10. 1993 Tennessee Volunteers: 10-2 (7-1 SEC)
This was Phillip Fulmer’s first team as Tennessee football’s full-time head coach. And unlike previous first-year head coaches in Knoxville, he was starting a season with extremely high expectations. And who could blame him?
The year before, the Vols went 9-3, but they would have gone 11-1 if not for the Fulmer/Johnny Majors distraction. We all know about that. So let’s move onto 1993. The Vols returned everybody, most notably their dual-threat quarterback in Heath Shuler.
Entering the season in the Top 10, the Vols got off to a hot start by blowing out the Georgia Bulldogs in the second game of the season, 38-6. They moved into the Top 5 by the middle of September.
But in a trend that would haunt them throughout the 1990s, they lost to the Florida Gators in The Swamp in a shootout, 41-34. It was the first year of Steve Spurrier’s four-year run of SEC Championships with Danny Wuerffel, and the loss was rough.
To make things more painful, the Vols should have ended a seven-year losing streak to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Undefeated and ranked No. 2 at the time, Alabama was looking to repeat as national champions. But the Vols, in Birmingham, built a 17-9 lead and had control of the game.
Alabama, however, scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion late to tie it in a game that felt like a loss. The Vols were retroactively awarded the win, but it didn’t feel that way in 1993.
Still, Tennessee football won out in the regular season to finish 9-1-1 with their only blemishes to national title contenders on the road, and none of them were blowouts. That’s pretty impressive. Tennessee lost the Citrus Bowl to the Penn State Nittany Lions 31-13, but that was a game the Vols cared little about with the distraction of Shuler and the NFL. Still, they finished 9-2-1 and 10-2 retroactively, and the offense was historically great. That’s why they made this list.