This Is Not First Rematch Rodeo

College football is regarded as having its beginning in 1869 when Rutgers defeated Princeton. The second game? Princeton demanded and received a rematch. So why the controversy now?



This year, Alabama earned a rematch in the BCS National Championship Game. LSU, undefeated at 13-0 and ranked number one in the nation, and number two Alabama, 11-1 with the one loss an overtime setback to LSU, will meet in the Louisiana Superdome on Jan. 9 for the college football crown.

There are legitimate arguments against the BCS system of choosing a national champion in the biggest sport in America, major college football. What there is not an argument against is that the BCS met its mandate of matching the nation's two best college football teams. And there is nothing in the criteria regarding whether there is a rematch or whether the teams come from the same conference or whether a team has to be a conference champion to be national champion.

Two memorable bowl games were rematches, including one for the national championship. Once very rare, the rematch has become more common with conference championship games at the end of the season.

Alabama has played in one Southeastern Conference Championship Game rematch.

This year there were rematches in the Big Ten and ACC in the conference championship games, with varying results. In the Big Ten, Michigan State won the regular season game against Wisconsin, 37-31. In the rematch for the league championship, Wisconsin defeated the Spartans, 42-39. In the ACC, Clemson won both the regular season game (23-3) against Virginia Tech, and then the Tigers certified that win by taking a 38-10 win over the Hokies in the conference championship game.

Just a few years ago much of the nation was clamoring for a rematch. There could not be two better teams in America than No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan, proclaimed many. The Buckeyes took a 42-39 win over the Wolverines in a game that was considered great, the lack of defense notwithstanding. But instead of a rematch, Florida was the number two team in the final BCS poll to meet Ohio State.

After giving up a touchdown on the opening kickoff, the Gators rolled to a 41-14 victory for the 2006 national championship.

A decade earlier, Florida had been involved in a rematch for the national championship. In the 1996 regular season, the Gators were ranked number one and the Seminoles number two going into the final regular season game. FSU took a 24-21 win. They met again in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship, and Florida took a 52-20 win for the title.

That was the good rematch news for Coach Steve Spurrier.

The self-proclaimed, "Ball Coach" has the distinction of losing to a team in the regular season and again in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game twice.

In 1999, Coach Mike DuBose took his Alabama team to the swamp and came out with a 40-39 overtime win. The teams met again in the SEC title game and Bama romped to a 34-7 victory. Last year Spurrier was coach at South Carolina and his Gamecocks lost a close one at Auburn, 35-27, in regular season play. In the SEC Championship Game rematch, Spurrier again failed to show improvement, getting routed 56-17.

Most Alabama fans remember 1978 as the Crimson Tide winning the national championship with a win over number one Penn State and Joe Paterno with a goalline stand in the Sugar Bowl, but there was another dynamic at work that season.

In early November, number four Nebraska hosted number one Oklahoma. The Sooners of Coach Barry Switzer had a five-game winning streak against the Cornhuskers of Coach Tom Osborne. But on this day, Oklahoma had two key fumbles and lost, 17-14. Missouri upset Nebraska a week later, making the Big Eight a three-way tie. There was a tie-in for the champion to go to the Orange Bowl, and the Orange Bowl elected to rematch Oklahoma and Nebraska. In the rematch, Oklahoma was a 31-24 winner.

Those are not the only rematches in college football. There is no pattern as to how the second game will play out.

Amazingly, none of those rematches has done anything to damage the success and popularity of college football.

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