Since the wire service era began in 1936, no college football team has ever won three consecutive national championships. Fourteen teams, including last year’s Georgia Bulldogs, have won back-to-back titles, but none have claimed the elusive three-peat.
Some schools have been close, but you can add Georgia to the list of 14 that have failed at winning three consecutive national titles. Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart is 81-15 in his seven seasons at Georgia. His team will fare well again in 2023, but history is not on the Bulldogs’ side.
Go Army, Let’s Tie
There were several great Army teams of the 1940s. Legendary head coach Red Blaik won back-to-back national championships in 1944 and 1945. Blaik and the Black Knights won 25 straight games before facing off with national power Notre Dame. The two teams played to a scoreless tie in what is considered one of the best college football games of all-time.
The result would leave Army 9-0-1 that season and give the national title to the Fighting Irish. It was the start of something special in South Bend.
After winning the 1946 title, Notre Dame and its Hall of Fame coach Frank Leahy won the 1947 crown too. They were led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Lujack. The Fighting Irish were on their way to a third straight championship but were passed in the polls by Michigan.
Eventually, Notre Dame would tie USC and end up No. 2 in the final poll in 1948. In what would have been an unprecedented run, Leahy and the Irish won the national title again in 1949.
Close But No Cigar
Nebraska was one of the most successful college football programs of the 1970s through the 2000s. Bob Devaney won consecutive national titles in 1970 and ‘71 before going 9-2-1 in 1972. The Cornhuskers finished No. 4 in the country that season.
Devaney’s protege, Tom Osborne, put together one of the most dominant runs in modern college football history. First, Osborne and the Huskers won 25 straight games in winning consecutive titles in 1994 and ‘95. That came after Osborne and Nebraska lost to Florida State 18-16 in the 1993 title game. The Cornhuskers missed a field goal on the game’s last play.
Then, in 1996, Nebraska was on its way to another BCS national championship. All they had to do was beat Texas in the Big 12 title game. The Huskers were a double-digit favorite over the Longhorns but fell victim to the upset, 37-27, and finished No. 6 in the final polls.
Pete Carroll had a great run at USC in the 2000s. They won the 2003 and 2004 national titles and were looking for a three-peat in 2005. The Trojans won 34 straight games before they faced Texas and its dynamic quarterback, Vince Young.
Young scored the game-winning touchdown with nine seconds remaining in the 2005 Rose Bowl to prevent USC from claiming the first three-peat in CFB history. The Trojans wound up No. 2.
History vs. Georgia
The Bulldogs are a +250 favorite to win a third straight national championship. That number is likely to decrease as Georgia begins its season. Smart’s team will have two easy ones to start the season – UT-Martin and Ball State. They’ll get UAB in Week 4 sandwiched in between South Carolina at home and Auburn on the road. That could be the Bulldogs’ first real test.
Georgia likely won’t get much resistance until Ole Miss shows up between the hedges of Sanford Stadium on Nov. 11. Then, the big one…at Tennessee.
The Bulldogs will get everyone’s best shot. If they do manage to win the SEC East, they will likely need to win the SEC championship to get into the College Football Playoff. Then, they’ll need another semifinal win and a title game win…all with a new quarterback.
Sure, Smart returns 18 starters from last year’s team, but without a proven quarterback to start the season the Bulldogs are going to have some questions early. Maintaining that kind of dominance is difficult, especially when one of the teams – Alabama – that is a contender, plays in your conference.
While Georgia has a great chance to become the first three-peat champion, history is not on the Bulldogs’ side.
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