12. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Year: 1949 (Home)
Final score: No. 14 Tennessee Volunteers lose 30-13
So we’ve now got games against the two newest members and all three former members of the SEC at the bottom five on this list. But Tennessee football’s loss to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets is the first one here of major significance.
The Vols and Yellow Jackets have met 44 times and once had a major rivalry, playing each other every year from 1954 to 1973, which was even after GT left the SEC. There have been two ties. But of UT’s 17 losses in the series, this one hurt the most.
For context, Robert Neyland had returned for his third stint in 1946 and won the SEC Championship. But he then went .500 in 1947 and 1948. As questions arose about him losing his touch, he would rebuild a dynasty in the early 1950s with major talent like Hank Lauricella, Doug Atkins, Ted Daffer, Bill Pearman and Bert Rechichar.
Not all the talent was ready in 1949, but it was enough to return to prominence. And they largely did that. Despite losing their second game to the Duke Blue Devils and tying their fourth to the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Vols got to 4-1-1 after a victory over the No. 13 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.
Then, ranked No. 14 and set to host Georgia Tech at home, they were in prime position to win the SEC. But Georgia Tech stunned them with a 30-13 victory. The embarrassment of that blowout loss was bad enough. But what it cost was worse. Tennessee football would win its next three, highlighted by a 6-0 victory over Bear Bryant the No. 11 ranked Kentucky Wildcats.
As a result, they would finish 7-2-1 overall and No. 17 nationally. But they also finished 4-1-1 in the SEC, which the Tulane Green Wave won at 5-1. If UT doesn’t blow it to Georgia Tech, they win the SEC at 5-0-1 and go to the Sugar Bowl with an 8-1-1 record. They did rebound to win back to back national titles in 1950 and 1951, but this lost cost them another SEC title.