What happened to the past 10 national champs the next year?
The repeat, it’s a difficult thing to do, even for powerhouse SEC teams. It hasn’t been done since 2011-12 when Alabama pulled off the feat. Before that, you’d have to roll the calendar back to last century to find Nebraska winning back-to-back titles in 1994-95. Prior to that, it was Alabama 1978-79. You get the picture.
It’s tough to win consecutive national championships in college football. In fact, it’s darn near impossible. Clemson will try to buck the trend this season without quarterback Deshaun Watson, now with the NFL’s Houston Texans. Hey, Clemson, good luck with that.
No, there are simply too many factors in a college football season that derail a team from reaching the top of the heap in a given year, much less two in a row.
So here’s a look at the past 10 national champions, what they did the following year, and what went wrong.
Next year: 8-5 overall, 3-5 in SEC
What happened: The Tigers lacked leadership with QB Matt Flynn, RB Jacob Hester, and DT Glenn Dorsey moving on to the NFL. Defensive coordinator Bo Pelini left to become head coach at Nebraska, and the Tigers fell apart. After opening the season with four consecutive victories, including a 26-21 win at No. 10 Auburn, the Tigers were brought down to earth in The Swamp with a crushing 51-21 loss to No. 11 Florida and never recovered.
Next year: 13-1, 8-0 in SEC
What happened: With Tim Tebow under center and 11 returning players on defense, it looked pretty good for the Gators to repeat. Holding on to a No. 1 ranking for 12 of the 13 weeks in the season, Florida won all 12 regular season games. But a 32-13 spanking from No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game extinguished any hopes of a repeat. The Tide went on to win the national championship (beating Texas 37-21 in a battle of undefeated teams) while Florida took out its frustrations with a 51-24 victory over Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl.
Next year: 10-3, 5-3 in SEC
What happened: The Tide returned just two players on defense from their championship season and the rigors of a brutal SEC schedule caught up to them. After opening the year with five consecutive victories, including consecutive wins at No. 10 Arkansas (24-20) and No. 7 Florida (31-6), the Tide dropped SEC road games to No. 19 South Carolina (35-21) and No. 10 LSU (24-21) before a heartbreaking 28-27 loss to eventual national champion Auburn.
Next year: 8-5, 4-4 in SEC
What happened: With key losses to the NFL of QB Cam Newton and DL Nick Fairley, among many others, the Tigers were like a rudderless ship following their championship season. Auburn dropped an early-season game at Clemson. Later, after an Oct. 1 win at No. 10 South Carolina, they proceeded to lose every game for the rest of the regular season. The Tigers settled for a Chick-Fil-A Bowl victory over Virginia (43-24) to close the season.
Next year: 13-1, 7-1 in SEC
What happened: Everything fell into place for the Tide to repeat as national champions. They lost to Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M during the regular season, but the Aggies spit the bit, losing a chance to play for the SEC title with losses to Florida and LSU. So Alabama made the most of its opportunity, winning the rest of its games, including a 42-14 thrashing of Notre Dame in the national championship game.
Next year: 11-2, 7-1 in SEC
What happened: The Crimson Tide were cruising through an undefeated season and looked on pace for the unthinkable, a third consecutive national championship. But then the “Kick Six” happened and Auburn, not Alabama, went on to play in and win the SEC Championship Game and advance to the College Football Playoff, while the Tide dropped a 45-31 decision to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
Champion: Florida State
Next year: 13-1, 8-0 in ACC
What happened: Undefeated ACC champions, the Seminoles looked to be on their way to consecutive national titles with Heisman Trophy-winning QB Jameis Winston at the helm. But in the inaugural College Football Playoff, Florida State saw its 29-game win streak snapped in the Rose Bowl by an Oregon team that went on to lose to Ohio State in the championship game.
Champion: Ohio State
Next year: 12-1, 7-1 in Big Ten
What happened: Despite losing just one game during the regular season, 17-14 at home to East Division champion Michigan State, the Buckeyes were left out of the College Football Playoff. They settled for a 44-28 Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame and a No. 4 ranking in both the AP and Coaches polls.
Next year: 14-1 overall, 8-0 in SEC
What happened: It nearly happened for them. The Tide came as close as they could to repeating without taking home the crystal football. Coming ever so close to a fourth in five years, Alabama was thwarted by the Clemson Tigers in a rematch of the previous year’s national championship game.
Next year: TBD
What will happen? Without Watson at quarterback, it seems highly unlikely that the Tigers can pull off another finish like they did in 2016. Certainly, stranger things have happened, but odds-makers aren’t giving Clemson much of a chance to repeat. The Tigers enter the season as a 28-1 underdog to win the 2017 national championship.