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Ranking Tennessee's 50 Bowls: #30-21

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.

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

We move today from losses to victories; the Vols are 25-24 in bowls all-time, with 25 wins tied for sixth-best all-time.  Tennessee's postseason slide from 2008-13, which can be broken if the Vols beat Iowa, is most noticeable on paper in this department.  In 2007 Tennessee was third all-time in bowl wins, having been passed these last six seasons by Oklahoma, Georgia, and Texas.

Our countdown rolls on...

30. 1941 Sugar Bowl:  #5 Boston College 19 #4 Tennessee 13

Tennessee's bowl media guide, which is a great source of information on games like this one that took place decades before I was born, notes that a Boston College blocked punt in this game was the first of those Tennessee had surrendered in seven years.  Tied 13-13 in the fourth quarter, the Golden Eagles scored the winning touchdown from 24 yards out to bust up Tennessee's undefeated SEC Championship season, which included a National Championship vote from two sources.

29. 1979 Bluebonnet Bowl:  #12 Purdue 27 Tennessee 22

Back in a bowl game for the first time in five seasons in the third year with Coach Majors' at the helm, in Houston the Vols fell behind Purdue 14-0 at halftime and 21-0 in the third quarter.  A furious rally behind quarterback Jimmy Streater included 16 points in the fourth quarter and Tennessee took the lead 22-21.  But Purdue had one more drive left in the tank, scoring the winning touchdown with just 1:30 on the clock to deny Tennessee its first bowl win since 1974.

28. 1940 Rose Bowl:  #3 Southern Cal 14 #2 Tennessee 0

The 1939 Vols were undefeated, untied, and un-scored on until this game.  The Trojans ran for 229 yards and controlled the ball all day in Pasadena, running 72 offensive plays to UT's 37.  Tennessee's loss to the #3 Trojans on January 1, 1940 was UT's first defeat since November 13, 1937.

27. 1952 Sugar Bowl:  #3 Maryland 28 #1 Tennessee 13

The 1951 Vols join 1998 as Tennessee's consensus National Championship seasons.  But an undefeated Maryland squad was able to slow Tennessee's running game while running for 289 yards on their own right.  The Terps jumped Tennessee 21-0 early in the second quarter, surely stunning the Vols who cut it to 21-6 at halftime but then threw a pick six in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.  General Neyland's seven bowl appearances included just two victories, but in those seven contests the Vols faced teams ranked 4th, 3rd, 5th, 10th, 3rd, 3rd, and 10th.

26. 1968 Orange Bowl:  #3 Oklahoma 26 #2 Tennessee 24

Doug Dickey's 1967 Vols lost the season opener to UCLA but ran the table in the SEC.  This was the final year college football's national champion was determined before the bowl games, with the majority of that honor going to 9-1 Southern Cal.  The Vols did get a National Championship selection from Litkenhous.  In this Orange Bowl showdown Oklahoma did just enough to stay in front of the Vols after building a 19-0 lead at halftime.  Tennessee rallied behind Dewey Warren to cut the lead to 19-17, but he was intercepted and the Sooners returned it to the house to make it 26-17.  Tennessee scored again to make it 26-24, stopped Oklahoma and drove to field goal range...but the kick sailed wide and the Sooners won the day.

25. 1966 Gator Bowl:  Tennessee 18 Syracuse 12

We begin the Volunteer victories portion of the list with one of only three bowl match-ups to feature no ranked teams.  Facing a Syracuse team that included Larry Csonka, Doug Dickey's Vols scored the game's first 18 points and held on for their eighth win of the season.  The Orangemen ran for 348 yards but were slowed by 79 yards in penalties.

24. 1986 Liberty Bowl:  Tennessee 21 Minnesota 14

The Vols' last appearance in the Liberty Bowl featured Jeff Francis going 22 of 31 for 243 yards and all three Tennessee touchdowns, the last one to Joey Clinkscales to break a 14-14 tie in the fourth quarter and give the Vols the victory.  The '86 Vols rebounded from a 2-5 start to win their final five games and wouldn't lose again until 1987's Third Saturday in October.

23. 1988 Peach Bowl:  #17 Tennessee 27 Indiana 22

Played at the old Fulton County Stadium, the January 2, 1988 Peach Bowl featured freshman Reggie Cobb going off for 151 yards on 21 carries.  Tennessee raced to a 21-3 lead in the second quarter, blew it as the Hoosiers took a 22-21 lead in the fourth quarter, and then Cobb saved the day with a nine yard touchdown run to put Tennessee back in front for good.

22. 2008 Outback Bowl:  #16 Tennessee 21 #18 Wisconsin 17

Tennessee's last bowl win came at the end of a crazy 2007 season, facing Bret Bielema's Wisconsin Badgers in the Outback Bowl.  Unlike his predecessors Andy Kelly, Heath Shuler, Peyton Manning, Tee Martin, and Casey Clausen, Erik Ainge was lights out in his final performance as a Vol:  25 of 43 for 365 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  His second went to Brad Cottam for 31 yards in the second quarter, as the Vols led 21-7 and looked like they might run away with it.  But Wisconsin clamped down, rallied, and was driving to win in the final minute when Antonio Wardlow came up with the interception pictured above at the goal line to secure the Volunteer victory and the 10th win of the season.  This win also left Phillip Fulmer's all-time bowl mark in the positive at 8-7.

21. 1994 Gator Bowl:  Tennessee 45 #17 Virginia Tech 23

By the end of a 1994 season which had become an instant rebuilding project when QB Jerry Colquitt was lost for the year on the season's seventh play, Tennessee was rolling and true freshman Peyton Manning had a firm grasp on the quarterback competition with Brandon Stewart.  He made the most of his chances early and often in this one, going 12 of 19 for 189 yards and a touchdown as Tennessee smoked a Virginia Tech program that was still a few years away from greatness.  The Vols scored touchdowns on five of their first seven possessions and dominated with 245 yards on the ground and 250 through the air.  Joey Kent made an incredible full extension catch early in this game to help set the tone.

More victorious memories coming tomorrow...