I think we can all admit that we love an underdog story. Unfortunately, they tend to be rare occurrences in college football. That’s because the teams outside the power conferences are at an inherent disadvantage. However, every now and then we see a team from outside the power conferences that can genuinely match up with just about any power-conference team. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the all-time great teams from outside college football’s Power Five.
Boise State (2006)
This may not be the best non-power-conference team of all-time but it’s probably the most famous. In his first season at Boise State, Chris Petersen led the Broncos on an undefeated season that included wins over Oregon State and Utah.
Of course, they capped it off with that memorable upset over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl thanks to the hook-and-ladder and Statue of Liberty plays.
Boise State (2009)
The Boise State team in 2009 was even better than the one in 2006 after Petersen was able to recruit his own players. The season began with an upset of Oregon and the Broncos more or less cruised from there, beating everyone but Tulsa by a comfortable margin.
Boise State got back to the Fiesta Bowl and knocked off a previously unbeaten TCU. The Broncos finished 14-0 and no. 4 in the country.
Central Florida (2017)
Who could forget UCF’s national championship season? Of course, while nobody should recognize that claim of a national championship, we should recognize that Scott Frost had an amazing team in 2017. The Knights knocked off Memphis twice on their way to winning the AAC title, as well as earning wins over Maryland, Cincinnati, and South Florida.
Most didn’t give them a chance against SEC heavyweights Auburn. But the Knights beat the Tigers 34-27 in the Peach Bowl to finish the season 13-0 and no. 6 in the AP poll.
As a member of the Mountain West in 2010, the Horned Frogs proved that they deserve to be in a power conference. TCU knocked off a ranked Oregon State team in the season and also beat Baylor in a non-conference game early in the season. The Horned Frogs blew out almost every other opponent, including a Utah team that was ranked no. 6 at the time.
Ultimately, TCU received an invitation to the Rose Bowl, which was an incredible accomplishment. The Horned Frogs solidified their standing as a great team by beating Big Ten co-champs Wisconsin.
Kyle Whittingham’s Utah team in 2008 might be the best team ever outside of the power conferences. The Mountain West produced two other teams outside of the Utes that won at least 10 games and finished the year ranked. Utah beat both of them late in the season, only after upsetting Michigan in Ann Arbor to open the season and beating an Oregon State team that beat USC that year.
Of course, the most impressive win was in the Sugar Bowl, a 31-17 win over no. 4 Alabama. After going 13-0, the Utes finished the season no. 2 in the AP poll, which will likely be the highest spot a team outside the power conferences can ever hope to achieve.