It's Not That Hard to Beat the Same Team Twice

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

The team that won the first game has fared well in college football rematches.

As Antonio Gonzalez reminded us via Twitter earlier today, this whole situation could have been avoided had Stanford and Cal agreed to play Thanksgiving weekend.

Alas, here we are, with Stanford and UCLA scheduled to meet again on Friday at Stanford Stadium for the right to represent the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl. Over the next few days, you're likely to hear some version of the mantra that it's "difficult to beat the same team twice."

David Shaw echoed it after Stanford dominated the Bruins, 35-17, at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

"It's really hard to beat the same team twice, especially in back-to-back weeks. You've got to fight complacency. ... Whatever tendencies we showed today, they're going to have counters for, so we've got to self-scout ourselves to make sure we're as diverse as we need to be next week."

Meanwhile, Jim Mora isn't so sure that either team is at an advantage.

"I don't know that it benefits either team or is hard on any team. I think it just comes down to going out on Friday night and executing. Any familiarity we'll have with them, they'll have with us. It kind of negates each other."

What say you, history?

By my count, there have been 24 instances of two teams meeting in the conference championship game after meeting during the regular season. Teams that won the regular season game are 15-9 in the rematch.

In the 15 instances that resulted in sweeps, the margin of victory in the rematch was larger than the margin of victory in the first game eight times. Thanks in part to Texas' 70-3 obliteration of Colorado in the 2005 Big 12 Championship Game, the mean margin of victory in the rematch was 20.7, while the mean margin of victory in the first game was 14.6.

Here's the full list by conference, with the score from the rematch (conference championship game) listed first. It's entirely possible that I missed an instance (or two), so let me know if you see any omissions.

ACC (2 Sweeps, 2 Splits)

2007
Virginia Tech 30, Boston College 16
Boston College 14, Virginia Tech 10 (Week 8)

2008
Virginia Tech 30, Boston College 12
Boston College 28, Virginia Tech 23 (Week 7)

2009
Georgia Tech 39, Clemson 34
Georgia Tech 30, Clemson 27 (Week 2)

2011
Clemson 38, Virginia Tech 10
Clemson 23, Virginia Tech 3 (Week 5)

B1G (1 Split)

2011
Wisconsin 42, Michigan State 39
Michigan State 37, Wisconsin 31 (Week 7)

Big 12 (4 Sweeps, 2 Splits)

1999
Nebraska 22, Texas 6
Texas 24, Nebraska 20 (Week 8)

2000
Oklahoma 27, Kansas State 24
Oklahoma 41, Kansas State 31 (Week 6)

2001
Colorado 39, Texas 37
Texas 41, Colorado 7 (Week 7)

2002
Oklahoma 29, Colorado 7
Oklahoma 27, Colorado 11 (Week 8)

2005
Texas 70, Colorado 3
Texas 42, Colorado 17 (Week 6)

2007
Oklahoma 38, Missouri 17
Oklahoma 41, Missouri 31 (Week 7)

SEC (5 Sweeps, 1 Split)

1999
Alabama 34, Florida 7
Alabama 40, Florida 39 (OT) (Week 5)

2000
Florida 28, Auburn 6
Florida 38, Auburn 7 (Week 7)

2001
LSU 31, Tennessee 20
Tennessee 26, LSU 18 (Week 3)

2003
LSU 34, Georgia 13
LSU 17, Georgia 10 (Week 4)

2004
Auburn 38, Tennessee 28
Auburn 34, Tennessee 10 (Week 5)

2010
Auburn 56, South Carolina 17
Auburn 35, South Carolina 27 (Week 4)

CONFERENCE USA (1 Sweep, 1 Split)

2006
Houston 34, Southern Miss 20
Southern Miss 31, Houston 27 (Week 6)

2007
UCF 44, Tulsa 25
UCF 44, Tulsa 23 (Week 7)

MAC (3 Sweeps, 2 Splits)

1999
Marshall 34, Western Michigan 30
Marshall 31, Western Michigan 17 (Week 10)

2000
Marshall 19, Western Michigan 14
Western Michigan 30, Marshall 10 (Week 5)

2003
Miami 49, Bowling Green 27
Miami 33, Bowling Green 10 (Week 9)

2004
Toledo 35, Miami 27
Miami 23, Toledo 16 (Week 9)

2005
Akron 31, Northern Illinois 30
Akron 48, Northern Illinois 42 (OT) (Week 4)

UCLA and Stanford aren't just playing twice in the same season, of course, they're playing twice in six days. Maybe it is hard to beat the same team twice in that span. I didn't find any instances of teams playing in consecutive weeks. Marshall and Western Michigan met in the 1999 MAC Championship Game three weeks after their regular season meeting, which is the shortest period between games in this sample. Marshall won both games behind Chad Pennington, though Western Michigan was much more competitive in the championship.

Jim Mora in the NFL

Just for fun, and because TJ Simers might lead you to believe it's relevant, here's a look at Mora's record in the NFL against divisional foes. (He's used to playing teams twice in a season, y'know?)

2004 (w/Atlanta)
CAR 2-0
NOR 1-1
TB 1-1
STL 2-0 (Week 2 and Divisional Playoffs)

2005 (w/Atlanta)
CAR 0-2
NOR 2-0
TB 0-2

2006 (w/Atlanta)
CAR 1-1
NOR 0-2
TB 2-0

2009 (w/Seattle)
ARI 0-2
SF 1-1
STL 2-0

During his four-year NFL head coaching career, Mora was 6-7 in rematch games overall and 1-4 in rematch games following a loss in the first game.

So what does it all mean? History -- save for what we saw on Saturday -- won't have much of anything to do with what will happen in Friday's rematch at Stanford Stadium, but it also doesn't suggest that beating the same team twice is particularly difficult.

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