In his senior season, the Vols opened the season with victories against Texas Tech and UCLA, but for the third time in his career, Manning fell to Florida 33–20. The Vols won the rest of their regular season games, finishing 10–1, and advanced to the SEC Championship game against Auburn. Down 20–7 in the second quarter, Manning led the Vols to a 30–29 comeback victory. Throwing for four touchdowns, he was named the game's MVP, but injured himself in the process. The #3 Vols were matched-up with #2 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl; if Tennessee won and top-ranked Michigan lost to Washington State in the Rose Bowl, the Vols would have won the national championship. However, the Vols' defense could not stop Nebraska's rushing attack, giving up over 400 rushing yards in a 42–17 loss. As a senior, Manning won numerous awards; he was a consensus first-team All-American, the Maxwell Award winner, the Davey O'Brien Award winner, the Johnny Unitas Award winner, and the Best College Player ESPY award winner, among others. He finished as the runner-up to Charles Woodson in the 1997 Heisman Trophy voting. In 2005, Tennessee retired Manning's number (No. 16). One of the streets leading to Neyland Stadium has been renamed Peyton Manning Pass. While at the University of Tennessee, Manning excelled academically and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa Society in 1997 and awarded the National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Award.
Even though these details were identical to those used in the Tony Romo hoax back in March, many people believed it and took to Twitter to spread the false news.