College football 2019: Which games could provide this year’s major upset?

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson throws a pass during a game in September 2018.
Will UCLA stun the nation and score an early season upset over Oklahoma? The Bruins aren’t the only team that could be poised to pull off a shocking win this year.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times )

J. Brady McCollough looks at the 25 biggest storylines in college football heading into the 2019 season. Which games are poised for major upsets?


Today, college football is back — but not all the way.

Florida-Miami and Arizona-Hawaii both have the potential to be entertaining games, although the former is likely to feature little offense and the latter may set defensive football back a ways.

Some of us are joyous to watch, but we also cannot deny that having two games is a tease, especially when these matchups are lacking a key element of any college football Saturday: the chance for a shocking upset.

The best upsets involve top five-caliber teams playing against programs that aren’t top 25 mainstays. A good upset is something the winner’s fan base will remember fondly for many years or even decades.


In 2007, we had Michigan being shocked by Appalachian State, which was then playing in Division I-AA (now the Football Championship Subdivision). We then had Stanford knocking off USC at the height of Pete Carroll’s powers.

Our potential upsets for 2019 aren’t that seismic — who could have begun to see those coming? — but there is a be-very-afraid game that sticks out for each of the top seven teams in the preseason rankings.

J. Brady McCollough looks at the biggest storylines in college football ahead of the 2019 season.

Aug. 1, 2019

Wake Forest at No. 1 Clemson, Nov. 16 — Dave Clawson’s Wake Forest program is growing competitive very quickly and fits into Clemson’s schedule between road games at N.C. State and South Carolina. The Tigers are more likely to be amped for those trips, and Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman has enough talent to put a scare into a lethargic bunch of Tigers.

No. 2 Alabama at South Carolina, Sept. 14 — In 2010, the last time these programs met in Columbia, the Gamecocks knocked off No. 1-ranked Alabama, so there is precedent here. But this would still qualify as a colossal win for South Carolina given how dominant Alabama has been in the College Football Playoff era.

Missouri at No. 3 Georgia, Nov. 9 — You’ve got to think that Kelly Bryant, former Clemson starting quarterback and Missouri transfer, has the moxie to pull off a game that puts his new Tigers back on the map. Georgia hosts Missouri in between the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” game against Florida and a trip to Auburn.

No. 4 Oklahoma at UCLA, Sept. 14 — Oklahoma has not demonstrated signs of having a defense for years now, and there’s reason to think that Chip Kelly could have the Bruins’ offense moving this year with Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Joshua Kelley running an offense that more resembles what Kelly did at Oregon.

Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins is tackled.
Could Ohio State and running back J.K. Dobbins fall in an early season upset to Cincinnati?
(Associated Press)

Cincinnati at No. 5 Ohio State, Sept. 7 — A noon kickoff at the Horseshoe is just the time for Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell — a former Ohio State defensive lineman, assistant coach and interim head coach — to bring his sneaky-good Bearcats team to his alma mater. If Fickell feels he deserved to be considered to replace Urban Meyer, he can make his point very clearly here.

No. 6 Louisiana State at Vanderbilt, Sept. 21 — LSU hasn’t played Vanderbilt since 2010, so it is not very familiar with the version of the Commodores that features talented players at the skill positions like running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn and wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb. Maybe LSU’s visit will get Vanderbilt fans into the stadium instead of waiting in line for Nashville hot chicken.

No. 7 Michigan at Indiana, Nov. 23 — The ultimate trap game for the Wolverines, sandwiched between home games against rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. Michigan has won a preposterous 23 straight over the Hoosiers, who have put a scare into the Wolverines countless times in recent years without getting that signature victory. Indiana is due.