3. 1926: 8-1 (5-1)
Robert Neyland’s first four seasons with Tennessee football all involved 7-0 starts. Again, while he was there, these starts were common. They just didn’t always end in championships until UT joined the SEC, and that run from 1926 to 1931 made that more clear than ever. This was his first season as head coach.
An assistant the year before, Neyland replaced M.B. Banks and was given one task: even the score with Vanderbilt. At the time, Vandy led the series 18-2-2. The year before, UT had gone 5-2-1. However, nobody knew what was in store for a program set to reach new heights under the General. This was just the first step.
With his tactics, Neyland led the Vols to their first 7-0 start in a decade. Southern college football was turning a corner, as Alabama had played in and won the Rose Bowl the previous year, a turning point for the sport. Neyland was going to be a huge part of that.
However, Neyland couldn’t end the streak against Vanderbilt at first, as his team lost 20-3 on the road. That cost them the SoCon Title and what could have been their trip to the Rose Bowl. It would be Neyland’s last loss to Vandy until 1937, though, and by the time he retired in 1952, he had indeed evened the score, so this loss was a turning point in the program.