Top 10 Sports Upsets

Who doesn't love an underdog story? Whether it’s David versus Goliath, nice guy versus a jerk, or simply a surprise, sports upsets get people talking around the water cooler like nothing else. Sometimes, the games themselves carry more significance than your average match-up: anything from a reputation, to a perfect season to political ideals may be on the line. But in many cases (not all, but most), everyone likes seeing the little guy prevail. In honor of the anniversary of the Miracle on Ice on February 22nd, 1980, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 sports upsets in recent history.
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Top 10 Sports Upsets


Who doesn’t love an underdog story? Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 sports upsets in recent history.

#10 – There’s an App State for That (September 1, 2007)

For the Michigan Wolverines – the winningest college football team ever – this was supposed to be an easy match-up. In front of 109 thousand U of M fans, the Appalachian State Mountaineers shocked them by taking a 28-17 lead into halftime. The “Miracle in Michigan” ended with a last-second blocked Michigan field goal, and App State became the first Division I-AA team to beat a ranked Division I-A team.

#9 – The Super ‘Novas (April 1, 1985)

This was no April Fool’s joke: the eighth-seed Villanova Wildcats sped to the 1985 NCAA final, to top the defending champs and number-one seed Georgetown Hoyas, led by Patrick Ewing. How? By shooting over 78 percent, and missing only one basket in the second half to win 66-64. This is still considered one of the worst NCAA upsets ever, since Villanova remains the lowest-seeded team to win the tournament.

#8 – Cold War on the Court (September 9, 1972)

After winning every gold medal since 1936, the U.S. men’s basketball team was the heavy fave. They breezed through to the final, where they faced the USSR. Questionable calls by the refs in the game’s final seconds made for a controversial result: the Soviets managed a court-long pass for a buzzer beater basket to win the game 51-50, which snapped the Americans’ Olympic winning streak at 63 games.

#7 – Euro Trash (July 4, 2004)

The overall winner was one surprise in a Euro tournament filled with them: competitive teams like Germany, Spain, Italy, and France were eliminated early, while Latvia and Greece made unprecedented showings. Without any star players, the Greeks overcame 80-1 odds to beat Cristiano Ronaldo and host-country Portugal to win the EURO Cup, and to become one of the only underdogs people rooted against.

#6 – That’s One Heavyweight Loss (September 27, 2000)

It’d been 13-years since Russian wrestler Aleksandr Karelin had lost an international match; in fact, he was widely considered the world’s best Greco-Roman wrestler. By all accounts, Wyoming-native Rulon Gardner was fat, slow, unskilled, and nowhere near medal contention. But heart was all he needed to win 1-0 against the Siberian Bear in this super-heavyweight match, and to become the American flag-bearer at the Sydney Games’ closing ceremonies.

#5 – Miracle Mets (October 16, 1969)

The NY Mets started the ’69 season 18-23, with 100-1 odds they’d win the World Series. But, in a dramatic turnaround, they finished the year with a winning record and a spot in the Finals. After losing Game 1 to the Baltimore Orioles, the “Miracle Mets” swept the next four to become the first expansion team ever to win the World Series – controversies about shoe polish notwithstanding.

#4 – The Guarantee (January 12, 1969)

Most people considered NFL teams to be universally superior to AFL clubs – but someone forgot to tell all-star AFL QB Joe Namath. Broadway Joe publicly guaranteed that his Jets would beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. With Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas on the bench for most of the game, they did it at a score of 16-7 and legitimized the idea of an AFL-NFL merger.

#3 – Iron Mike Goes Down for the Count (February 11, 1990)

Before he bit ears or appeared in movies, Tyson – while still controversial – was the undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. Buster Douglas was basically a nobody, and an underdog in this fight 42-1. Iron Mike underestimated his fearless, journeyman opponent, and, the result? Tyson was KO’d in the tenth round for the first time in his career. While the results were controversial, Douglas’ title did stand.

#2 – So Close, Yet So Far From Perfect (February 3, 2008)

Headed for an undefeated season, New England advanced to Super Bowl XLII as 12-point favorites. However, thanks to an 83-yard drive with less than three-minutes left, a heart-stopping David Tyree catch, and a last-second touchdown, Eli Manning and his Giants crashed the party 17-14. Belichick and Brady had been on the other side of an upset in 2002, when the Pats robbed the Rams and initiated Brady mania.

#1 – Miracle on Ice (February 22, 1980)

[“Do you believe in miracles?”] The Cold War loomed when the USA and USSR met on Lake Placid’s Olympic ice. Herb Brooks’ American team comprised a hodgepodge of amateurs, while the Soviets lived and breathed hockey their entire lives and had won four straight Olympic golds. This was David-versus-Goliath, heart-versus-skill, Communism-versus-Democracy. Political ramifications aside, the nail-biter 4-3 U.S. win gave Americans a miracle to rally around, especially when they later won gold against Finland.

Do you agree with our list? Which sports upset do you find most unforgettable? For more top 10s about your favorite sports moments, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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