When Tennessee meets Iowa on January 2 it will be Tennessee's 50th bowl appearance, which is tied for fourth all-time behind Alabama (62), Texas (53), and Nebraska (51). The Vols are one game over .500 at 25-24 in postseason play, having lost two straight and now making their first appearance since 2010.
This holiday week we'll count down all 49 of Tennessee's previous appearances, starting at the bottom of the list today with the most difficult losses and concluding on Friday with the most memorable wins. As with all of our lists this is subjective in nature - we invite your thoughts and memories from these games in the comments below. And check out Tennessee's bowl media guide, very handy for recaps, stats, and records.
49. 1969 Gator Bowl: #14 Florida 14 #11 Tennessee 13
In one of the biggest "could you imagine if this happened today?" stories in Tennessee Football, Vol coach and Gator alum Doug Dickey became the leading candidate for the soon-to-be-open Florida job between the end of the regular season and the bowl game, which would pit his current team against his future team. Gator coach Ray Graves was preparing to move to the athletic director position, and rumors were flying before the Gator Bowl match-up between the Vols and Gators that Dickey would succeed him despite two SEC Championships in the previous three years in Knoxville. Tennessee won the SEC in 1969 but the Sugar Bowl passed on the Vols for Archie Manning and Ole Miss. The game itself saw Tennessee's defense keep things within reach, but a blocked punt gave the Gators half their points, and in the end it was enough for a heartbreaking loss and a brutal end of an era in Knoxville as Dickey became the Gators' coach. He would return to Knoxville as athletic director in 1985.
48. 2002 Peach Bowl: #20 Maryland 30 Tennessee 3
If you ask current fans what's the least fun they've ever had watching a Tennessee game, this one is near the top of the list. The 2002 season had spiraled from a preseason Top 5 ranking to a disappointing 8-4 finish. But UT's four losses had come to Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and #1 Miami. The Vols were still thought to be vastly superior to Ralph Friedgen's Maryland squad, which had been destroyed by Florida in the Orange Bowl the year before. Playing in a non-January bowl for the first time since the end of the 1994 season, Tennessee was lifeless in a 30-3 beatdown led by Terps' LB E.J. Henderson's three sacks. A Casey Clausen pick six put Maryland up 14-0 in the second quarter, and a Derrick Tinsley fumble at the Maryland 7 yard line down 17-3 in the third quarter ended Tennessee's threat. This was an embarrassing, perception-changing loss.
47. 2010 Music City Bowl: North Carolina 30 Tennessee 27 (2OT)
In what had to be an incredibly entertaining football game to a neutral observer, Derek Dooley's first Vol squad took the lead with 5:16 to play when Tyler Bray hit Justin Hunter for an eight yard touchdown two plays after Bray connected with Denarius Moore on 3rd and 18 to keep the drive alive. But a blocked extra point set the stage for a wild and ultimately heartbreaking finish: the Vols made North Carolina punt, ran three times and punted back with 31 seconds to go and no timeouts for the Tar Heels. From there Carolina got a 28 yard completion plus a questionable 15 yard personal foul penalty for launching on Janzen Jackson to move the ball to the 37. Two plays later a run by Shaun Draughn moved the ball to the 18 but left the clock running. You know what happened next: T.J. Yates snapped and spiked the ball with a small army on the field as the clock hit zero, Tennessee fans celebrated, and the referee came over the PA and said the game was over. And then it wasn't. A review which ultimately led to the Dooley Rule (offensive penalties with the clock running in the final two minutes come with a ten second run-off) put one second back on the clock and penalized UNC for too many men on the field. Among many sins, the referee failed to stand over the ball and not let the Tar Heels snap it while clearly substituting. Amidst a symphony of boos, Carolina made the field goal, then took advantage of a Tyler Bray interception in double overtime to steal a win, the second time in 2010 the Vols had celebrated victory only to taste defeat.
46. 1998 Orange Bowl: #2 Nebraska 42 #3 Tennessee 17
Much of the heartbreak here came the day before, as #1 Michigan survived in the Rose Bowl, denying the '97 Vols a shot at the National Championship. Heartbreak was followed by total annihilation: one of the most talented Tennessee teams ever was steamrolled by the eventual co-champions. Nebraska built a 14-3 halftime lead, then imposed their will on the Vols in the third quarter with three touchdowns behind ultimately 409 yards on the ground, including 210 from Ahman Green. Meanwhile the Nebraska defense bottled up Peyton Manning in his final performance in orange, holding him to 134 yards and just 4.3 yards per attempt. The bright spot: Tennessee's beating here set the tone for a much more physical unit to take the field in 1998 and capitalize on their championship opportunity.
45. 1953 Cotton Bowl: #10 Texas 16 #8 Tennessee 0
General Neyland's last game as Tennessee's head coach ended with a shutout. Robert Neyland was apparently ill and couldn't perform all of his duties; Tennessee's offensive coordinator Harvey Robinson ran the show as Tennessee was out-gained 301-32 on what had to be a painful day for Vol nation and a vastly imperfect end to an era.
44. 1992 Fiesta Bowl: #6 Penn State 42 #10 Tennessee 17
Another senior Vol quarterback saw his career come to another disastrous end on January 1. Andy Kelly and the Vols led Penn State 17-7 in the third quarter and had dominated in total yards, including a 324-59 advantage at halftime. But after Penn State scored to cut the lead to 17-14, the next three Tennessee drives ended in turnovers, and the Nittany Lions capitalized on all of them to build the lead to 35-17 and ultimately finish with the game's last 35 points despite getting out-gained by more than 200 yards. Watching this as a ten year old it was like a nightmare that just wouldn't end.
43. 1994 Citrus Bowl: #13 Penn State 31 #6 Tennessee 13
Two years later, rinse, repeat. What is still the highest scoring offense in school history was shut down after jumping to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, getting run over by Ki-Jana Carter as this time Penn State scored 31 of the game's final 34 points. This time it was Heath Shuler's career that ended on a terrible note, especially as his NFL decision loomed at the time: 22 of 42 for just 205 yards. Only #2 Alabama and this Penn State team held the '93 Vols under 28 points.
42. 2001 Cotton Bowl: #11 Kansas State 35 #21 Tennessee 21
The rebuilding Vols had won six in a row since freshman Casey Clausen was inserted as the starting quarterback, and hopes were high for the return to greatness which would eventually come in the 2001 season. But we were a long way from there on this day, with temperatures plummeting in Dallas and Kansas State probably feeling a little disrespected. The Vols were down just 21-14 at halftime after a Jabari Greer pick six, but it felt a lot worse because Clausen couldn't get anything going. He would finish a miserable 7 of 25 for 120 yards and three interceptions. In the third quarter Kansas State put the game out of reach with consecutive touchdowns, on the day running for 297 yards. Tennessee's Travis Henry got 81 of his 180 yards on a late touchdown run for the final margin. The Vols have been beaten by worse teams in bowls to be sure, but there have been few less enjoyable games to watch.
41. 2004 Peach Bowl: Clemson 27 #6 Tennessee 14
Just an all-time frustrating day, coming on the heels of the frustration of the #6 team in the nation getting passed over by the Citrus and Outback Bowls and landing back in Atlanta for the second year in a row. The last time we played on January 2, we fought Clemson during pregame warm-ups then had 10 penalties, six of the 15 yard variety. Clemson scored on on its opening possession, Tennessee fumbled on its opening possession, and that's about how it went all day. Clemson answered both of Tennessee's scores with touchdowns of their own to build a 24-14 halftime lead, then James Wilhoit missed a 35 yard field goal in the third quarter that would've brought it back to one possession. Tennessee wasted a 384 yard day from Casey Clausen, who joined Kelly, Shuler, Manning, and Martin in losing his final bowl appearance.