The Buckeyes started off the season with a surprising win over the Notre Dame. However the media buzz around the Big Ten surrounded the Northwestern Wildcats who earned their way to an unbeaten conference run. Because the Buckeyes held the tiebreaker over the Wildcats, the only thing between the Buckeyes invitation into the Rose Bowl and a possible National Championship was their rival the Michigan Wolverines. However, running back Tim Biakabutuka led the Wolverines to a 31-23 upset, sending the 'Cats to the Rose Bowl.
Tennessee started off the season with victories over East Carolina and Georgia, before heading off to Gainesville to play the rival Gators. The Vols held a 30–21 halftime lead only to be outscored 41–7 in the second half, suffering a 62–37 defeat. However, the team would go on to win their remaining 8 regular season games, including a 41–14 win over Alabama. The Vols ended the season ranked third.