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5 Non-Conference Games the Vols Should Play Again

Penn State Nittany Lions

(Photo via Matthew O’Haren/USA TODAY Sports)

Tennessee and Penn State have played five times, with their last meeting coming in the 2007 Outback Bowl. But the two most interesting games came in 1971-72, early in the coaching tenures of the Nittany Lions’ Joe Paterno and the Vols’ Bill Battle.

Tennessee won the first match-up convincingly in a 31-11 decision that was nationally televised on ABC. Penn State came into that game undefeated and among the best scoring offenses in the country before the Vols’ defense, led by All-American safety Bobby Majors, helped snap Penn State’s 15-game win streak.

That 1971 game was a day game in Knoxville, and Paterno allegedly told Tennessee athletic director Bob Woodruff that he and his Nittany Lion team would not return unless the game was played at night because of the heat and humidity.

Woodruff had lights installed at Neyland Stadium the following offseason, and the two met in the first night game in Neyland Stadium history — a game the Vols won again in a much closer affair, 28-21.

Both programs have an argument to be included among college football’s bluebloods, so seeing them play again is appealing for the fact that it would feature one of those classic North vs South games between two old powers.

Tennessee has never played at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, but one under the lights paired with Happy Valley’s famed “white out” would be a site to see for visiting Vols fans. All three of the previous match-ups between the two programs after 1972 have come in bowl games, and the Nittany Lions have won all three postseason games.

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