Since 2015, Clemson and Alabama have owned college football.
The two programs have an identical 55-4 record during that time. They both have two national championships each in the last four years and they are 2-2 against each other in head-to-head matchups, all coming in the College Football Playoff.
Three times they have met in the national championship game, with the Tigers winning two of those three matchups. Never in the history of college football have the same two teams played each other multiple times for the national championship.
“These two dominating is fantastic for college football,” ESPN analyst Trevor Matich said Wednesday on College Football Live. “What is good for sport is passion. Some fans love these teams, more hate these teams because they are on top all the time.”
According to ESPN’s Brad Edwards, since Clemson became the No. 1 ranked team on November 1 of 2015, the Tigers or the Crimson Tide have been ranked No. 1 in each of the last 54 Associated Press Polls. It is the longest streak of two teams occupying the top spot in the 83-year history of the AP Poll, which first began in 1936.
Many expect this trend to continue this season. When the preseason AP Poll is released later this month, Clemson or Alabama is expected to be the top-ranked team, extending the streak to 55 weeks to start the 2019 season.
Though Matich thinks Clemson and Alabama dominating college football is good for the game, his colleague at ESPN does not agree.
“It just gets old. It is fun for certain people. It is fun for certain fan bases, in particular,” analyst Marcus Spears said. “But I remember sitting in Atlanta when Auburn was playing Georgia for the SEC Championship, there was more of a buzz. There was more of a sense of ‘Man! We are about to get a game.’ It wasn’t Alabama and we know Alabama is going to win and they are going to end up in the national championship after this game, even though Georgia has pushed them to the brink.
“When Auburn and Georgia played in the SEC Championship, the buzz in the building was a lot more groovy than it has been with just Alabama for so many years, playing whoever they play in the East and everybody knowing what the result will be.”
ESPN’s Football Power Index predicts a 23-percent chance this year that Clemson and Alabama will meet again in the national championship game.
“I want to contextualize that we need to pay attention to how big 23 percent of them getting back to playing each other in the national championship is,” Spears said. “With all of the other schools that play college football, this is almost saying this is a guarantee when you compare them to everybody else who has participation in trying to make it to the College Football Playoff.”
And though some may not like Clemson and Alabama owning the college football world, Matich says both programs have shown other programs how it needs to be done.
“When (Nick) Saban and Dabo (Swinney) took over their schools, they were pretty average. They used different styles, but similar principles to get to the top,” he said. “It is not like they both had money. Clemson had never raised money the way Dabo has raised money in the terms of the amount and in the number of donors. So, these are things that other schools, even if they don’t have the huge dollars, are able to emulate if they are good enough.
“They showed the path and the result. The fruit is on the tree. Others can do it, too, and that is good for college football.”