They are the fabric of college football.
For most teams, even the ones in major conferences, a national championship bid is a pipe dream.
However, if you’ve ever seen an Army-Navy, West Virginia-Pittsburgh or South Carolina-Clemson game, you realize that rivalries are what truly make up the identity of college football.
So while Tennessee doesn’t fall under the “pipe dream” umbrella, rivalries are still part of how the Vol’s season is defined.
With that being said, who do you think is the Vol’s biggest rival?
Vote in the poll at the end of this post, but first let’s take a look at Tennessee’s biggest rivals, and why they should be considered.
Alabama Crimson Tide
The Alabama-Tennessee rivalry, or as it’s more commonly known “The Third Saturday In October”, definitely deserves consideration as the Vols biggest rivalry game.
Alabama and Auburn compete annually in the Iron Bowl, but there’s a good chance that Alabama fans look upon the Volunteers with greater disdain than they do the Tigers.
Alabama holds the edge in the all-time series with Tennessee, with a record of 49-38-7.
The Vols last win the series came in 2006, a 16-13 Tennessee victory.
Tennessee nearly knocked off undefeated Alabama in 2009 in Tuscaloosa, under then head coach Lane Kiffin.
Alabama’s Terrence Cody blocked Daniel Lincolns 44-yard game winning field goal attempt, as time expired, securing the 12-10 win for the Crimson Tide.
The Vols will get another chance at Alabama when they meet on October 26 in Tuscaloosa.
Tennessee’s rivalry with Florida is the series in which they’ve had their longest losing streak.
The Vols have not beat the Gators since James Wilhoit kicked the Vols to victory in 2004.
Florida leads the all-time series 23-19.
The two teams typically play every year in September, often opening SEC play against each other.
The rivalry hit a crescendo in 1997, when then Florida head coach Steve Spurrier, took a shot at the Vols (after Florida had beat Tennessee and Peyton Manning several years in a row) saying “you can’t spell citrus without UT”. He was of course referring to the Vols inability to reach the national championship game.
Spurrier was forced to eat his words a year later, as Tee Martin and the Vols defeated Florida en route to the first ever BCS championship.
Tennessee and Florida will face off on September 21 this season, in Gainesville.
In contrast to the two rivalries mentioned above, Tennessee actually holds the edge in their all-time series against the Bulldogs, with a record of 21-19.
Tennessee most recently defeated Florida in 2009, under Lane Kiffin, a 45-19 win.
The Vols nearly beat Georgia last season in Athens, putting up 44 points on the Bulldogs defense, but a late fumble by Tyler Bray sealed the win for Georgia.
The rivalry between Tennessee and Georgia has lacked some of the drama of the Vol’s other rivalries, but it’s always a pivotal game between these two SEC east powerhouses.
Typically at least one of these teams is in the mix for the SEC east crown, although in recent years it’s been Georgia in that position.
I wouldn’t expect that to last long, as I’m sure beating Georgia on Butch Jones’ list of things to do — quickly.
Tennessee and Georgia will take the field on October 5 this season, in Knoxville.
Tennessee’s rivalry with Vanderbilt, has been dominated by the Vols.
Tennessee holds lead in the all-time series with a record of 73-29-5,
That might not sound like much of a rivalry, but trust me — it is.
The fans truly make this rivalry, especially in recent years since James Franklin took over as coach at Vanderbilt. That, combined with the leaked video of Derek Dooley’s “If there’s one thing Tennessee does” speech after a victory over the Commodores, has made this rivalry very intense.
Fans of both programs often bicker back and forth over Twitter, and it often gets personal.
Vanderbilt broke through last season, defeating the Vols 41-18, in an embarrassing performance for the Vols, that would be Derek Dooley’s undoing.
Tennessee and Vanderbilt will play their annual game this season on November 23, in Knoxville.
So which of these four teams do you consider Tennessee’s biggest rival?
Vote in our poll, and let us know why you voted the way you did!