Ranking Tennessee football’s 10 years after coach’s first bowl game

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10. 1980: 5-6 (3-3)

*No postseason

Coming off Johnny Majors’ first bowl game

Reality never hit harder for Tennessee football than this year. When Johnny Majors took over in 1977, expectations were that he would repeat his rebuilding project in Pittsburgh. After all, he won a national championship with them in his fourth year, 1976, and he was heading back to Rocky Top, where he was a star in the mid-1950s to rebuild that program.

Well, he went from 4-7 to 5-5-1 to 7-5 through three years. Things were very up and down, and coming off that first bowl season in his third year, he seemed primed to take the Vols to the next level entering the 1980s. But 1980 itself wouldn’t be the year, as UT fell back to 5-6, Majors’ second losing season in four years.

Things started off with two heartbreaking losses to the eventual national champion Georgia Bulldogs by one point and the No. 5 ranked USC Trojans by three points. After winning three in a row, a four-game losing streak followed, including a 10th straight loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide and a loss to the Pitt program that was still rolling, now with Dan Marino and Jackie Sherrill.

The low morale from these beatdowns resulted in a shocking 16-13 loss at home to a bad Virginia Cavaliers team and then a 20-9 loss to the Ole Miss Rebels. Beating the Kentucky Wildcats and Vanderbilt Commodores would get the Vols to five wins. This year overall showed just how far the program still had to go under Majors. But it wouldn’t have another losing year until 1988.

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