It didn’t take long for it to become clear that 2017 would give sports fans plenty of memorable matchups.
In the first major championship of the year, Clemson won their national title rematch against Alabama with a last-second touchdown before 2017 was even 10 days old.
About a month later, the New England Patriots pulled off the most epic comeback in Super Bowl history by erasing a 28-3 deficit to sink the Atlanta Falcons. While the result of a Patriots win wasn’t considered an upset heading into the game, Atlanta had a 99.7 percent chance of winning the game late in the third quarter when they were up by 25 points, according to ESPN odds.
It was a tough ask for the rest of the sports landscape to live up to those thrilling matchups that helped bring in 2017, but several underdog squads proved to be up to the task. A college football team recorded the largest point-spread upset in the sport’s history. A college basketball program claimed their first-ever victory over a top-25 ranked team -- on the road, no less. And those same Patriots were unexpectedly humbled in front of their home fans in their first game as defending champions.
Click through the gallery below to see the 10 most shocking upsets of 2017.
The biggest sports upsets of 2017
The biggest sports upsets of 2017
10. Jacksonville Jaguars over Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 5 (NFL)
Maybe this 30-9 result isn’t all that shocking in retrospect, with Jacksonville’s defense emerging as an all-time unit this season. But we still weren’t sure the Jaguars were for real in Week 5, when they were just 2-2 and coming off a loss against the Jets. And the Steelers were rightly pegged as top-tier AFC contenders and eight-point favorites in this matchup.
Also, this is a game where Blake Bortles passed for only 95 yards with an interception -- and the Jags still managed to crush Pittsburgh by three touchdowns on the road. Perhaps Steelers coach Mike Tomlin should’ve given let Le’Veon Bell carry the ball more than 15 times instead of letting Ben Roethlisberger hurl 55 passes and five interceptions against Jacksonville’s vicious secondary.
Photo by Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
9. Wisconsin over Villanova, second round of NCAA tournament (college basketball)
Villanova was the defending national champion and the No. 1 overall seed of the 2017 NCAA Tournament heading into their second-round matchup against No. 8-seeded Wisconsin. But the Badgers ended the game on a 15-5 run to stun the Wildcats in a 65-62 triumph that let Wisconsin advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth straight year. However, their magic ran out there in a thrilling 84-83 loss to No. 4 seed Florida.
Photo by Jerome Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
8. Kansas City Chiefs over New England Patriots, Week 1 (NFL)
It wasn’t so much that the Patriots lost to start off the season, but how they lost (though New England losing as nine-point favorites at home is pretty shocking in itself).
Alex Smith came out of the gates looking like a whole new quarterback, dropping dimes in a shell-shocked Patriots secondary. Kareem Hunt, a third-round draft pick out of Toledo playing in his first NFL game, ran all over New England and racked up 246 yards with three touchdowns. And seven months after Tom Brady orchestrated the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, it was the Chiefs who outscored the Patriots 21-0 in the fourth quarter on New England’s home turf.
With the Chiefs currently occupying the No. 4 seed in the AFC and the Patriots looking likely to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, we could very well see a rematch of this game in the divisional round of the playoffs. And yet even though we’ve seen this matchup fall in Kansas City’s favor once this season, it would still feel like a stretch to say it could happen in quite this extreme of a manner again.
Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
7. Boston Celtics over Cleveland Cavaliers, Game 3 of Eastern Conference Finals (NBA)
The Cavaliers beat the Celtics in five games to advance to the NBA Finals, but Boston’s lone victory was a historic one. With star point guard Isaiah Thomas out with a hip injury and the Cavs fresh off two victories in Boston with average margins of 28.5 points, Cleveland was favored to beat the Celts by 17 points at home in Game 3. Instead, Boston roared back from a 21-point deficit to win 111-108 and capture the biggest single-game upset in NBA playoff history.
There weren’t too many other consequential upsets in the NBA this year as the league continued to be extremely top-heavy, but at least we were treated to an all-time underdog triumph on this night.
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images
6. Wofford over North Carolina, Dec. 20 (college basketball)
The mighty Terriers hailing from Spartanburg, South Carolina entered their clash against the vaunted No. 5-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels with an 0-25 record against AP Top 25 teams in school history, according to ESPN. That changed with a stunning 79-75 victory that Wofford actually led for most of the game -- on the road in the hallowed Dean Smith Center, no less.
This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Wofford’s players, and the team celebrated accordingly after the game in UNC’s visitor’s locker room.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images
5. New York Yankees over Cleveland Indians, American League Divisional Series (MLB)
The Yankees, underdogs? You bet. The Indians finished with the American League’s best record (102-60), boasted three of the top 7 vote-getters for the AL MVP award and reeled off the second-longest winning streak in MLB history at 22 games. And that last feat is seen by many as more impressive than the New York Giants’ 26-game streak in 1916, when the talent was far more diluted in a completely different era.
So yes, it was shocking when New York dug out of a 2-0 hole to win its best-of-5 divisional series against Cleveland, who have blown two-game leads in consecutive postseasons. You have to figure AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber will come back with a vengeance in 2018 after turning in two stinkers in this series -- but if these two teams meet again in next year’s playoffs, the Yankees will have likely reclaimed their long-held status as hated favorites.
Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
4. Liberty over Baylor, Week 1 (college football)
Baylor coach Matt Rhule figured to get an easy win in his coaching debut with the Bears against Liberty, an FCS school from Virginia that’d gone 6-5 in 2016 and would again in 2017. Baylor’s only previous loss to a lower-level team had happened in 1981 versus Lamar.
But the Flames scored 31 points in the second half and piled up 585 yards of total offense to stun the Bears 48-45 in Waco, Texas. Crazily enough, Liberty athletic director Ian McCaw had resigned from the same position at Baylor in May 2016 as a result of the stunning sexual assault scandal uncovered at the school.
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images
3. South Carolina over Duke, second round of NCAA tournament (college basketball)
South Carolina was the surprise Final Four participant this year in March Madness. The team’s out-of-nowhere run caught fire just 90 minutes away from their campus in Greenville, S.C. with an 88-81 victory over college basketball’s most recognizable program.
The Gamecocks scored an eye-popping 65 points against Duke in the second half to qualify for the first Sweet Sixteen in school history – and coach Frank Martin’s men achieved a couple more firsts for their program before valiantly falling to Gonzaga in the Final Four.
Photo by Grant Halverson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images
2. Howard over University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Week 1 (college football)
It’s sort of fitting that the biggest point-spread upset in college football history occurred in Las Vegas. The Howard Bison -- led by Caylin Newton, NFL quarterback Cam Newton’s younger brother -- accomplished the feat on Sept. 3 by upending UNLV 43-40.
The game was coincidentally 10 years to the day after Appalachian State knocked off Michigan in perhaps the sport’s most famous upset. The previous record for a point-spread upset was Stanford beating USC 24-23 as a 39-point underdog in 2007.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
1. Trinidad & Tobago over United States, CONCACAF World Cup qualifying (soccer)
Though the United States hasn’t ever been much of a soccer country, its team almost always managed to not lose against tiny island nation Trinidad & Tobago. The U.S. had only lost to T&T in three of their 25 previous matches leading up to Oct. 10, and won 18 of them. They even had a famous victory against the Caribbean side in the past, clinching a spot in the 1990 World Cup with a 1-0 road victory over T&T to qualify for the tournament for the first time in 40 years.
But their 2-1 defeat to the same country will be remembered much more by U.S. soccer fans after it prevented America from playing in the 2018 World Cup, snapping a run of seven consecutive appearances that all started with beating out Trinidad & Tobago in North American qualifying nearly 30 years ago. The Soca Warriors exacted some revenge on the Stars and Stripes this year despite gaining nothing but pride from the win themselves, dealing the USMNT its most embarrassing defeat in team history.