7. 1931: 9-0-1 (6-0-1)
It was common in this era for Tennessee football to have one heartbreaking blemish that cost them the Southern Conference national championship. That blemish was always either a tie or a loss and only came to Vanderbilt, Alabama or Kentucky. Robert Neyland never had more than one a season from 1926 to 1932, but he always had one.
This year, it was a tie against Kentucky. By the way, keep this in mind for this week. UT had gone 9-1 the previous year and didn’t start 7-0 thanks to an early loss to Alabama. This year, they got their revenge, dominating the Tide at home 25-0. Alabama would finish 9-1 and 7-1 in SEC play, so this should’ve determined the Southern Conference Champion.
More importantly, that Alabama win the year before got them to the Rose Bowl, and with the bowl game looking at southern teams now, the Vols had a chance to go. A 25-2 win over the Duke Blue Devils got the Vols to 6-0, and they then beat the Carson Newman Eagles to get to 7-0 before beating Vandy to reach 8-0.
The Rose Bowl Invitation Committee then showed up in Lexington to watch Tennessee football face Kentucky, and that game ended in a scoreless tie. As a result, Tulane won the Southern Conference outright and went to the Rose Bowl. Beattie Feathers was again the star of this team, as was Herman Hickman, but it didn’t win anything.