2. 1916: 8-0-1 (6-0-1)
A decade before Robert Neyland, Tennessee football was in the midst of its first foray onto the national stage. John R. Bender had taken over the Vols this year and moved them away from the Straight T to the Short Punt formation. He was tasked with continuing an elite program that Zora G. Clevenger had built.
This season returns our list to 6-0 and 7-0 starts resulting in conference championships. What’s more is UT’s sixth and seventh wins were the most memorable of the year. The Vols started off 5-0 blowing out the Tusculum Pioneers, Maryville Scots, Clemson Tigers, South Carolina and Florida. They shut out every team.
However, in a visit to the Chattanooga Mocs, they had to hold on for a 12-7 win. Then they returned home and welcomed a Vandy team they had only beaten once before. The Vols held on for a thrilling 10-6 win. That ended up deciding the SIAA Champion, as they tied Georgia Tech, who was 5-0 while they were 6-0-1.
Since Vandy finished 4-1-1, this game was bigger than it was even initially expected to be. A 17-0 win over the Sewanee Tigers in Chattanooga ensured the Vols their SIAA Championship, however, a team we keep naming, Kentucky, tied them a week later at 0. World War I broke out after this year, so UT didn’t have a varsity team again until 1919.