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Ranking Tennessee's 50 Bowls: #20-11

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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.

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Merry Christmas!  Our week-long countdown continues as we reach the Top 20, which means losses are behind us and we're on to some of the more enjoyable moments in Tennessee postseason history...

20. 1981 Garden State Bowl:  Tennessee 28 Wisconsin 21

After winning the next game on our countdown, Tennessee missed the postseason four years in a row in the transition from Bill Battle to Johnny Majors, then lost to Purdue in the 1979 Bluebonnet Bowl, then missed the postseason again in 1980.  But the Vols finally broke through in 1981, as QB Steve Alatorre went 24 of 42 for 315 yards and Willie Gault returned a kickoff for a touchdown to complete an 8-4 season, UT's first 8+ win season since 1973.

19. 1974 Liberty Bowl:  Tennessee 7 #10 Maryland 3

With Condredge Holloway knocked out of the game the Tennessee offense couldn't score all day against the Terps in Memphis.  Maryland's second quarter field goal was enough until the final minutes, when backup Randy Wallace found Larry Seivers in the end zone for the game's only touchdown and Tennessee's only points, which would be enough to secure the win over the 10th ranked Terps.

18. 1957 Gator Bowl:  #13 Tennessee 3 #9 Texas A&M 0

Going against Bear Bryant's Aggies in his final game before moving to Tuscaloosa, the Vols nailed a fourth quarter field goal to score the game's only points and beat Texas A&M 3-0.  Both teams were held under 200 yards of total offense; it was the fourth shutout of the year for the Vol defense.

17. 1965 Bluebonnet Bowl:  #7 Tennessee 27 Tulsa 6

Eight years later Tennessee returned to the postseason in Doug Dickey's second season, and defense was again the story:  seven Tulsa turnovers helped Tennessee win by three touchdowns.  Tennessee's bowl guide mentions a torrential downpour as a primary culprit; the Vols only had 218 yards, but they were more than enough to finish off a top ten season at 8-1-2.

16. 2005 Cotton Bowl:  #15 Tennessee 38 #22 Texas A&M 7

Tennessee's largest margin of victory in a bowl game came as a surprise on the first day of 2005, as LSU transfer Rick Clausen, the Vols' third starting quarterback of the season with freshmen Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge out with injuries, decimated Dennis Franchione's troops in a 38-7 Vol victory.  Clausen was 18 of 27 for 222 yards and three touchdowns, the first going 57 yards to C.J. Fayton to set the tone.  Tennessee's defense also forced five turnovers as the Vols out-gained A&M 474-318 and had a shutout until a garbage time TD for the Aggies.  Tennessee finished the 2004 season with an East title and a final ranking of #13.

15. 1993 Hall of Fame Bowl:  #17 Tennessee 38 #16 Boston College 23

In Phillip Fulmer's first game as full-time head coach of the Vols, Heath Shuler put his name in the Heisman Trophy race for the following season.  The Vol QB was incredibly effective, going 18 of 23 for 245 yards and a pair of touchdowns, then adding two more touchdowns on the ground as Tennessee exploded for 17 third quarter points to break open a 14-7 lead.  The Vols built the lead to 38-7 before two late scores for the Eagles made it more respectable.

14. 1972 Bluebonnet Bowl:  #11 Tennessee 24 #10 LSU 17

Sophomore Condredge Holloway led the Vols to a 24-3 halftime lead over their SEC counterparts in Houston, scrambling in for touchdowns from 10 and 15 yards out along the way.  LSU would rally with touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters, but the Vol defense ultimately turned them away, preserving the victory and a 10-2 season for Bill Battle's troops.

13. 1997 Citrus Bowl:  #9 Tennessee 48 #11 Northwestern 28

Can't spell Citrus without UT:  the Vols were back in Orlando for the second year in a row, licking wounds from a November loss at Memphis that cost them bigger opportunities.  Most assumed this would be Peyton Manning's final game as a Vol, and he would've gone out with a bang:  27 of 39 for 408 yards and four touchdowns, plus another on his signature naked bootleg.  Earlier this year we ranked this game as Manning's second greatest passing performance while at UT.  After the Vols jumped the Wildcats 21-0 Northwestern actually rallied to tie the game at 21-21, but Manning quickly responded with a 67 yard touchdown to Joey Kent and the Vols never looked back; Kent and Peerless Price both went over 100 yards receiving.

12. 1983 Citrus Bowl:  Tennessee 30 #16 Maryland 23

Validation for Johnny Majors:  in his seventh season at the helm, the Vols turned in their first 9+ win season since 1972 by beating #16 Maryland in the Citrus Bowl.  While QB Alan Cockrell was consistent, going 16 of 23 for 185 yards, RB Johnnie Jones was spectacular:  29 carries for 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both coming in the fourth quarter as the Vols went from down 20-16 to winning 30-20.  Maryland would get closer with three, but that was it.

11. 1971 Liberty Bowl:  #9 Tennessee 14 #18 Arkansas 13

Bill Battle's second team lost to a pair of top five teams from the state of Alabama, but won the rest to finish 10-2 after a late rally in Memphis against Arkansas.  The Hogs out-gained the Vols 367-239, but a late fumble gave Tennessee life.  Curt Watson would punch in the game-winning touchdown, ensured by a Vol interception on the following drive.  This was the first meeting between Tennessee and Arkansas since 1907.

Tomorrow:  the Top 10.