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Tennessee Lands Twice on “The Most Overrated College Football Teams Ever During the AP Poll Era”

Can you guess the teams?

Tennessee Volunteers v Notre Dame Fighting Irish Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The mothership ( released a piece this week detailing the most overrated teams all-time in the AP Poll era. The post took the preseason rankings from each year and found the team that underperformed the most. Tennessee landed on the list twice — representing the 2005 and 1988 seasons.

Let’s remember those two terrible seasons.


Being a Tennessee fan born in 1992, I was not used to losing a lot of football games. That has since changed, but 2005 was my first taste of a football season that just absolutely fell apart.

2004 was derailed by the Auburn Tigers, who beat Tennessee twice on their way to an undefeated season. The only other blemish that season was to Notre Dame, who came away with a win in Knoxville. Tennessee returned plenty of talent in 2005, becoming a trendy pick to win it all after demolishing Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.

Tennessee began the season ranked 3rd in the nation.

2004 started out much like 2016, with the Vols surviving a scare from what should have been a gimme game against UAB. The Blazers had a chance to tie it late — that should have been our warning sign.

Tennessee went on to get beat 17-6 at Florida the next week, starting the losing streak that just ended last season. Then surprisingly, in one of the most memorable games in Tennessee history, Rick Clausen led the Vols to a win at #4 LSU on that Monday night.

The 2005 Vols climbed back to #8 in the polls before dropping four straight games to Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Notre Dame. Tennessee barely squeaked by Memphis, but then dropped their first game to Vanderbilt since 1982.

It was the first time Tennessee didn’t make a bowl game since 1988, which leads me to.....


This was four years before I was born, so I’ll let Jason take the lead here.

1988: No. 9 Iowa went an incredible 6-4-3 — sounds like an illegal soccer formation — and No. 15 Michigan State went 6-5-1. But praise Tennessee (x2) for losing every game before October 22, going from No. 17 to 5-6, and beating nobody better than 6-5 Memphis. At the end of a 38-6 loss to Auburn, Tigers coaches were urging their players not to score.

An 0-6 start — including a loss to Duke in Knoxville may never be matched again. 1989 saw Phillip Fulmer rise to offensive coordinator, helping bring an 11-1 record to Tennessee. They finished ranked 5th in the nation after that disastrous 1988 season.

Sorry for this depressing trip down memory lane, but it was fun to look back through some of the biggest busts in college football history. You should read this entire post from Kirk -- it’s a fun read.