If it's (almost) May, that means brackets here at RTT. In years past we've crowned champions for the greatest Vol villains and the best individual play. This time around, we'll spend the next few weeks crowning the best individual team of the modern era.
A couple of ground rules: we tried to limit this to teams our readers would have a chance to remember. So with apologies to the 1951 National Champions, you'd have to be a little north of our average readership to remember those guys. The teams in this bracket are limited to the last 50 years, and as has been the case with on-field success for the Vols, there will be a heavy dose of the 90s in this thing. And remember, to keep it interesting the question isn't which team was your favorite, because we all know the first team up today would win that easily. It's which team was better - who would win if they faced each other on the hallowed grounds at Neyland?
We begin round one of this sixteen team field today with the one seed against one of the more underrated (in my opinion) Vol squads of the Fulmer Era. As always, we invite your comments and memories of these teams below. First round voting runs through Sunday at midnight. Who ya got?
13-0, SEC Champions, National Champions - Final AP Rank #1
You know these guys. The Vols were preseason #10 before taking down Donovan McNabb's Syracuse squad, ending #2 Florida's five year reign of terror, then overcame the loss of Jamal Lewis to destroy an undefeated Georgia team in Athens. The Vols then won their fourth straight over Alabama before surviving against an undefeated Arkansas team 28-24. Tennessee beat Mississippi State in the SEC Championship Game, then won it all against Florida State in the first ever BCS National Championship.
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
10-3, shared Eastern Division Championship - Final AP rank #15
Off the heels of an 8-5 season in 2002 (remember when those were cause for riots?) the Vols used veteran leadership at quarterback and on defense to string together a season that never gets remembered as well as it should've been. Tennessee split the East Division with Georgia and Florida in a three way tie, but the Dawgs got the ticket to Atlanta. Tennessee was ranked 6th in the final AP poll of the regular season, but got screwed by the Outback Bowl and landed in the Peach Bowl, where they set a record for personal foul penalties against Clemson in a loss that tainted everyone's memory of this team. Before that, these Vols won in Gainesville, Tuscaloosa, and Miami. The Vols fell behind early at Auburn and almost came back before losing, and got avalanched by turnovers against Georgia, but did close with six straight wins including the classic over Miami and five overtimes against the Crimson Tide.
QB: Casey Clausen
RB: Cedric Houston, Jabari Davis, Troy Fleming
WR: James Banks, Mark Jones, Tony Brown
OL: Anthony Herrera, Michael Munoz, Scott Wells, Sean Young, Chavis Smith
DL: Parys Haralson, JT Mapu, Mondre Dickerson, Constantin Ritzmann
LB: Kevin Burnett, Kevin Simon, Robert Peace
DB: Jabari Greer, Jason Allen, Rashad Baker, Gibril Wilson