By Joel Silverberg / @JoelSilverberg
The past year in sports has been filled with underdog stories. The Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback, the Vegas Golden Knights making the Stanley Cup Final in their first season as a franchise, or even Loyola-Chicago reaching the Final Four are just a few.
However, with cinderella stories come upsets, which means there have been some incredibly hyped teams that crashed out early. I’m not talking about the Patriots losing in the Super Bowl, the Penguins falling in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs or Kansas losing in the Final Four. I’m referring to the teams that were out of the championship conversation entirely despite the odds saying otherwise.
Here are five teams that crashed out way too early in the past year.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook gave the Cowboys 10-1 odds at the start of the season to win Super Bowl LII, tied with the Steelers and behind only the Patriots at 6-1 (for what it’s worth, the Eagles started the year with 60-1 odds). Dallas’ season was clouded by the imminent six-game suspension of Ezekiel Elliot, which eventually took effect in week 10. The Cowboys were 3-3 in his absence and only went 6-4 with him, including a 21-12 loss to Seattle in Elliot’s return that knocked the Cowboys out of the playoff race entirely. After a 13-3 campaign in 2016, Dallas had the tools to make its first Super Bowl appearance in more than two decades, but Elliot’s persistent fight against his suspension ultimately derailed the Cowboys’ season.
Coming off a 47-win season the year before, Westgate gave Edmonton the second-best odds to win the Stanley Cup in October. The Oilers were given 9-1 odds while the two-time defending champion Penguins were favored to three-peat at 6-1. But the team struggled on defense, Cam Talbot was inconsistent in net and special teams were a nightmare for the Oilers, who finished sixth in the NHL’s lowly Pacific Division. The lone bright spot was Connor McDavid winning the Art Ross Trophy after putting up 108 points for his second straight 100-point campaign.
Germany national soccer team
The defending champions were poised to make another deep run into the tournament and become just the third country to repeat as World Cup winners and the first since 1962. After an opening loss to Mexico in the group stage Germany appeared to have saved its World Cup campaign with a late game-winning goal against Sweden. Thanks to Mexico’s subsequent 3-0 loss to the Swedes, Germany needed only to defeat South Korea to advance to the knockout stage. Instead Germany failed to execute on numerous scoring chances, conceded two goals in stoppage time and bowed out of the tournament in the group stage for the first time ever.
USC Trojans football
In 2016 USC started 1-3. Then the Trojans ran off nine straight wins, including victories over Washington and Penn State, and entered 2017 as the second favorite (6-1 odds, per Bovada) to win the College Football Playoff while quarterback Sam Darnold was an early Heisman frontrunner. A 30-27 loss to Washington State put Southern Cal on thin ice, but a 49-14 blowout loss to Notre Dame three weeks later ended the Trojans’ playoff chances in only week 8. USC responded well by winning five straight to capture the Pac-12 title, but looked lifeless in a one-sided loss to Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl.
Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball
The Cavaliers boasted arguably the best defense in college basketball. Following sweeps of the ACC regular season and tournament titles Virginia was 31-2 and a heavy favorite to get through the South Region to make its first Final Four since 1984 and received a lot of stock to win the national title. Cue the UMBC Retrievers, the scrappy America East Conference champs that needed a buzzer beater just to earn their conference’s automatic bid. We all know what happened next. Virginia was out of sorts from the tip-off and the Retrievers took advantage. UMBC made history by becoming the first 16-seed in the men’s NCAA Tournament to upset a No. 1 seed. The 74-54 rout was also the most points given up by the Cavaliers all season.