No. 8 AP, No. 7 Coaches; W Sugar Bowl
The 1990 Tennessee football team is the only conference championship team in history with multiple blemishes as part of its conference record. They tied the Auburn Tigers and lost to the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Meanwhile, the Vols also finished second in the SEC this year with a 5-1-1 record to the Florida Gators, who were 6-1, despite beating Florida 45-3. However, they won the title by default since the Gators were on probation.
With all of these factors, there is plenty of reason to put this team in last place on this list. However, they get to move up because of the nature of their schedule. Almost no UT team in history had a tougher road.
This year’s SEC slate for the Vols included playing the five highest-finishing teams in the league outside of them, three of whom finished in the top 25. Johnny Majors’s squad had a brutal schedule this year that nobody could have gone undefeated navigating.
Not that it matters to this, but it’s worth noting that their out-of-conference schedule also included games against the Colorado Buffaloes, who were eventual national champions, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who were No. 1 at the time. A Sugar Bowl win over the ACC Champion Virginia Cavaliers also eventually came. Simply put, this slate was brutal.
Elite players like Carl Pickens, Alvin Harper, Antone Davis, Dale Carter and Tony Thompson with quarterback Andy Kelly helped this team navigate that stretch. Two blemishes won’t allow us to put this team higher, but winning the SEC, their second straight at the time, was worthy of some praise outside of last place.