National Championship; SEC Championship; No. 1 AP and Coaches; W Fiesta Bowl
This is clearly the greatest team in Tennessee football history. Of the undefeated teams, it certainly has the most talent, and playing in the modern era means something as well. Add in the significance of playing in the first BCS National Championship game, and there’s a ton to digest with this season.
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We all know the story. The Vols had to replace Peyton Manning at quarterback and a group of other superstars including Leonard Little, Marcus Nash, Terry Fair, Trey Teague and Jonathan Brown. But Tee Martin stepped in for Manning, Peerless Price stepped in for Nash, and Al Wilson stepped up on defense with Shaun Ellis becoming a star on the line.
Those guys combined with weapons like Jeff Hall at kicker and Jamal Lewis at running back got UT to 4-0 with two game-winning field goals against ranked teams, one of which was an overtime win over the Florida Gators. Then Lewis went down, adding to the drama, and Travis Henry and Travis Stephens stepped up.
Following that, the Vols beat a third ranked team, the Georgia Bulldogs, and then blew out the Alabama Crimson Tide, South Carolina Gamecocks and UAB Blazers before surviving against the Arkansas Razorbacks, their fourth game that year against a ranked undefeated team. Then they blew out the Kentucky Wildcats and Vanderbilt Commodores to get to 11-0.
An SEC Championship fourth-quarter victory to beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs and 23-16 Fiesta Bowl win over the Florida State Seminoles secured their national championship. It was their first consensus title in 47 years and remains their only one in the modern era, and this is also their first 13-win season in school history.
The significance of this team that Phillip Fulmer led is not lost on anybody, and it certainly is more memorable than the 1896 or 1914 teams when it comes to the scope of school history. So we have it at No. 2.