A three-peat in college football is tantamount to finding the holy grail. Well, technically that’s not true because nobody has ever found the holy grail, but a college football three-peat has happened before. The question now is whether it can happen again with the Alabama Crimson Tide winning the last two national championships and showing no signs of slowing down. Like a triple crown champion in horse racing, a college football three-peat is something that has been teased, but hasn’t happened in a long while.
Of course, the last triple crown winner in horse racing is far more recent than the last three-peat in college football. The last three-peat occurred in the late 1940s while the last triple crown winner came in the late-1970s.
The first three-peat in college football history came courtesy of the Minnesota Golden Gophers under coach Bernie Bierman during the 1930s. The Golden Gophers shared the title every year, but the third title is notable as it was the first season (1936) that the Associated Press (AP) voted for a national champion.
The other three-peat came from the Army Cadets in the mid-1940s. Those were the days of “Mr. Inside” Doc Blanchard and “Mr Outside” Glenn Davis that saw the Cadets win the AP title and basically all other national title selectors in strong fashion in 1944 and 1945. Then came the famous scoreless tie with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish that cost the Cadets the AP title in ’46. The Cadets still ended up winning the national title in various other selectors and ended up splitting the title with the Fighting Irish, thus completing the three-peat.
The fact that both of college football’s three-peats came before 1950 should not only demonstrate how the game is changed, but also how difficult it is for a team to win three straight national championships. Sure, the way that a national champion is determined has gotten refined over the years since the last three-peat, but that doesn’t diminish how difficult it was even back then to win it all three years in a row. The fact that it should be impossible in today’s game only makes what the Crimson Tide are doing potentially that much better.