2. 1969: 9-2 (5-1)
Starting quarterback: Bobby Scott
SEC Championship; Gator Bowl berth; No. 15 AP; No. 11 Coaches
Doug Dickey’s final season as Tennessee football’s head coach saw one of the best teams in school history nearly run the table. It was two years after Dewey Warren had graduated, but his skills resulted in the Vols bringing in a ton of talent afterward.
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Bobby Scott was the signal caller to manage all of that talent, and this was his team. Entering his junior year, he had a ton of expectations after going 8-2-1 in 1968, and UT started the year ranked in the top 15. But then they went on a roll.
The Vols beat the No. 17 ranked Auburn Tigers in their second game of the year. Then, in October, they beat the No. 20 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. Two weeks later, after a bye, they beat the No. 11 ranked Georgia Bulldogs. All of a sudden, this team was 7-0 and ranked No. 3 in the nation with a national title a real possibility.
However, then came the infamous Archie Manning and the mules game against the Ole Miss Rebels. Steve Kiner couldn’t keep his mouth shut and trashed Ole Miss, so Manning used that motivation to torch the Vols’ defense, winning the game 38-0.
It’s one of the most infamous losses in UT history. However, even with that heartbreak, they won their final two games to finish the regular season 9-1. A 14-13 loss to the Florida Gators in the Gator bowl was ironic, as UT was led by Dickey, a Florida grad, and UF was led by Ray Graves, a UT grad. Dickey would then leave after the year to take over at Florida.
Still, a 9-2 record and SEC Championship was enough for us to list this as one of the greatest seasons in school history with a junior quarterback. Scott would build on this with an 11-1 record and Sugar Bowl win the next year. But the Vols would not start 7-0 again for 30 years. We go to that season next.