8. 1954: 4-6 (1-5)
Two years after Robert Neyland’s retirement, Harvey Robinson led Tennessee football to its first losing season since 1935. That year was W.H. Britton’s only year as head coach between Neyland’s first and second stints, and they went 4-5 then, but all five losses were to teams with winning records while they beat two SEC teams with winning records, so it didn’t make the list.
Robinson was Neyland’s chosen successor as he moved to athletic director in 1953, and that first year, the Vols went 6-4. It was their worst season since 1948. However, this season, things got much worse for Rocky Top.
UT opened things up respectably, beating the Mississippi State Maroons 19-7 before losing by one to the No. 7 ranked Duke Blue Devils and then beating the Chattanooga Mocs. However, they then lost to a bad Alabama Crimson Tide team. After rebounding to beat the Dayton Flyers and North Carolina Tar Heels, things fell apart.
The Vols closed the year out losing four straight, falling to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Florida Gators, Vanderbilt Commodores and Kentucky Wildcats. At that point, Neyland had to make the difficult decision to fire Robinson, which he did. Three of the teams to beat UT failed to finish with a winning record, and two finished with a losing record. That was enough to put this team here.