The history of college football championship games

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The history of college football championship games originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

A new college football champion will be crowned next Monday.

The Alabama Crimson Tide is set to square off against the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Jan. 10. Alabama handed Georgia its first loss of the season with a convincing 41-24 victory back on Dec. 4 in the SEC Championship Game.

The win propelled the Crimson Tide to the top seed in the College Football Playoff, while the Bulldogs fell to No. 3. Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young and Alabama cruised to a 27-6 CFP semifinal win over No. 4 Cincinnati, while Georgia toppled No. 2 Michigan 34-11 in its semifinal matchup to set up the national title grudge match.

Along with this year’s conference championship game, Alabama and Georgia have recent history on the national championship stage. The two sides needed overtime to determine a winner back in the 2018 CFP National Championship, with Tua Tagovailoa capping off Alabama’s comeback with a game-winning touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith.

This is Georgia’s first time back in the national title game since then and the team is seeking its championship since 1980.

Alabama brings much more championship experience into the 2022 title game. The school has the most national championships in the poll era (1936-present) with 13 and is seeking its second straight title.

Not all of Alabama’s titles came directly via a national championship game victory. College football went through several systems to determine a top team before landing on its current College Football Playoff format.

Here’s a look back at recent national title winners and the system in place for their championships:

Bowl Coalition and Bowl Alliance champions by year

From 1968 (the year the AP poll began crowning its champion after bowl games) to 1992, the No. 1 and No. 2 teams entering bowl season only matched up in a bowl game six times.

After Consensus National Champions were announced for the 1990 and 1991 seasons, the Bowl Coalition went into place beginning with the 1992 season. The coalition was formed through an agreement between conferences and bowl games to set up a national championship game between the top two teams each season. After three seasons, the coalition was reconfigured and became the Bowl Alliance, which lasted for three seasons, as well.

There was a major flaw in the Bowl Coalition and Bowl Alliance being used to crown a national champion: the Big Ten and Pac-10 were not involved since both conferences were contractually obligated to play in the Rose Bowl. The Tournament of Roses Association did not allow either conference champion to play in a title game, even if one of them was ranked No. 1 or No. 2.

Here are the championship game results from the years under the Bowl Coalition and Bowl Alliance:

  • 1993 Sugar Bowl: No. 2 Alabama 34, No. 1 Miami 13

  • 1994 Orange Bowl: No. 1 Florida State 18, No. 2 Nebraska 16

  • 1995 Orange Bowl: No. 1 Nebraska 24, No. 3 Miami 17

  • 1996 Fiesta Bowl: No. 1 Nebraska 62, No. 2 Florida 24

  • 1997 Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Florida 52, No. 1 Florida State 20

  • 1998 Orange Bowl: No. 2 Nebraska 42, No. 3 Tennessee 17

Even with the Bowl Coalition in place, it still did not lead to a consensus champion. For the 1997 season, Nebraska was named the national champion via the Coaches’ Poll following its Orange Bowl win over Tennessee, but No. 1 Michigan was named the national champion via the Associated Press after winning the 1998 Rose Bowl over No. 7 Washington State.

BCS National Championship winners by year

The Bowl Championship Series was put in place beginning with the 1998 season. The Big Ten and Pac-10, along with the Rose Bowl, joined Bowl Alliance’s member conferences to create a system that determined five bowl matchups between 10 of the top-ranked teams.

Known for its combination of polls and computer selection methods, the BCS did not have a standalone title game until the 2006 season. From 1999 through 2006, the top two teams squared off for the national championship via a rotating group of four elite bowls: the Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl.

Here are the BCS Championship contests from 1999 through 2006:

  • 1999 Fiesta Bowl: No. 1 Tennessee 23, No. 2 Florida State 16

  • 2000 Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Florida State 46, No. 2 Virginia Tech 29

  • 2001 Orange Bowl: No. 1 Oklahoma 13, No. 2 Florida State 2

  • 2002 Rose Bowl: No. 1 Miami 37, No. 2 Nebraska 14

  • 2003 Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State 31, No. 1 Miami 24 (2OT)

  • 2004 Sugar Bowl: No. 2 LSU 21, No. 1 Oklahoma 14

  • 2005 Orange Bowl: No. 1 USC 55, No. 2 Oklahoma 19

  • 2006 Rose Bowl: No. 2 Texas 41, No. 1 USC 38

BCS National Championship Game winners by year

The national title was determined through the BCS National Championship Game for the 2006 season through the 2013 season. The championship was a standalone contest that pinned the top two ranked teams entering bowl season.

Here is the winner from each BCS National Championship Game (the BCS named its championship games based on the year in which the game was played, not the season as a whole):

  • 2007: No. 2 Florida 41, No. 1 Ohio State 14

  • 2008: No. 2 LSU 38, No. 1 Ohio State

  • 2009: No. 2 Florida 24, No. 1 Oklahoma 14

  • 2010: No. 1 Alabama 37, No. 2 Texas 21

  • 2011: No. 1 Auburn 22, No. 2 Oregon 19

  • 2012: No. 2 Alabama 21, No. 1 LSU 0

  • 2013: No. 2 Alabama 42, No. 1 Notre Dame 14

  • 2014: No. 1 Florida State 34, No. 2 Auburn 31

College Football Playoff National Championship winners by year

The College Football Playoff system replaced the BCS beginning with the 2014 season. The CFP puts the top four ranked teams in a single-elimination bracket with semifinals being played in bowl games. The winners of the two semifinals then match up in the CFP National Championship.

Here are the final scores for the CFP National Championship game since it crowned its first champion in the 2014 season (the College Football Playoff also names its championship games based on the year in which it is played):

  • 2015: No. 4 Ohio State 42, No. 2 Oregon 20

  • 2016: No. 2 Alabama 45, No. 1 Clemson 40

  • 2017: No. 2 Clemson 35, No. 1 Alabama 31

  • 2018: No. 4 Alabama 26, No. 3 Georgia 23 (OT)

  • 2019: No. 2 Clemson 44, No. 1 Alabama 16

  • 2020: No. 1 LSU 42, No. 3 Clemson 25

  • 2021: No. 1 Alabama 52, No. 3 Ohio State 24

Where will next year’s College Football Playoff National Championship be played?

After a champion is crowned Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, the next title game will be played at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., on Jan. 9, 2023. The venue will host its first CFP National Championship and Super Bowl less than 11 months apart, with Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022, and a college title game on Jan. 9, 2023.

The 2023 CFP National Championship will be played at NRG Stadium, which is home of the Houston Texans. The 2024 title game is set for Jan. 6, 2025, and the 2025 title game is set for Jan. 5, 2026, but neither venue has been announced yet.