History of repeat champions in college football

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History of repeat champions in college football originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Georgia Bulldogs went back-to-back in a big way.

Kirby Smart’s team reached the national title game for the second straight season after defeating Ohio State in an exhilarating Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve. Georgia’s season then culminated with the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday against TCU at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif, and it ended in a historic beatdown.

Georgia earned its third national title and became the first team in over a decade to successfully defend its title with a 65-7 trouncing over TCU. The Horned Frogs scored a first-quarter touchdown to make the score 10-7, but the Bulldogs proceeded to post 55 unanswered points to emphatically earn a second straight CFP crown.

Just how rare is it to win consecutive college football championships? Let’s look at the company Georgia joined with its perfect 2022 season:

How many college football teams have won consecutive championships?

Fourteen teams can claim back-to-back titles since the AP began naming a champion in 1936, but it’s not that simple.

While the NCAA now has a system in place to name a definitive champion, most of college football history was played without a nominal title game. There were also different voting bodies that named an annual champion, leading to multiple teams being able to claim a given year’s title.

Even the installation of the Bowl Championship Series in 1998 did not put an end to co-champions. USC claims the 2003 title despite not playing in that season’s designated title game, the Fiesta Bowl. The Trojans were one of three one-loss teams vying for a spot in the contest, but despite finishing No. 1 in the AP and coaches’ polls, LSU and Oklahoma got to duke it out. LSU won that game, but USC remained in the top spot of the AP poll at season’s end after beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

Seven teams can claim to be uncontested, back-to-back college football champions, while seven others have a co-championship as part of their consecutive titles. Here are those 14 teams:

  • Minnesota – 1940, 1941

  • Army – 1944, 1945

  • Notre Dame – 1946, 1947

  • Oklahoma – 1955, 1956

  • Alabama – 1964, 1965 (named co-champions both years)

  • Michigan State – 1965, 1966 (named co-champions both years)

  • Texas – 1969, 1970 (co-champions with two other teams in 1970)

  • Nebraska – 1970, 1971 (co-champions with two other teams in 1970)

  • Oklahoma – 1974, 1975 (co-champions in 1974)

  • Alabama – 1978, 1979 (co-champions in 1978)

  • Nebraska – 1994, 1995

  • USC – 2003, 2004 (co-champions in 2003, 2004 championship vacated by NCAA)

  • Alabama – 2011, 2012

  • Georgia – 2021, 2022

Has a college football team ever won three straight championships?

Six teams have been named champions in three straight seasons, though no Division I college football program has three-peated in over 80 years. Minnesota was the last team to do it, winning three consecutive titles from 1934 to 1936.

Like the back-to-back champs, more than half of the back-to-back-to-back champs were aided by co-champion status. Minnesota and Yale are the only teams to win three straight, undisputed titles.

Here are the six teams that claimed titles in three consecutive years:

  • Princeton – 1878, 1879, 1880 (co-champions in 1880)

  • Yale – 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884 (co-champions in 1880)

  • Yale – 1886, 1887, 1888

  • Michigan – 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904 (co-champions in 1903 and 1904)

  • California – 1920, 1921, 1922 (co-champions in 1921 and 1922)

  • Minnesota – 1934, 1935, 1936