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Top 10 Vol Upsets in the Modern Era


1. Miami in the 1986 Sugar Bowl

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It was supposed to be a night that led to a potential Miami Hurricane national championship. The Canes were one of the decade’s marquee programs, armed with the type of star power that comes alongside names like Jimmy Johnson, Vinny Testeverde and Michael Irvin. All the No. 2 ranked Hurricanes had to do was take care of business against a (supposedly) outmatched Tennessee team, then hope for an Oklahoma loss against Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions to claim the crown. But Oklahoma wouldn’t lose.

And neither would Tennessee.

Vinny Testeverde and company got out to a 7-0 lead. But UT flipped the script as quarterback Daryl Dickey, who had replaced Tony Robinson as the starter after his season-ending injury against Alabama, led the Volunteer offense to 35 unanswered points in what amounted to a nationally televised assault. Perhaps most gratifying was seeing the Volunteer defense under Ken Donahue, a local boy from Corryton, confound the high-octane Hurricane attack, forcing them into six turnovers.

Tennessee defensive back Chris White, who led the NCAA in interceptions that year, would notch the game’s signature play with an acrobatic pick (pictured above) which he’d return inside the Miami five, setting the Vols up for the game’s final score, the cherry atop the sundae that told anyone who watched what Tennessee thought about the Miamis of the world — even if Keith Jackson was reluctant to get the message.  The win would launch the Tennessee football to national prominence and would also prove to be a harbinger of things to come.

Here’s hoping Tennessee shocks the world again in Norman, for if they do, I’d love nothing more than to revisit this list.

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