The sports betting world was full of surprises in 2019, from the St. Louis Blues going from worst to first en route to a Stanley Cup, to the Washington Nationals coming out of nowhere to win the World Series, and the surprises could continue into the New Year with Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens set to take the NFL by storm.
Here at TheLines, we looked back at the year that was with the biggest sports betting upsets of 2019.
Stephen F. Austin edges Duke on Nov. 28
SFA won at the buzzer, 85-83, as 28-point underdogs
In a team-wide “flu game” the Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin rallied to hand Duke its first home loss to a nonconference foe since 2000. The Blue Devils were the top-ranked team in the nation and favored by 28 points against a team that was separated by over 250 spots according to most nationwide rankings and was coming off a 12-point loss to Rutgers.
With the team battling the flu all week, SFA scored 64 points in the paint and forced 22 turnovers, including a steal with four seconds left to set up Nathan Bain’s game-winning lay-up as time expired. It was the first time since 1983 that a mid-major won at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Detroit Tigers pull off the biggest single-game upset in 15 years
The Tigers beat the Astros 2-1 as +435 moneyline underdogs on Aug. 21
The Astros were listed at -565 on the moneyline for this contest with ace Justin Verlander going against soft-throwing lefty Daniel Norris. Houston’s lineup has crushed lefties for years, and the Astros led the MLB in just about every offensive category while going 65-26 at home in 2019.
The struggling Tigers were one of only 19 underdogs with odds of +345 in the last 15 years. Verlander took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, when Detroit’s Ronny Rodriguez hit a solo HR. In the ninth, John Hicks tagged Verlander for another solo HR, and Joe Jimenez closed it out for Detroit’s 38th win of the season.
St. Louis Blues win the Stanley Cup
St. Louis went from 70-to-1 odds to win Stanley Cup on Jan. 1 to +130 before beating Bruins in Stanley Cup finals
The Blues had a 15-18-4 record on New Year’s Day and were in last place in the Western Conference on Jan. 3 with +7000 odds to win the Stanley Cup. But they went on an 11-game win streak after the All-Star break, qualified for the playoffs, defeated the Winnipeg Jets in six, edged the Dallas Stars in overtime of Game 7, and beat the San Jose Sharks in six to make the Cup finals.
Still underdogs against a powerhouse Bruins squad, the Blues bounced back from a 5-1 loss in Game 6 to earn a 4-1 win at Boston in Game 7, becoming the first team since 2006 to win the Cup after missing the playoffs the previous year.
Columbus Blue Jackets sweep Tampa Lightning in first round of NHL playoffs
The Jackets were +310 series underdogs and +4000 to sweep.
Nobody saw this coming. Literally, no bettors in New Jersey wagered on the Blue Jackets to sweep the top-seeded Lightning despite the potential for a 40 or 45 times return on investment.
Tampa won a league-best 62 games (tied for most in NHL history) and scored 128 points, which was 21 more than any other team. Tampa entered the playoffs as the favorite with +190 odds to win the Stanley Cup. The Lightning had swept the Blue Jackets, 3-0, with a 17-3 goal differential during the regular season, and Columbus hadn’t won a playoff series since 2000. But Columbus outscored Tampa, 19-8, over four games and won the deciding matchup, 7-3, to stun the Lightning.
Max Homa wins Wells Fargo Championship
Homa was a 500/1 (+50000) underdog on May 2
Homa, the former NCAA champion at the University of California, was ranked No. 829 in the world when he got his third crack on the PGA Tour in 2019. In 2017, he made the cut in two of 17 tournaments. The 28-year-old had one top 10 finish in 14 events and was 61-over par on the season, but shot 69-63-70-67 in the four-day tournament to finish 15-under par and three shots ahead of second place finisher Joel Dahmen. Homa won $1,422,000 to essentially triple his lifetime earnings on the tour to that point.
Andy Ruiz Jr. defeats heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua
Ruiz was +1000 on the three-way moneyline on June 1
Joshua came into this bout at Madison Square Garden with a 22-0 record and was ranked No. 2 by the World Boxing Association. Ranked as low as No. 14 by the International Boxing Federation (and No. 5 by the WBA), Ruiz won the match via technical knockout in round seven.
The 6-foot-6 Joshua had a sizable reach advantage over the 6-foot-2 Ruiz, who hails from California. But Ruiz knocked down Joshua four times, and the champion from Watford, England was ruled out by the referee in the seventh round. By pulling off what many consider to be one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, Ruiz became the first Mexican-American to hold the heavyweight title. Joshua defeated Ruiz in a rematch on Dec. 7 in Saudi Arabia.
South Carolina outlasts No. 3 Georgia, 20-17, in double OT on Oct. 12
The Gamecocks won as 24.5-point underdogs to squash a potential undefeated season for the ‘Dawgs
The hero in South Carolina’s unlikely upset was former 3-star recruit Israel Mukuamu, who picked off Georgia QB Jake Fromm three times and returned one for a 53-yard touchdown. Fromm had not thrown a pick through five games and the Bulldogs came into this SEC tilt as 24.5-point favorites.
Fromm atoned for his turnovers with a 96-yard scoring drive to tie the game and force overtime. Parker White nailed a 23-yard field goal in the second OT and Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 42-yard attempt to give SC coach Will Muschamp a win over his alma mater and give the Gamecocks their first win over a ranked opponent since 2016.
Kansas State defeats No. 5 Oklahoma, 48-41 on Oct. 26
The Wildcats rallied back as 23.5-point underdogs
For the third straight week, college football provided a stunning result with a top 10 team losing to an unranked conference opponent. Not only had Oklahoma won seven straight coming into this matchup, the Sooners had covered in four of their last six, including covering a 33-point spread in their previous win over a solid West Virginia program.
But the Wildcats rallied for a 24-20 halftime lead and went up 41-23 when Oklahoma’s T.J. Pledger fumbled a kickoff return late in the third quarter. Jalen Hurts passed for 395 yards and rushed for 96 yards with three touchdowns to spearhead a comeback effort, but KSU held on for its first win over a top five team since 2006.
Illinois defeats No. 6 Wisconsin, 24-23, on Oct. 19
The Illini were 30.5-point and +2500 moneyline underdogs
With Wisconsin clearly looking ahead to a date at then-No. 4 Ohio State, the Illini shocked the sixth-ranked team in the nation for their first win over a top-10 ranked Big Ten team since 2007. Wisconsin led 10-0 in the second quarter and 20-7 early in the third quarter, but Reggie Corbin ran for a 43-yard touchdown and Brandon Peters caught a 29-yard touchdown to make it a 24-21 game with 5:53 remaining. Illinois gained possession with 2:32 to go and executed a 32-yard drive to set up a winning 39-yard field goal from James McCourt.
Atlanta Falcons defeat New Orleans Saints, 26-9, on Nov. 10
The Falcons won as 14-point and +600 moneyline underdogs
Atlanta started 1-7 with six straight losses heading into its Week 9 bye, and Dan Quinn was as good as fired. The Saints had won and covered six straight and owned the fifth-best winning percentage in home games this decade. But Quinn relinquished defensive play-calling duties and the Falcons defense befuddled future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, holding the Saints to their lowest point total at home since Sean Payton and Brees arrived in 2006.
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