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Ranking Tennessee's 50 Bowls: #40-31

As the Vols prepare for their 50th bowl appearance on January 2, we count down the first 49 from the hardest losses to the greatest victories.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Check out our introduction & part one of this series here. As always, we invite your comments and memories from these games!

40. 2009 Chick-Fil-A Bowl:  #12 Virginia Tech 37 Tennessee 14

This one might go a little lower on your list depending on your proximity to the state line.  Lane Kiffin's Vols finished 7-5 and headed to Atlanta for a long-awaited showdown between the Vols and Hokies, their first meeting since the 1994 Gator Bowl (still to come in our countdown).  All year Tennessee had used an undersized offensive line, watching Jonathan Crompton and Montario Hardesty emerge as legitimate threats.  But it would not be so on this day, as Virginia Tech's defense held Tennessee to 240 yards and just five net rushing yards after Crompton was sacked six times.  Tennessee managed to tie the game at 14-14 late in the first half, but the Hokies completed a long pass with one second on the clock to knock home a field goal, retaking the lead at halftime.  Down 27-14 in the second half, Denarius Moore dropped a sure touchdown behind coverage, and the Vols never threatened again.  The two will meet again in Bristol in 2016.

39. 1984 Sun Bowl:  #12 Maryland 28 Tennessee 27

Facing off for the second postseason in a row, Maryland fell behind the Vols 21-0 at halftime as Tony Robinson, Johnnie Jones, and Tim McGee led the Vol attack.  Maryland rallied to take the lead 22-21 before Tennessee returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards.  But the two point conversion failed, Maryland scored once more, then forced a Tony Robinson fumble as the Vols drove for field goal range to end it.  The Terps were clearly the better team coming in, but the 21 point advantage is the largest lead Tennessee has ever blown.

38. 1969 Cotton Bowl:  #5 Texas 36 #8 Tennessee 13

Texas scored the game's first 28 points and the Longhorns used a balanced attack with 279 yards rushing and 234 yards passing.  The Vols had three interceptions and never got going in Doug Dickey's next-to-last year at the helm in Knoxville.

37. 2000 Fiesta Bowl:  #3 Nebraska 31 #6 Tennessee 21

Two years after getting routed in the Fiesta Bowl, one of Tennessee's most talented teams had their shot at revenge.  But Nebraska jumped to a 14-0 early lead after a Dan Alexander touchdown run and then a punt return for a touchdown.  Down 17-7 at halftime, Tennessee forced a fumble and closed to 17-14.  But Nebraska ran away from there, going for 321 yards on the ground and leaving all that talent with only 9-3 to show for the 1999 season.

36. 1945 Rose Bowl:  #7 Southern Cal 25 #12 Tennessee 0

Tennessee fielded no team in 1943 due to World War II, and was still operating at less than full strength in the 1944 season.  Still, Tennessee advanced to the Rose Bowl, but was shut out by the Trojans in their second Pasadena meeting of the decade.

35. 2007 Outback Bowl:  Penn State 20 #17 Tennessee 10

Perhaps Arian Foster's most infamous fumble came early in the fourth quarter of a hard-fought game tied 10-10.  The 2006 Vols had rallied after a frustrating 2005 season which saw the program miss a bowl game for the first time since 1988.  Although a late season injury to Erik Ainge cost Tennessee a chance at a BCS at-large bid, the Vols were in Tampa for the first time in more than a decade and looked to put a positive finish on a good season.  Instead, Foster's fumble in the red zone turned into an 88 yard Penn State touchdown, and the Nittany Lions added a field goal for insurance in scoring their third bowl victory over the Vols in the last two decades.

34. 1973 Gator Bowl:  #11 Texas Tech 28 #20 Tennessee 19

Condredge Holloway and Haskel Stanback helped Tennessee rally after the Red Raiders scored the game's first two touchdowns.  Tennessee closed to 21-19 in the fourth quarter but missed a two point conversion, then missed the go-ahead field goal before the Red Raiders added the final score for a two-possession lead.

33. 1982 Peach Bowl:  Iowa 28 Tennessee 22

In the first of what will be three all-time meetings between the Vols and Hawkeyes, the Vols scored first before Iowa rattled off three straight scores for a 21-7 halftime lead.  Behind Alan Cockrell Tennessee rallied to cut the lead to 28-22, but the final Vol drive was stopped on fourth down inside the Iowa 10 yard line to preserve the victory for the Hawkeyes.

32. 1957 Sugar Bowl:  #11 Baylor 13 #2 Tennessee 7

The Bears doubled up Tennessee in total offense and took advantage of five Tennessee turnovers as Johnny Majors and the formerly undefeated Vols had their season come to a difficult end in New Orleans.  Tennessee had dominated SEC play in the 1956 season and hadn't given up more than seven points in their last seven games.  But Baylor was able to capitalize on Tennessee's mistakes and bring the season to an unfortunate end.

31. 1947 Orange Bowl:  #10 Rice 8 #7 Tennessee 0

If you like defense, this one would've been right up your alley:  Rice out-gained Tennessee 208-137, blocked two punts, and used a safety to help keep the Vols at bay in this 8-0 shutout of a General Neyland squad.  The 1946 Vols had won the SEC title as Neyland returned from war and swept the league, but couldn't crack Rice's defense on this day in Miami.

Tomorrow we move from losses to victories as our countdown of Tennessee's bowl appearances continues...