9. 1973: 8-4 (3-3)
Starting quarterback: Condredge Holloway
Gator Bowl berth; No. 19 AP
Relative to what they had done in previous years, this was a very disappointing season for Tennessee football. The Vols had gone three straight seasons with 10 wins or more and top 10 finishes along with six straight seasons with two losses or fewer.
So as they entered this season ranked No. 9 in the nation, barely finishing in the top 25 and losing four games was a major letdown. But we’re simply comparing them to other seasons with a junior quarterback, and the only letdown season similar to this with a junior quarterback was the 2002 Vols in which they went 8-5 behind Casey Clausen.
UT had teased fans too with a 5-0 start. Everything was set for a major showdown with the Alabama Crimson Tide, but a 42-21 blowout loss to Bear Bryant and co. wrecked the season. They then lost in back to back upsets to the Georgia Bulldogs and Ole Miss Rebels.
As a result, the Vols finished the season 8-3. They still earned a Gator Bowl berth, but they lost that game 28-19 to the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Despite the disappointment, this was still an eight-win season and a top 25 finish. Also, in retrospect, it was clear that Holloway was just slowing down an inevitable slide of the program under Battle.
So it still makes this list. If you compare this to the 2006 season, there was higher morale after 2006 because it was relative to what happened in 2005. But comparing the seasons in a vacuum, this one was slightly better.