UT better in '01 than '98

Tennessee's 1998 football team won 13 of 13 games, the SEC Eastern Division title, the SEC overall title and the national championship. Still, that may not have been the best team Phil Fulmer has fielded.

The incomparable Peyton Manning guided the Vols to records of 11-1 (1995), 10-2 (1996) and 11-2 (1997), yet none of those teams was Fulmer's best.

Interviewed for a recent episode of the "Head Coach" television series, Fulmer suggested that the Vols "had maybe our best team" in 2001.

That '01 squad beat Florida 34-32 in Steve Spurrier's final home game at The Swamp to cap an 11-1 regular season. One step from facing Miami in the Rose Bowl for the national title, however, the 2001 Vols lost 31-20 to Nick Saban's LSU Tigers in the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. Tennessee then bounced back to annihilate Michigan 45-17 in the Citrus Bowl.

Fulmer says he learned a lot from that season, in spite of the gut-wrenching evening at the Georgia Dome, just as he learned a lot from the national championship season of 1998.

"You learn from the great experiences you have," he told Head Coach host Doug Malousis. "I learned a lot about ourselves in '98, when we won the national championship. Or 2001, when we had maybe our best team, really. But I also learned a lot about ourselves (while going 5-6 in 2005)."

Asked what specifically he learned about his program from the '98 national title, Fulmer smiled as he replied:

"The next time we do it – and we WILL hold that trophy up again – I'm going to take some time and enjoy it."

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