On the surface, it looks like common sense to say Oregon State’s chances of pulling an upset over AP No. 1 Oregon this week are very slim. But when you look at history, that school of thought becomes even more apparent. In the history of the AP Poll, AP No. 1 is 95-3-1 when playing a game in November or December against a team which entered the game with a losing record.
The last time AP No. 1 failed to win a game in November or December against a team with a losing record was November 8, 1980 when 7-0 Notre Dame went to 1-7 Georgia Tech and tied the Yellow Jackets 3-3. Since that tie, AP No. 1 is 36-0 in this situation with only five games decided by a TD or less. The average score in those games: 44.3 to 9.9
The last time AP No. 1 lost a game in November or December to a team with a losing record was November 6, 1976 when Bo Schembechler’s Michigan team went to 3-5 Purdue and lost 16-14. Since that game, AP No. 1 is 41-0-1 and the average score is 41.6 to 9.6
For those holding out hope of an upset -- we’re talking to you TCU fans -- your team has been a part of one of the two other major upsets. In 1961, the 2-4-1 Horned Frogs shut out No. 1 Texas on the road 6-0. The lone other upset came one year earlier, when 2-4-1 Purdue beat 7-0 Minnesota 23-14
Here are the five games decided by a TD or less since the Notre Dame tie in 1980:
2006 -- Ohio State 17, Illinois 10
The Buckeyes were never seriously in jeopardy of losing to the Illini as they led 17-0 before a fourth-quarter field goal and a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown with 1:40 left. Illinois got the ball back with a few seconds left on their own two yard line and that was the game.
2000 -- Oklahoma 12, Oklahoma State 7
A real threat. In Bob Simmons’ final game in Stillwater, the Cowboys played inspired, holding Josh Heupel to 154 passing yards and had multiple shots into the end zone from inside the Sooners 15-yard line in the final minute before Aso Pogi’s final pass fell incomplete.
1996 -- Florida 28, Vanderbilt 21
The Gators, who were 43-point favorites, led 28-6 before Vanderbilt drove to the Florida 23 with six minutes remaining, only to miss a FG and see any hopes of an upset go out the window. The Gators committed 17 penalties and Vanderbilt had a defensive TD called back on an offside penalty in the first quarter.
1991 -- Miami 19, Boston College 14
On a cold, windy night in Chestnut Hill, Glenn Foley’s pass on fourth and 28 from the Miami 44 fell incomplete and the Hurricanes survived 19-14. Miami trailed 7-6 early, but never in the second half.
1987 -- Oklahoma 17, Missouri 13
Playing without injured QB Jamelle Holieway and RB Lydell Carr, the Sooners fumbled the ball away four times but the defense held the Tigers to ten first downs. The game is probably more famous for Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer having his knee injured after being hit by a player out of bounds and having his leg in a cast for roughly six weeks as a result.