History is about to repeat itself, but also be made at the same time.
The College Football Playoff system has been around for five seasons now. Alabama and Clemson are set to play in their third national championship game together during that span. Therein lies the repeat.
Both teams are 14-0, meaning one will become the first 15-0 Football Bowl Subdivision champion in the modern era. That’s the history in the making.
“In seven or eight days after the game, if we do what it takes to win, I think we can sit back and be pretty proud of it,” Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams said Tuesday. “But right now, we’re just focused on getting to that point.”
Each team got to this point – with a bid to the 2019 CFP National Championship game on Jan. 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California – fair and square.
Alabama won all but one of its games by double digits, the sole exception being the SEC championship where it beat Georgia by a touchdown. Clemson trumped 12 of its 14 opponents by 20 points or more, leaving out Texas A&M (two points) and Syracuse (four points).
The Crimson Tide has the No. 2 scoring offense (47.7 points per game) and the No. 5 scoring defense (16.2 points per game). The Tigers are fourth (44.3 points per game) and first (12.9 points per game) respectively in those same categories.
“I mean, these are two really good teams that are both hard to beat,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said on Monday’s CFP teleconference. “You’ve got to do the little things to give yourself a chance … because you just don’t have a lot of room for error, either team.”
Especially since the two teams know each other very well, despite being in different conferences. (“Just pencil them in,” Williams said.)
This will be the fourth year in a row Alabama has played Clemson. The 2015 and 2016 season title games were split – Alabama won the first, Clemson the second. Then one of last season’s semifinals saw Alabama win and advance.
Familiarity doesn’t exactly mean easier, though.
“I’d say it’s tougher because they’re not going to do the same things they did last year, especially if the team lost,” UA linebacker Mack Wilson said. “So, it’s like you’ve got to expect the unexpected.”
Whoever can do that will win and close out the season undefeated thanks to win No. 15. It has been 122 years since that last happened.
Penn went 15-0 in 1897, after already having a 15-1 season in 1892. The only other FBS team to hit the 15-win mark was Yale in 1889 (15-1) and 1894 (16-0).
Time to blow the dust of the history book.
“I think that 14-0 is cool and 15-0 is amazing,” Williams said. “But 14-1 doesn’t really matter. No one is going to remember that.”
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.