Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship showdown between Alabama and Clemson will be the 19th meeting of the two schools. They first met in 1900, with Clemson winning 35-0, but Alabama now holds a 14-4 lead in the series. While the rivalry has basically been one-sided, there have been some great games along the way. Here are the top five and No. 1 (really the top two) should not be a surprise.
5. Alabama 3, Clemson 0
Oct. 16, 1909 – Birmingham, Ala.
The two schools played six times between 1900-13 when they were both in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The contests, of course, were much different than they are today. The games were only 50 minutes long, more violent, and low scoring. The teams met at the Birmingham Fairgrounds with Clemson’s players outweighing Alabama’s by 15-25 pounds. The Crimson Tide played primarily on defense using Derrill Pratt’s quick kicks to keep the Tigers deep in their own territory. They also relied on it to win, as Pratt kicked a 52-yard field goal in the first quarter that proved to be the margin of victory.
4. Alabama 13, Clemson 10
Oct. 28, 1967 – Clemson, S.C.
The week before, Tennessee had snapped Alabama’s 25-game unbeaten streak with a 24-13 upset in Birmingham. The Tide bounced back against Clemson the following week, taking a 13-3 halftime lead. Then Clemson’s defense stymied Alabama’s offense, allowing only four first downs in the second half. The Tigers capitalized on a fumbled pitch to close the lead to 13-10 midway through the fourth quarter. Clemson drove deep into Alabama territory two more times during the final period but one drive ended with an interception and the other on downs as time ran out. Alabama finished the season 8-2-1, while Clemson went 6-4 and won the ACC.
3. Alabama 21, Clemson 14
Oct. 26, 1968 – Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The Tide jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead, but later drives ended with three missed field goals and an interception by Jimmy Catoe. Meanwhile, Clemson scored shortly before halftime and then on its first drive of the second half to tie the game. Alabama finally got its mojo back with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Scott Hunter to George Ranager with 8:17 left. Clemson then drove deep into Alabama territory, but Mike Dean intercepted Clemson quarterback Billy Ammons pass with a little more than a minute to go. The Tide ultimately went 8-3 and the Tigers went 4-5-1.
2. Alabama 45, Clemson 40
Jan. 11, 2016 – Glendale, Ariz.
The two schools entered the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship with Alabama being a 6.5-point favorite. But to everyone’s surprise, the game turned out to be a shootout, with both teams collectively accounting for more than 1,000 yards. In the third quarter, Wayne Gallman scored on a one-yard run to put Clemson up 24-21. Alabama responded with a 33-yard field goal to tie the game with 10:34 in the third quarter. Realizing he couldn’t stop the Tigers’ offense, Alabama head coach Nick Saban called for a surprise onside kick, which the Tide recovered. They scored a touchdown two plays later and despite two touchdown passes from Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, the gutsy call proved to be the difference and Alabama won 45-40.
1. Clemson 35, Alabama 31
Jan. 9, 2017 – Tampa, Fla.
The two met again the following year for the national championship in the biggest rematch in college football history. Alabama led 24-14 going into the fourth quarter, but the Tigers roared back with two touchdowns to go ahead 28-24. The Crimson Tide retook the lead with a 30-yard touchdown run by Jalen Hurts with 2:07 to go and Clemson got the ball back on its own 36-yard line. Quarterback Deshaun Watson drove his team down the field and a pass interference call put the Tigers on Alabama’s 2-yard line with six seconds left. Watson hit Hunter Renfrow for the game-winning TD as Clemson brought home its first national title since 1981.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.