It may be July, but football season will be here before you know it. Just like any football program out there, Tennessee has seen the good, the bad and the ugly. They have also seen the greatest times a football program can witness. From SEC Championships, National Championships and rivalry wins, we’ll look back at the ten greatest wins in Tennessee football history.
Greatest Wins in Tennessee Football History
10. Tennessee vs Florida 1998
Tennessee was one of the best college programs in the 1990s. However, even during this good era of UT football, Florida had gotten the best of them from 1993-1997. But that five-game losing streak finally came to an end in 1998 with a 20-17 overtime win. After Jeff Hall made the kick to give the Vols a 20-17 lead in overtime, Florida attempted their kick to send it to double overtime. Listen to legendary voice of the Vols, John Ward call a classic game here.
9. Tennessee vs Notre Dame 1991
This to many Volunteer faithful is called “The Miracle at South Bend.” Why? Because the Vols were down 31-7 in the second quarter and were just being totally out-played and embarrassed. Yet somehow, they came back to win. The blocked field goal return by Tennessee to make it 31-14 just before halftime seemed to spark the Vols towards a 35-34 come from behind win. The announcer in this video was John Ward making it even more legendary.
8. Tennessee vs Miami 1985 Sugar Bowl
This game was a blowout win for Tennessee, so why is this one here? Because nobody, and I mean NOBODY, gave Tennessee the chance to win. Miami had just started their dominance of college football in the 1980s and were expected to roll Tennessee. That didn’t happen though. Tennessee won 35-7 in one of the most shocking Tennessee upset wins of all time. Look at the video recap here.
7. Tennessee vs Mississippi State 1998 SEC Championship Game
Tennessee had won the SEC championship the year before against Auburn and had a chance to win back-to-back SEC titles with a win over MSU. On this day, a lot of upsets had happened and Tennessee, #1 in the land and undefeated at 11-0, were on their way to being upset as well down 14-10 in the fourth quarter. But then the Vols came to life. Some of my favorite John Ward calls came in this final quarter. Must watch! Warning-very loud so make sure you have the volume down.
6. Tennessee vs Alabama 1995
Tennessee vs Alabama is one of the most historic rivalries in college football. Although it’s kind of lost its touch with Alabama being on a big time high in its program and Tennessee being down. However, this rivalry hasn’t lost the bitter hate these schools have for each other. The two most winningest SEC schools really don’t like each other, and Tennessee had not beaten Alabama since 1985 entering this contest. But then, Peyton Manning happened. John Ward on the call. Vols won 41-14 in Alabama.
5. Tennessee vs Alabama 1982
Yep, another game involving the Vols and Tide. This time, UT had lost 11 in a row to the Crimson Tide (this rivalry has a history of winning streaks, and yes Tennessee has had long ones too). Alabama was favored to win a 12th in a row coming into Knoxville. But the big orange had other ideas, shocking Alabama 35-28. This wasn’t one of Tennessee’s best years either, so this win should definitely be on here. John Ward, again with one of his famous calls at the end. “And the crowd goes bzerk!”
4. Tennessee vs Florida 2001
The Florida-Tennessee game had huge implications at one point. The rivalry really grew in the 1990s when the schools started to play every year and both schools really were hitting their stride at the same time. It was either Florida or Tennessee for the SEC Eastern Division title every year. The 2001 game was a little different though. Yes, the winner was going to go to the SEC Championship Game. But with the terrible happenings on 9/11, the game was moved all the way to early December.
Tennessee had lost seven of eight to the gators entering this one and were huge underdogs coming into the game at Florida. The Vols would shock the Gators and punched their ticket to Atlanta in a 34-32 win in “The Swamp” in a top five matchup. Running back Travis Stephens had a huge game in this one. This game is remembered as “the Vols drain the swamp.” Full game is here.
3. Tennessee vs LSU 2005
Tennessee found themselves down 21-0 going into the half in Baton Rouge. This game was also pushed back to a Monday night due to the tragedy of the Hurricane Katrina. LSU was wild, as it always is, but with the atmosphere and being down 21-0, that didn’t keep the Vols down. They found a way to come back to force overtime and win 30-27 in one of the toughest environments in college football. One of the most thrilling and improbably comeback wins in Tennessee history.
2. Tennessee vs Arkansas 1998
This was truly a miracle win. The Vols were undefeated and were hosting an undefeated Arkansas team late in November. It was a rainy, soggy day in Knoxville and no one at the beginning of the season would’ve thought this would be “the game” of the day. Arkansas looked like they were gonna win up 24-22 with under 2 minutes left and only 1 timeout for the Vols. But then what is famously known to Vol fans as the “stumble and fumble” occured. After the fumble, one of, if not my favorite John Ward calls happened on the game winning touchdown.
1. Tennessee vs Florida State 1998 National Championship Game
1998 was a very magical season. But Tennessee, before 1998, had a lot of great seasons even though they very rarely ended up with a national title. Tennessee hadn’t won one since 1951 (in the major poll anyway; Tennessee was awarded the 1967 national title in another poll) and were very hungry to bring one back to Knoxville. They did just that. The 1998 season couldn’t have been better for the Vols. A win over Florida for the first time in five years, a win over Alabama, a second straight SEC championship and a national title. Legendary TV announcer Keith Jackson was on the call.
Tennessee has been down lately, but looking back at the program’s history reminds us just how powerful of a program Tennessee was at one point. The Vols have high hopes for this coming year so this year could be the return of the Vols after a stellar end to the season a year ago.
KNOXVILLE, TN – SEPTEMBER 15: General view of Neyland Stadium during the game between the University of Tennessee Volunteers and the University of Florida Gators at Neyland Stadium. Photo by Wade Rackley/Tennessee Athletics (Photo by Wade Rackley/University of Tennessee Athletics and UTSports.com) contact: [email protected]/Collegiate Images/Getty Images