2. Alabama Crimson Tide
Year: 1990 (Home)
Final score: No. 3 Tennessee Volunteers lose 9-6
While the early 2010s was a period in which Tennessee football invented ways to lose to the Florida Gators, they were known for doing that to the Alabama Crimson Tide before UF ever became a rivalry. And that was never truer than in this game. We know the Vols have had numerous frustrating losses to the Tide. None come close to this one.
For context, the Vols were on a four-game losing streak to the Tide. The year before, Alabama was their only loss as the two split the SEC title with the Auburn Tigers and UT was clearly the best team of the three. They just had the bad luck of Johnny Majors dismissing Reggie Cobb before the game, creating a major distraction.
This season, though, the Tide were rebuilding at 2-3 with first-year head coach Gene Stallings. Meanwhile, the Vols were rolling. They were 4-0-2, coming of a 45-3 win over the Florida Gators and had their only two blemishes as ties to the No. 5 ranked Colorado Buffaloes and No. 3 ranked Auburn Tigers. At this point, UT was No. 3 and a national championship was still in the picture.
However, Stallings’s reputation as a defensive genius got put on full display here, and it was the earliest signs of him somewhat restoring the Bear Bryant years in Tuscaloosa. Against the Vols, nobody scored a touchdown.
Alabama and Tennessee were tied 6-6 late, but finally, UT had a chance to end the drought. They had gotten into field goal range and were set to try a game-winner. But the Tide blocked it. Not only was the kick blocked, but it rolled all the way into Tennessee territory. That allowed Alabama to kick a game-winner, which is what they did.
The loss wasn’t just another loss to Bama. It was a fluke loss in a year Tennessee football was way better. So that fluke combined with the talent disparity made for heartbreak and humiliation. Add in the fact that it was to a rival and the difference in the Vols not capturing a share of the national title, and it was clearly a sickening loss.