No. 4 AP and Coaches; W Sugar Bowl
Similar to the 1990 team, Tennessee football won the SEC Championship by default in 1985. They lost to the Florida Gators this year, their only blemish en route to a 5-1 conference record. Since UF also finished 5-1, they should have won the title.
But, once again, the Gators were on probation. We could have dropped this team further down the list as well because of that. However, just like the 1990 squad, the brutal schedule is still why we moved them up.
One of the most beloved Vols’ teams of all time, this group was known for being dramatic overachievers. They were called the “Sugar Vols,” hence the picture of New Orleans on this slide. UT hadn’t won the SEC since 1969 and hadn’t had a top 25 finish since 1974 going into the year. Then they lost quarterback Tony Robinson midway through the season.
Guys like Tim McGee and Chris White with quarterback Daryl Dickey filling in, however, kept this team with a no-stars approach afloat. This teams SEC schedule included dominating the Auburn Tigers 38-20 when they were ranked No. 1 in the nation. They also had to face the Alabama Crimson Tide, who finished behind UT and Florida, on the road.
So their SEC road was brutal enough, and we can prove this team’s greatness by non-conference play. They tied a top 10 UCLA Bruins team, who would go on to win the Pac-10 and the Rose Bowl, in the opener and should have won that game, and then they blew out the No. 2 ranked Miami Hurricanes in the Sugar Bowl 35-7 when The U was looking at a potential national title.
Those impressive performances combined with only one blemish in the league are why we put this team slightly ahead of the 1990 team. Both were great Johnny Majors teams though and have a special place in history.