Tennessee football: Alabama win had elements of past great Vols games

Oct 15, 2022; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers fans tear down the goal posts after beating the Alabama Crimson Tide at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2022; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers fans tear down the goal posts after beating the Alabama Crimson Tide at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports /

There are many great victories in Tennessee football history. Any combination of these elements can make them historical: the thrill of the game, if it was a major comeback, if it was an upset, the quality of the team they beat, the impact it had on the season, if it was a rivalry game, if it ended a streak, if there was a historic individual performance and if it was a championship game.

Honestly, this game had six of those eight elements. Know, it wasn’t a championship game, which gives the 1997 and 1998 SEC Championships and 1998 national championship arguments. It also didn’t involve a major comeback like 1991 at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 1998 against the Arkansas Razorbacks or 2005 at the LSU Tigers.

Every other factor was in play, though. Thrill of the game? Tennessee football won off a last-second field goal after a 15-second drive. The Vols just won what could be considered the greatest game of the year in college football. What other game ever played by UT had as thrilling an ending on its own?

As far as upsets go, this isn’t up there with the Sugar Bowl against the Miami Hurricanes to end 1985, 2001 at the Florida Gators, 2003 at Miami or 2004 at the Georgia Bulldogs. In the latter three, UT was a double-digit underdog on the road. However, the Vols were two-score underdogs, so it was an upset.

Quality of opponent? Alabama is just the third team in history the Vols ever beat with a No. 1 ranking, the other two being LSU in 1959 and the Auburn Tigers in 1985. Oh, and since it was Alabama, we can safely say this was a rivalry game for the Vols.

Ending a streak is obvious too. There are six notable games in which the Vols ended frustrating winless streaks against rivals: the Vanderbilt Commodores in 1914, Alabama in 1982, Alabama in 1995, Florida in 1998, Florida in The Swamp in 2001 and Florida in 2016.

None of those skids went longer than 12 games, though,  and that was the Vols’ first 12 games to Vanderbilt. One of those games was a tie anyway. The same is true of the 1995 Alabama game in which UT did end a nine-game winless streak, but 1993 was a tie.

Saturday’s win ended a 15-game losing streak in this series. It ended the Vols’ 40-game losing streak to top 10 teams and their 28-game losing streak to top five teams. At the same time, it ended a 16 year drought of the Vols not being in the top five.

What about individual play? Well, Jalin Hyatt clearly made history with six catches for 207 yards and a school-record five touchdowns. That’s probably the greatest individual performance a player has ever had from UT against Alabama.

Then there’s just the magnitude of the game itself. No, it’s not a divisional game anymore, but it is an SEC game, and with this victory, the Vols opened themselves up to a legitimate shot at the College Football Playoff. Now, even if they lose to Georgia in November, they could still find themselves in the playoff if they finish 11-1.

Simply put, this game is going to have a legitimate impact on the season. Now, again, things like championship games or divisional games will have a greater impact, but this is up there. When you add all of this together, honestly, there may be only two games that compete.

One is the 1998 national championship, easily the greatest win in school history. The other is 1998 Florida, which had all the elements of this one, some to a lesser degree, some to a greater degree. Alabama 1982 isn’t on the same level because it was a bright spot in a mediocre season by the Vols.

Next. Top 10 single seasons by Vols players of all time. dark

This time, like 1998 Florida, Tennessee football’s huge wins opens up a wide range of possibilities. As a result, it’s got to be top five in the history of the program, and quite honestly, it could be top three. There were too many great things happening in the Vols’ favor to ignore.