1. No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers 52, No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide 49
This was the best game of the best weekend of the season. Yes, other games on this list have featured the end of streaks, offensive explosions, jaw-dropping performances, lead changes, heated rivalries, fans rushing the field, and late-game pandemonium. However, none of them had all of those things. The third Saturday in October had been a nightmare for Vols fans for the past 15 years.
Since Nick Saban arrived in Alabama, Tennessee had never beaten him, and most of the matchups were one-sided. My girlfriend, a UT grad, didn’t even know about the victory cigar tradition seeing as she couldn’t even drive the last time the Vols beat Bama.
After Josh Heupel’s team squandered a 28-10 lead, and Tide linebacker Dallas Turner waltzed into the endzone on a scoop-and-score midway through the fourth quarter to take a 49-42 lead, the inevitably of Saban and Alabama crept back in.
On a night when Bryce Young was unconscious — 455 yards passing and innumerable Houdini impressions to extend drives — none of that mysticism mattered. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker and the Vol offense would not be denied. Finishing with 441 total yards and five passing TDs, Hooker found Jalin Hyatt for his fifth receiving score with three and a half minutes left to tie it up at 49. The 11-play, 75-yard drive took part mostly on the ground as the Bama defense was absolutely gassed.
Applauding a Tennessee defense that allowed 569 yards seems laughable, but they did get a stop with Bama and Young threatening to get in chip-shot range. After forcing three-straight incompletions to stall the Tide drive at the UT 32, Will Reichard missed a 50 yarder that would’ve given Bama a three-point lead with 15 seconds remaining.
As opposed to sitting on the ball and going to overtime, Heupel trusted his quarterback, who completed two passes for 18 and 27 yards to put UT in range for a 40-yard field goal that kicker Chase McGrath made despite the ball spinning sideways off his foot.
Knoxville erupted in joy, fans rushed the field, lit cigars with UT players and coaches, tore down the goalpost, carried it to Tennessee River, and dumped the keepsake into the waterway. Even though there were many indelible moments from this college football season, Tennessee 52, Alabama 49 will live on the longest.