1938, 1940, 1950, and 1967 Tennessee Vols Football Teams

by R Akin
(Nashville, TN)

All four of these teams were recognized as official National Champions by the NCAA. The 1956 team is also recognized by Sagarin, which is an offical NCAA selector, but Tennessee, unlike other schools, does not recognize retroactive titles. The 4 I mention in the title were selected during the years they played.


The 1938 team has a claim to being the best ever in the SEC. It was 11-0 and only allowed 17 points all year. It shut out Oklahoma 17-0 in the Orange Bowl, considered one of the roughest games ever played.

Tennessee was named National Champ by 5 of the 8 selectors that year, but the AP, in just its 3rd year of existence (and not considered the major selector of the time), chose TCU because it was enamored with its Doug Flutie-esque QB, Davey O'Brien (TCU struggled to defeat Carnegie Mellon in its bowl game).

Legendary Pitt coach Jock Sutherland, after seeing Tennessee play, declared that they (the 1938 team) were not only the best college team he'd seen, but that they would beat many pro teams of the day.

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