Best Vol Team Semifinals: 1998 vs 1995

Elsa

The National Champions against the team that finished second in the coaches' poll...

So, we all know the 1998 team is the most beloved, is the only undefeated and unanimous National Champion in our bracket (which covered the last 50 years to limit ourselves to teams our readers could have actually seen), and would be a tough out for anyone. But as the question is not "who's your favorite?" but "who wins?", after rolling past the 2003 and 1972 Vols in the first two rounds, they could be in for a fight today.

Starting at the top, I think we'd all take sophomore Peyton Manning and his four interceptions on the year over junior Tee Martin. Jay Graham set UT's single season rushing record in 1995 before Travis Stephens broke it six years later, so he is clearly a threat in the backfield, although he's going against the Jamal Lewis, Travis & Travis combo. Joey Kent and Marcus Nash were record setters at UT, though NFL flameouts may suggest some of that had to do with who was throwing them the ball. Meanwhile Peerless Price and Cedrick Wilson made a living on NFL rosters for several seasons. And you want offensive lines like these, on both sides.

The 1995 defense was maligned early, no doubt, as Georgia and Florida both torched them. But John Chavis' first campaign was a massive success by the end of the year; if you view this team as the one with September's defense, '98 is the clear victor. But if you view this team as the one that held Alabama and Ohio State to two touchdowns each? How many points would the '98 offense score on them?

Of course, the same is true the other way around: the 1998 defense took a beating from Donovan McNabb and Anthony Lucas, but otherwise resembled a brick wall. The '95 defense may have better corners, but '98 has better safeties. You want Leonard Little or Al Wilson? Pick your poison.

In short, if anyone was going to beat the 1998 team, the 1995 team may have the most firepower on both sides of the ball to do it. Who ya got?

1998

QB: Tee Martin

RB: Jamal Lewis, Travis Henry, Travis Stephens, Shawn Bryson

WR: Peerless Price, Jermaine Copeland, Cedrick Wilson

OL: Spencer Riley, Chad Clifton, Cosey Coleman, Reggie Coleman, Mercedes Hamilton

DL: Shaun Ellis, Darwin Walker, Billy Ratliff, Corey Terry

LB: Al Wilson, Raynoch Thompson, Eric Westmoreland

DB: Dwayne Goodrich, Steve Johnson, Deon Grant, Fred White

1995

QB: Peyton Manning

RB: Jay Graham

WR: Joey Kent, Marcus Nash, Scot Pfeiffer

OL: Jason Layman, Trey Peterson, Jeff Smith, Bubba Miller, Robert Poole

DL: Leonard Little, Shane Burton, Bill Duff, Steve White

LB: Jesse Sanders, Tyrone Hines, Scott Galyon

DB: Terry Fair, DeRon Jenkins, Raymond Austin, Tori Noel

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