There’s perhaps nothing more alluring in sports than the notion of unpredictability, that what you’re witnessing isn’t scripted, that anything could happen. George Mason. Leicester City. Buster Douglas. These narratives are the reason we keep coming back year after year.Recently, though, it seems like the improbable has taken a back seat to the foreseeable — at least in a few major American sports.On Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers will clash in the College Football Playoff final. It will mark the fourth consecutive season the two will have met in either the finals or semifinals. On the hardwood, the Cleveland Cavaliers have battled the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in four consecutive seasons.1That streak, however, will … not continue. And on the ice, the Washington Capitals have skated into the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of three consecutive Stanley Cup Playoffs.But though it might seem like it happens all the time, it’s actually pretty rare for the same teams to square off in the postseason year after year.For example, the MLB playoffs date back to the late 19th century and feature only three instances of teams meeting three seasons in a row.2The Anaheim Angels and Boston Red Sox played each season from 2007 to 2009, the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees played each season from 1976 to 1978, and the New York Yankees and New York Giants played each season from 1921 to 1923. The NFL playoffs have seen a single instance of teams meeting exactly four years in a row3The San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers played each season from 1995 to 1998. and a single instance of teams meeting five years in a row.4The Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers played each season from 1972 to 1976. In the WNBA, the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury played in four consecutive playoffs from 2013 to 2016. In the men’s NCAA basketball tournament, there have been eight instances of teams meeting in three consecutive tournaments.5Seattle and Oregon State played each season from 1962 to 1964, Utah State and Arizona State played each season from 1962 to 1964, UCLA and San Francisco played each season from 1963 to 1965, UCLA and New Mexico State played each season from 1968 to 1970, UCLA and Long Beach State played each season from 1970 to 1972, Providence and Pennsylvania played each season from 1972 to 1974, and Utah and Kentucky played each season from 1996 to 1998. And in the women’s NCAA basketball tourney, Notre Dame and UConn faced off in the Final Four, in either the semifinals or finals, an incredible five consecutive times from 2011 to 2015. Boston Celtics-Philadelphia 76ers1965-695 MLB MatchupSpanYears Oakland Raiders-Pittsburgh Steelers1972-765 Nebraska-Penn State1994-963 10 matchups tied3 NBA/ABA Florida State-Miami1987-926 Alabama-Oklahoma1978-803 Baltimore/Washington Bullets-New York Knicks1969-746 Boston Celtics-New York Knicks1951-555 NFL New York Yankees-New York Giants1921-233 Consecutive postseason meetings really are few and far between. And in college football, where turnover among top-tier programs is unavoidable and injuries are prevalent, it’s striking that the same two contenders are about to produce a tetralogy. After bruising, monthslong schedules, we’re left with orange and crimson once again.Even though the teams are familiar, there’s still plenty to be excited about in Monday’s title game. Don’t let the betting line fool you; this year’s installment promises to be the best matchup yet between the two schools. Source: ESPN Boston Celtics-Syracuse Nationals1953-575 Green Bay Packers-San Francisco 49ers1995-984 Possible matchupSpanYears MatchupSpanYears Kansas City Royals-New York Yankees1976-783 33 matchups tied2 In college football, the playoff is so new that it’s harder to look at consecutive matchups in a historical context. But we can guess at which teams might have faced off in a playoff by looking at the teams that ended each season since World War II in the top four of Elo ratings. Anaheim Angels-Boston Red Sox2007-093 Playoff rematches are rare in the big three pro sportsLongest streaks of the same teams meeting in consecutive postseasons for MLB, NBA/ABA and NFL Fort Wayne Pistons-Rochester Royals1950-545 Time spans considered are 1903-2018 for MLB, 1933-2018 for the NFL and 1947-2018 for the NBA/ABA.Source: Sports-Reference.com LSU-USC2005-073 MatchupSpanYears Alabama-Oklahoma1973-764 Florida-Nebraska1995-973 Programs that missed out on playoff rematchesPairs of college football teams with the longest streaks of finishing a season in the top four in Elo ratings, 1946-2013 7 matchups tied4 Nebraska-Oklahoma1971-744 The ESPN Stats & Information Group has tracked total efficiency back to 2005. This year’s Alabama squad ranks first (96.9) of all Football Bowl Subdivision teams in that time frame, and Clemson ranks 15th (91.6). Each enters the game racking up more than 525 yards and 44 points per contest, so it will no doubt be the best offensive matchup we’ve seen in the playoff between the two programs. Compared with each previous meeting, this will be the worst Alabama defense Clemson has faced and the best Tigers’ defense the Tide has played — though the two teams are separated by only about 4 points of defensive efficiency.Alabama’s program has never been known as a high scorer, but it now features the most efficient offense of any team in the past 14 years. But the Tide will stare down a defensive line that is months away from playing in the NFL,6With the notable exception of Dexter Lawrence, who remains suspended over a banned substance found in a drug test. which is likely why the Tigers tout the nation’s third most-efficient defense since 2005.Quarterbacks under Alabama head coach Nick Saban are often more game manager than gunslinger and generally operate in a system that skews conservative. Not this year. No team averages more yards per passing attempt than Alabama’s 11.34. Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts have each posted Total Quarterback Ratings that would rank in the top five among quarterbacks with at least 100 action plays in a season since 2004.7The first season for which we have data for that stat. In total, Alabama QBs have contributed 247.09 expected points on passes this year, 105.8 more than any previous season under Saban and the fourth-most by any team in a season since 2004, the first year for which data is available. The passing attack has accounted for 50 touchdown passes8To just six interceptions. and a team Total Quarterback Rating of 94.1, the best marks produced by an SEC offense over at least the past decade.The offense of Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney features an elite rushing attack, and quarterback Trevor Lawrence could become the first freshman QB to lead a team to a national championship since Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway in 1985. Where the team is most improved, however, is in its ability to dominate the line of scrimmage on the defensive end. “They wanted to be the best ever,” Swinney said of his defensive line, which leads the nation in sacks (52), quarterback contacts9Which measures the total number of times opposing quarterbacks were hit by a team’s defense. (312) and pressure rate10Which is the percentage of dropbacks in which the opposing quarterback was sacked, was under duress or was hit by a team’s defense. (43.7 percent). Under defensive coordinator Brent Venables, the unit averages 7.96 expected points added per contest on run defense, the fifth-best mark since the statistic was first tracked in 2004.The trophy case at both schools is getting full: Alabama is looking for its third title in the past four years, while Clemson is looking for its second in the past three. But don’t think these two programs are approaching the game as just the humdrum, foregone conclusion of their seasons. The matchup may have become predictable to us as viewers, but the teams are as eager as ever to face off for college football’s ultimate prize.“It is Clemson,” Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. said. “So it is a little more personal.”Neil Paine contributed research.Check out our latest college football predictions.