1. USC Trojans – 2007
Lost to Stanford Cardinal 24-23
11-2 (7-2); Pac 10 Champions; No. 3 AP; No. 2 Coaches; W Rose Bowl
The two Virginia Tech Hokies teams, Michigan Wolverines and Washington State Cougars are all solid programs for Tennessee football to look to. Three of them started 0-1 with their bad loss, and two of them started 0-2. Here, though, the USC Trojans from 2007 are a team that is out of the Vols’ league.
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However, they still overcame a horrific loss for a very successful season. Remember, this was the year Michigan lost to the Appalachian State Mountaineers, and they and USC had played each other in the Rose Bowl the year before and looked like they would face off for the national title this year with so much returning talent.
But like Michigan, USC fell victim to a horrific upset. Ranked No. 1, they got to 4-0 with the Stanford Cardinal coming to town under first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh. This Stanford team was 1-3, had not had a winning season since 2001, and was 1-11 the previous year. They were bad, and as a result, USC was a 40.5-point favorite.
However, USC committed five turnovers in the game. Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard, who was 11-30 on the night with just 149 yards and an interception, was key went it counted. He hit Richard Sherman to convert a 4th and 20 with less than 100 seconds to go and down 23-17, and then he hit Mark Bradford for a 10-yard touchdown pass on 4th and goal with 54 seconds left.
As a result, Stanford pulled off the upset. Now, again, Stanford was at least a Power Five team. And they cashed in on USC mistakes while Georgia State just dominated Tennessee football. Finally, USC won the Pac-12 that year, finished in the top three and went 11-2.
But this is the greatest upset spread in history involving a Power Five team, and the Cardinal did stumble to 4-8 that year. So USC at least serves as proof that you can overcome a horrific upset loss to still have a very good season, and Vol fans should take notice.