College football typically doesn't do rematches.
The 2011 LSU-Alabama rematch in the national championship game after playing in November was viewed almost as blasphemy, enough so to make it a significant domino in the creation of a College Football Playoff. Rarely do teams that play each other in the regular season play each other again in the bowls -- Army and North Texas being an exception this year -- and it's also rare for a postseason game to feature the same matchup two years in a row.
We are about to get another big exception, thanks to the playoff: Alabama vs. Clemson, Part II, in the national championship game on Monday. The venue will be different -- Tampa this time, Arizona last time -- but the Crimson Tide and Tigers will again decide the title. It should be a welcomed rematch: Last year's 45-40 Alabama win was one of the best championship games ever, and the two teams established their clear superiority with blowout wins in the semifinals.
Led by quarterback Deshaun Watson and a dominant defensive line, Clemson will attempt to reverse its fortunes against yet another Alabama behemoth. Can the Tigers get it done? This is the first-ever 1 vs. 2 rematch, but let's look back at the history of major postseason games that hosted the same matchup in consecutive years.
Years listed refer to the seasons of the games.
Sugar Bowl, 1936-37: Santa Clara (2) vs. LSU (0)
After Tulane beat Temple in the first Sugar Bowl, LSU made the short trek from Baton Rouge to New Orleans each of the next three years. The Tigers went winless in those games, first losing to TCU by the thrilling score of 3-2. That was followed by back-to-back losses at the hands of Santa Clara, which went on to spend much of the century as a Division II team before dropping football altogether in 1993. In the years leading up to World War II, the Broncos were a budding power, finishing in the AP top 15 five times from 1936-42. In 1936, they beat Auburn in the regular season and lost their final game to TCU. Despite having to essentially play a road game against No. 2 LSU, who was 9-0-1, Santa Clara prevailed 21-14 in rainy conditions. "Aerial attack too much for Louisiana State," read a Shreveport Times headline. It was hardly an offensive show, though: There were 24 punts, six interceptions and 10 fumbles.
A year later, the Sugar Bowl invited back undefeated No. 9 Santa Clara for a rematch with 9-0 LSU, ranked eighth. There were merely six turnovers this time, and Santa Clara won the game 6-0. "So far as the Louisiana State University Tigers are concerned the West still reigns supreme in college football," wrote The Times.
Cotton Bowl, 1969-70: Texas (1) vs. Notre Dame (1)
Ohio State's loss to Michigan vaulted Texas to No. 1 in the polls near the end of the 1969 regular season, and President Richard Nixon infamously declared Texas the national champion after a win over No. 2 Arkansas on Dec. 6. That, of course, ignored the impending bowls and ignored the fact that Penn State was also undefeated and hadn't lost in over two years. The Longhorns and Nittany Lions did not match up in a bowl; instead, the Longhorns had their first of two meetings with Notre Dame, which was 8-1-1 and ranked No. 9. The teams traded off touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and Texas won 21-17 after James Street completed a fourth-down pass in the red zone and Billy Dale punched in the go-ahead score with 1:08 left. Poll voters agreed with Nixon, and Texas claimed the national title.
Notre Dame got its revenge against the Longhorns the next year, snapping their 30-game winning streak and preventing them from claiming another AP national title … although they did claim the UPI title, which was still voted on before the bowls. Joe Theismann led the No. 6 Irish to a 24-11 halftime lead, and the score stayed that way the rest of the game, aided by five lost fumbles by Texas.
Rose Bowl, 1972-74: USC (2) vs. Ohio State (1)
For years, Rose Bowl rematches were prevented by a no-repeat rule that ensured that the Big Ten didn't send the same team in consecutive years. The door was opened for rematches in the 1970s. USC actually played in 10 of 14 Rose Bowls from 1966-79, and either Ohio State or Michigan was the Big Ten representative every season from 1968-80 as Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler dominated the conference. It resulted in three straight Buckeyes-Trojans showdowns in Pasadena. In the first game, No. 1 USC capped an undefeated season -- in which it played a tough schedule that featured only teams in current Power Five conferences, plus Notre Dame -- and won the national championship with a 42-17 blowout win over the No. 3 Buckeyes, led by Sam Cunningham's four touchdowns.
In the 1973 season, Ohio State's invitation for a rematch was controversial. Ranked No. 1 most of the season, the Buckeyes tied Michigan 10-10 in the regular-season finale, giving both teams zero losses and one tie. Big Ten athletic directors held a vote to determine the Rose Bowl representative, and Ohio State won. The Buckeyes capitalized on their rematch, avenging their previous defeat with a runaway win over their own, 42-21.
The rubber match in the 1974 season finally delivered a close game: QB Pat Haden led the No. 5 Trojans to an 18-17 win over Heisman winner Archie Griffin and No. 3 Ohio State 18-17. Haden found coach John McKay's son, Johnny McKay, for a 38-yard touchdown with two minutes left, then opted to go for two and the win, and Haden completed a pass to Shelton Diggs for the victory in one of the best Rose Bowls ever. With some help in the other bowls, USC jumped to No. 1 in the UPI coaches poll to claim a share of the national title with Oklahoma.
Orange Bowl, 1979-80: Oklahoma (2) vs. Florida State (0)
Florida State did not finish a season ranked in the AP poll until 1977, Bobby Bowden's second season. Meanwhile, Oklahoma had spent decades as a power and finished in the top seven every year from 1971-80 under Chuck Fairbanks and Barry Switzer. That run was capped by back-to-back matchups with Florida State in the Orange Bowl, a traditional power meeting an ascending one. In 1979, the Seminoles entered the Orange Bowl with their highest ranking ever, sitting at No. 4 with an undefeated record. Hopes of going 12-0 were shattered in Miami, though, as No. 5 Oklahoma flattened FSU 24-7. Led by J.C. Watts and 1978 Heisman winner Billy Sims, Oklahoma's wishbone offense racked up 411 rushing yards, while the Noles managed a paltry 182 total yards despite scoring first.
The next season, Florida State had its highest preseason expectations ever at No. 13, and in the regular season it lost only once, by a point to Miami. By the Orange Bowl, the Noles were ranked No. 2, ready for a rematch with No. 4 Oklahoma. It turned into a heartbreaker. After taking a 17-10 lead on a blocked punt TD, Florida State had to get a stop. Watts led Oklahoma on a TD drive in the final minutes, though, and Switzer opted for two points and the lead instead of tying, with Watts completing a pass for the go-ahead score,.
Orange Bowl, 1989-90: Colorado (1) vs. Notre Dame (1)
Here's a situation Clemson can relate to. These weren't 1 vs. 2 matchups, but Colorado entered each game ranked No. 1, with a chance to clinch the national championship. The first year resulted in failure. The Buffaloes had marched through the 1989 regular season unblemished, and they rose to the top of the polls after top-ranked Notre Dame lost its finale to Miami. It set up a matchup of the No. 4 Fighting Irish and the No. 1 Buffaloes at the Orange Bowl. The teams played relatively even, but Colorado made too many mistakes -- including three turnovers -- and lost 21-6, handing the national championship to Miami.
Colorado capitalized on its opportunity for revenge a year later. It was a strange national championship season, as Colorado tied its opener against Tennessee, lost to Illinois in its third game and bizarrely beat Missouri with the help of the infamous fifth down in its sixth game. But the Buffaloes also scored important wins over Washington, Oklahoma and Nebraska and climbed back to the top of the polls by the end of the regular season, meeting a 9-2 Notre Dame team ranked No. 5 after an upset loss to Penn State in mid-November dropped it from No. 1. Its national titles hopes dashed again, Notre Dame aimed to ruin Colorado's season again. The Irish almost did it. With the score 10-9 -- Colorado blocked the extra point after Notre Dame's second-quarter touchdown -- Rocket Ismail returned a punt 91 yards, breaking multiple tackles on the way to a mind-blowing, go-ahead touchdown with 43 seconds left … only for it to be called back for a clipping penalty. Notre Dame failed to score afterward, and Colorado ended up claiming a share of the national title with Georgia Tech, which rose to the top of the coaches poll.
Rose Bowl, 1991-92: Washington (1) vs. Michigan (1)
A national championship was on the line for Washington in Pasadena in the 1991 season after it beat Iowa in the Rose Bowl the year before. The Huskies were ranked second in the AP poll but first in the coaches poll, and they needed a win against Michigan to share the title with Miami. They did it with little resistance. After a scoreless first quarter, Washington controlled most of the game against a top-five Wolverines squad that had lost only once all season, to then-No. 1 Florida State in September. Led by Steve Emtman and a dominant defense, Washington held Michigan to 205 total yards and won 34-14 to finish off an undefeated season.
In 1992, both teams took a step back in the rankings. Washington, in fact, had been No. 1 but stumbled in late-season losses to Arizona and Washington State, thus entering the Rose Bowl at No. 9. Michigan didn't lose a game … but it tied three times, including its final two games against Illinois and Ohio State. It was enough to earn the Wolverines a repeat Rose Bowl trip at No. 7, and they got their revenge with a 38-31 win over Washington in which Elvis Grbac threw a go-ahead touchdown pass with 5:29 left and Tyrone Wheatley rushed for 235 yards. Michigan finished No. 5.
Cotton Bowl, 1992-93: Notre Dame (2) vs. Texas A&M (0)
Texas A&M lost three straight Cotton Bowls under R.C. Slocum. After losing to Florida State 10-2 to end the 1991 season, the Aggies returned to Dallas with an undefeated season on the line in the twilight years of the Southwest Conference. Despite having an 12-0 record, Texas A&M was ranked only No. 4 entering the Cotton Bowl against No. 5 Notre Dame, thanks to a weak schedule. The Fighting Irish were coming off three straight wins over ranked teams, and they added a fourth, blowing out Texas A&M 28-3 with Rick Mirer, Reggie Brooks and Jerome Bettis in the backfield.
The rematch proved to be a better game. Notre Dame squandered its national championship hopes with a 41-39 loss to Boston College to end an unbeaten run. Ranked fourth heading to the Cotton Bowl, the Irish met a one-loss, No. 7 Texas A&M team that hadn't been defeated since getting blown out by Oklahoma in its second game. The score was tied at 21 in the fourth quarter, and Notre Dame kicked a field goal with 2:20 left to win 24-21.
Orange Bowl, 1992-93: Florida State (2) vs. Nebraska (0)
Before Nebraska had its memorable mid-'90s run of national dominance, Bobby Bowden beat Tom Osborne to the national championship. In their first meeting, there was no title on the line. The No. 3 Seminoles jumped out to a lead on the No. 11 Cornhuskers behind the stellar play of Charlie Ward and they cruised to a 27-14 win to finish 11-1 and ranked second, winning the Orange Bowl for the first time after the two previous losses to Oklahoma.
The next year, both teams had the national title on the line. Ranked No. 1 most of the year, the Seminoles lost by seven at No. 2 Notre Dame in November, but the Irish proceeded to get upset by Boston College the next week. Despite losing the head-to-head matchup, Florida State returned to the top of the AP poll and stayed there. Nebraska, meanwhile, claimed No. 1 in the coaches poll with an unblemished record. Back in Miami against Nebraska, the Seminoles fell behind by a point on a Huskers field goal with 1:16 left. However, Ward and the Noles responded, driving down the field to set up Scott Bentley for what turned out to be a championship-winning 22-yard field goal with 21 seconds to play. Nebraska managed to get in position to try a 45-yard field goal of its own on the last play of the game, but it missed, giving away both a chance at revenge and the national title.