4. Ole Miss Rebels (No. 18)
Year: 1969 (Away – Jackson, Miss.)
Final score: No. 3 Tennessee Volunteers lose 38-0
Before Peyton Manning was even thought of, Archie Manning was among the top enemies of Tennessee football. And he made a point of wrecking Doug Dickey’s final season on Rocky Top when the Vols were at their peak.
By 1969, Dickey had restored the glory days of Robert Neyland. UT had enjoyed four straight Top 25 finishes, an SEC title, and what would become a retroactive national title in 1967. But the talent in 1969 was incredible.
So the Vols started the year off ranked No. 15, and they reeled off a series of victories, including the Auburn Tigers, Alabama Crimson Tide and Georgia Bulldogs. By November, they were ranked No. 3 in the nation and firmly in the national title hunt at 7-0 and 3-0 in the league.
As they traveled to Ole Miss, they went out of their way to belittle the Rebels and Manning himself. Steve Kiner was the source of motivation for the Rebels. After beating Ole Miss 31-0 in 1968, the Vols linebacker, two-time All-American and eventual SEC Defensive Player of the Year, implied Ole Miss was a bunch of mules after being told they have lots of horses.
It was similar to the Quincy Wilson “ducks don’t pull trucks” comment in 2016 when the Vols played the Florida Gators. In this instance, Ole Miss head coach Johnny Vaught arranged for leaflets saying “Archie Who ?”, “Archie Mud” and “Wreck the Mules, Vols #1” to fall on the practice field and lead his players to believe the Vols did it.
The motivation worked. Ole Miss destroyed the Vols in embarrassing fashion, winning the game 38-0. Manning was superb and added to his legendary status with this win. Tennessee football still beat the Kentucky Wildcats and Vanderbilt Commodores to win the SEC, but this loss cost them an undefeated regular season and a national title.
Combine it with the fact that it was an embarrassing loss and shut up Vols fans everywhere, and it had the combination of humiliation and negative impact on the season. It’s one of the most infamous moments in UT history, so of course it’s high on this list.