled a second-half comeback that erased a four-point halftime deficit and netted a 67-64 victory.
Rich Strike wasn't even supposed to run in the Derby, only making it into the field because of a late scratch. It was the longest shot in the field. And for most of the race, it was in the middle of the pack, if that. None of that mattered once jockey Sonny Leon maneuvered to the inside as the leaders came down the home stretch and picked them off in spectacular fashion. Rich Strike became the second-longest shot to win in Derby history, behind only 91-1 Donerail in 1913.
You probably know the last name, and Evander's son looked like he had a bright future, carrying a 9-0 record into the ring. But in the kind of fight that usually fills out a promising young fighter's record against the kind of fighter that usually serves as more of a glorified sparring partner. McDonald, who came in with a 6-5 mark, was anything but that; he smoked Holyfield with a perfect counter right hand, and the only reason you might not have heard about this was because it was on something called "Triller."
When Edwards and Usman first met in 2015, Usman won an easy decision. Edwards came into the rematch on a 10-fight unbeaten streak but again got dominated by Usman, a man most felt was a top-3 pound-for-pound fighter in the world entering the bout. With a minute to go in the fight, Usman was cruising to a win, and Edwards seemingly had nothing left. And then, this happened.
Are you a Texas A&M student or alumnus? Perhaps you should skip this one. See, I find your school and some of its traditions...how do I say this...annoying? So it was with great glee that I watched the Mountaineers waltz into College Station and thoroughly outplay the Aggies. What made this upset so surprising was that nothing about it seemed particularly fluky. A team that ended up 3-5 in the Sun Belt and 6-6 overall outgained A&M 315-180, notched two takeaways, and held the ball for 41:29. If anything, the final score should have been more lopsided than 17-14.
Sure, the Fighting Irish lost coach Marcus Freeman's first game, but that was against Ohio State, and there, like a perfect tonic from the schedule maker, was Marshall on the schedule a week later. Yeah, about that. The Thundering Herd weren't intimidated at all by the atmosphere in South Bend, holding a lead at the half, through three quarters, and ultimately matching Notre Dame touchdown for touchdown in the fourth quarter to walk out with a 26-21 win. Khalan Laborn ripped off 163 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries for Marshall.
Baseball upsets, unless they happen in a playoff series, usually tend to get lost to the dustbin of history. There are too many games to even look at any one out of 162 as a true upset. Still, when a result is called "the biggest upset in three years," it warrants consideration. Facing deGrom, Sampson and Chicago were +340 on the money line. No team had won straight-up with odds that long since September 2019. Sampson tossed six scoreless innings of two-hit ball to silence New York and get the Cubs a 4-1 win.
Southern Illinois is an FCS school. And they were already 0-2 when they traveled to Evanston to take on Northwestern. And their losses were to Incarnate Word and Southeast Missouri. Naturally, they jumped on the Wildcats, using a 14-point second quarter and 14-point fourth quarter to propel themselves to a 31-24 win. Quarterback Nic Baker tossed 3 touchdowns to fuel the win.
Hey, remember when this was the year Miami was going to be back? I know it's tough to keep track, seeing as that narrative gets put forth literally every single year. Middle Tennessee ended up a mid-pack Conference USA team this season, but when they played the U, they used huge plays - touchdown passes of 71, 69, and 98 yards - to down Miami, 45-31. Maybe next year, Canes fans.
We know now, in the waning days of 2022, that Tom Brady is not "Tom Brady" and that the Bucs of this year are a pale imitation of 2020 and 2021's teams. Still, when the Panthers and Bucs tangled in late October, everyone assumed Tampa Bay would get themselves going against the 1-5 Panthers. They did not. Quarterbacked by P.J. Walker, Carolina ran for 173 yards, completely stifled Tampa's running game, and cruised to a 21-3 victory despite being 13-point underdogs.
Sure, Argentina won the World Cup, but Saudi Arabia can say they went 1-0 against them. In what was immediately termed the biggest upset in World Cup history, the Saudis bested Lionel Messi and Argentina 2-1. Messi scored on an early penalty kick, but Saudi Arabia roared back with second-half goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al Dawsari to win the match.
Most upsets are fun because they're nail-biters; there's the obvious dynamic of "can the little guy do it?" Occasionally, though, we get one that is fun for the opposite reason. New Mexico State came into their game with Liberty as 24-point underdogs, and left with a 49-14 victory. Aggies quarterback Diego Pavia was the star, throwing for three touchdowns and running for three more.
Morocco and Spain are pretty close to one another on a map, as you, worldly readers, are doubtless aware. However, when it comes to soccer, they're worlds apart, with Morocco typically an afterthought and Spain one of the sport's consistent top-tier challengers. That didn't matter in the round of 16; Morocco's strong defense kept Spain at bay and sent the game to penalties. It was there that goalkeeper Yassine Bounou saved two penalties while another hit the post. Morocco's Achraf Hakimi, who was born in Spain, put home the decisive penalty to put his side through. Morocco would go on to become the first African nation to make the final four at a World Cup.
It sure looked like Brazil's Neymar would put his stamp on a taut match with Croatia when he scored in extra time, but Bruno Petkovic's score with four minutes to play leveled the match at 1. The pressure got to Brazil in penalty kicks, as Rodrygo opened things by missing his kick, and Marquinhos missed the fourth. Croatia made all of theirs, and the 2018 runners-up made it back to the semifinals.
Was this technically an upset? No, of course not. The Vikings were 3.5-point favorites. However, the Colts were bludgeoning them 33-0 at the half, and a team with obvious flaws - just check their meager point differential - was finally being exposed for what they were. Then, all of this happened. Minnesota outscored Indy 39-3 in the second half and overtime and bumped the 1993 Bills from the record books for largest comeback in league history. And they won the NFC North, to boot. I am using author's privileges to declare a 33-point comeback an upset.
How unlikely was this win? Here's a stat for you. The Panthers' win was the biggest upset by point spread in at least 30 seasons. According to ESPN Stats and Information, 30-plus point underdogs were 0-558 in the past 30 years. Kinyon Hodges scored 22 points, Caleb Donaldson had 16, and Eastern Illinois shot a blistering 21-of-29 in the second half to overcome an 8-point halftime deficit and win 92-83.
Chris Mueller is the co-host of The PM Team with Poni & Mueller on Pittsburgh's 93.7 The Fan, Monday-Friday from 2-6 p.m. ET. Owner of a dog with a Napoleon complex, consumer of beer, cooker of chili, closet Cleveland Browns fan. On Twitter at @ChrisMuellerPGH – please laugh.
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