Topic: Historical "what-ifs" for football program
Replies: 29   Last Post: Feb 23, 2019 5:44 PM by: Joe21®
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Historical "what-ifs" for football program

Posted: Feb 22, 2019 10:46 PM

So sitting here bored @ work, & an idea popped into my head & kinda wanted to get some off-season discussion going. Given our recent successes, I chose to look back on some seasons & it got me to wondering what would've happened had a few things went differently. So I picked 2 seasons in particular to get the ball rolling.

1st: 1939 season
The highlights: 9-1 & unbeaten in conference play (with only 2 games being at home), Cotton Bowl win, got the ball rolling on our program getting recognized nationally.
The lowlight: 7-6 loss at eventual SEC co-champion Tulane prevented an unbeaten season
The What-If: had Clemson won at Tulane, could 1939 have ended with a claim to a nationa title? A win at Tulane would've given the Tigers an undefeated regular season prior to the bowl match-up. Had the rest of the 1939 season unfolded the way it did, Clemson would've ended the year 10-0, with victories over 2 AP ranked teams, a win over 1 of the SEC co-champs, 5 wins over teams with records over .500, and with 8 victories away from home. I doubt that we would've ended up winning either of the 2 major recognized titles at the time (Texas A&M - AP and SoCal - Dickinson System) but could 1 of the NCAA-recognized selectors (current @ the time or retroactively) crowned the 1939 Tigers as the nation's best with that list of accomplishments? Makes you wonder if the 1939 squad, as important as they were for the program's history, could've been had even more significance.

2nd: 1978 season
The highlights: 11-1 record, ACC title, Gator Bowl champs, #6 in final polls
The lowlights: loss @ Georgia, being relegated to Gator Bowl after being snubbed by Orange & Cotton Bowls
The What-If: Win at UGA and/or nor being snubbed & winning OB/CB - 1978 national champs? The Orange Bowl snubbing us in favor of giving Oklahoma a rematch against Nebraska and the Cotton Bowl snubbing us for Notre Dame as a result cost us a marquee match-up against top 10 foes that could've have placed us in the the national title discussion with a win. However, I don't think that would give the Tigers enough to surpass Alabama or SoCal for any of the 4 poll-era titles. That leads us back to the early season game against Georgia. Had Clemson found a way to win that day, they would have been top 5, maybe top 2 going into bowl season as they would've joined Penn State as the only unbeatens going into bowl season. I believe an unbeaten Clemson would not have been denied an Orange Bowl or Cotton Bowl berth. Then add in winning the bowl game, we would have been the nation's lone unbeaten. In that case, I see us finishing above Alabama and SoCal for at least 1, if not all 4, of the poll titles that year. There's also some potential effects for the program and college football in general (would Pell have left for Florida if we had won a natty, how would that effect Danny Ford's career, Joe Montana's 'chicken soup' game & Woody Hayes' punch never happen, etc.)

So there's my first 2. I'm sure I have more but really hope this will generate some discussion.


Re: Historical "what-ifs" for football program

Posted: Feb 22, 2019 11:06 PM

Excellent post and points. We’ve had some horrific decades but we are steeped in tradition of being one tough out considering the way football was before the 70’s in particular.

I oft wonder had we had a playoff system in 78, we could have easily run the table as strong as we were at the end of the season.

One can only imagine how many titles we would have if we could have kept a roster of 200 roughnecks on the sidelines and run a couple in every other snap... even without that, we still competed.

Moreover, the worthless titles that are held in the b1g and the b12. As you stated, it was a media setup with the old conference tie ins and in them days newspaper ruled the day and of course the overblown b1g and Notre Dame were paper tigers. On rare occasions when they were made to play them southern redneck teams they got their butt whipped.

So, in conclusion, I tend to accept titles after the 70’s as somewhat legit titles.

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Re: Historical "what-ifs" for football program

Posted: Feb 22, 2019 11:12 PM

Oh, meant to add- who are the real elite blue blood teams once you look at the titles of teams since 70? I’ve actually compiled a list but I’m not at work and can’t remember but we’re in the top 5 with nattys.

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1989....we would have given Miami all they wanted

Posted: Feb 22, 2019 11:36 PM

That inexplicable loss at Spurrier's Duke the week after the win at FSU is one of the most painful I can recall. Also lost at home to middling GT team, but beat better teams on schedule and crushed WVU in Gator Bowl.

GT killed us that day

Posted: Feb 22, 2019 11:45 PM

I think it was Homecoming as well

Exactly right.

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 6:26 AM

They had some quarterback named Shawn Jones. At the time, we had no idea that would be a national championship team the following year. Just seemed like an unbelievable loss.

2019 white level member

Looking back at 88-90 seasons, those were years that...

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 8:02 AM

a couple games changed the course for not only a season, but our program's history. As great as our program was during the late 70's through the early 90s, it still puzzles me that we didn't end up with more than 1 national title during that stretch.

1988: the losses against FSU and NC State. Had we held on to win against FSU and at least salvaged a tie against NC St, we would've ended year 11-0-1 at worst and possibly been in discussion with Notre Dame at season's end for the national title. The Citrus Bowl tie-in for ACC champ @ the time probably would've hurt us, as we got paired with Oklahoma, while Notre Dame and West Virginia (#1 and #3, both undefeated at time, and both independents not locked in to any particular bowl bid) got paired up in the Fiesta Bowl that year.

1989: flip the game @ Duke, we're 10-1, ACC co-champs with Virginia, and safe to assume in top 5-10 at end of regular season. Figure in that case, there could've been an out that one of the bigger bowls takes us as an at-large while UVa takes the ACC champs' Citrus bid (dream scenario would of course been being picked to face then unbeaten & #1 Colorado in the Orange Bowl)

1990: lost by 2 at GT, who ended the year as the nation's lone unbeaten. Had we won that game, we'd be the ACC champs and would've faced Nebraska instead of Illinois in a bowl game. Win the bowl, we're the only post-bowl team with 1 loss and no ties that wasn't serving a bowl ban. Given what happened with Colorado (1 loss, 1 tie, and a controversial win tainted by referee error), possible that we would've taken GT's share of the title that year at least. Given we had more national clout than GT at the time, p. Sidebar - for all the crap Hatfield caught from the fan base, can you imagine that he could've actually been 2 points away from being a national champion head coach...crazy.


With Ford's talent he certainly underachieved***

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 9:19 AM

2019 white level member

Ford also underachieved with Ford’s talent.***

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 9:57 AM

2019 white level member

We certainly had some head-scratchers during his time at

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 1:56 PM

Clemson. Beat the good teams and then lose to, say, DUKE!

2019 white level member

Re: 1989....we would have given Miami all they wanted

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 9:45 AM

That Duke game if I remember correctly was played on a washout Saturday and was one of many upsets that day. The rain had an equalizing effect and caused a lot of turnovers for the stronger option teams. Sounds weird for running teams to have a disadvantage in the rain but that happened frequently with pitches and ball handling.

2019 purple level member

I was there, it was bad***

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 10:27 AM

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Turnovers and a Scott Woerner punt return

Posted: Feb 22, 2019 11:44 PM

In 1978.

Re: Turnovers and a Scott Woerner punt return

Posted: Feb 22, 2019 11:59 PM

I remember his interception and punt return in 1980. We could have won that game.

Re: Turnovers and a Scott Woerner punt return

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 9:51 AM

Yep Scott Woerner was the 1980 game. I lived in Alabama and had to listen to the Georgia radio broadcast (that’s right kids, all games weren’t on TV and you couldn’t hear your hometown crew on the internet on your phone - sometimes all you got was a brief update on Prudential College Scoreboard and a box score in the Sunday paper). I remember Larry Munson saying as we were driving late down by 4 “We’ve got all the points, they’ve got all the yards”

2019 purple level member

Re: Turnovers and a Scott Woerner punt return

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 10:24 AM

I think uga was up by a touchdown...maybe 10 points at the half...and had negative offensive total yards.

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We beat the snot out of them and lost....***

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 5:19 PM

2019 white level member

Re: Historical "what-ifs" for football program

Posted: Feb 22, 2019 11:53 PM

Not as detailed as your analysis, but I would have loved to have had a 2018 defense during any of Woody Dantzler's years.

What if Aaron Kelly caught the ball against BC in

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 12:05 AM

2007 to send us to the ACC champ game? Bowden prob would have survived the 2008 season

That one ripped my heart out.

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 12:44 AM

It was so #### cold. Sitting in the white stands and I turn to my dad and call the play ... AND it is THERE.

I'm a bit older now and have (mostly) let it go.

My big regret is that Kelley couldn't have that catch to remember. It would have cemented him as a Clemson legend.

Too bad.

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I was standing in the endzone with Spud Jr, in the corner

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 5:21 PM
DSCF0056.JPG(108.6 K)

where it went right through Kelly's hands.....I looked just like Tua in the Bama game....Threw my arms up in the TD sign........

2019 white level member

Re: Historical "what-ifs" for football program

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 1:47 AM

If Mike Williams doesn't hurt his neck, I think we would have just three-peated.

Re: Historical "what-ifs" for football program

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 9:58 AM

raynjamin said:

If Mike Williams doesn't hurt his neck, I think we would have just three-peated.

A stronger circumstance was the Alexander hamstring. He plays in the second half and Bama never catches up and we have 3 trophies today.

Re: Historical "what-ifs" for football program

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 2:32 PM

Technically not a 3-peat, but three our of four.

Re: Historical "what-ifs" for football program

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 3:34 AM

Dude, you've got way too much "free time" at work. Now get back to work!!!

1984 7-4 regular season...

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 2:29 PM

Pre-season #2 ranking that eventually dissolved during a season in which 3 of the losses were these weird fluky last minute losses to UGA, GT, and SC to go along with what looks like a slaughter to Maryland on paper but Tigers actually held 2nd half lead.

UGA: Tigers dad a 20-6 halftime lead. Butler kicks that 60 yard FG with 11 seconds left. Our kickoff return was quite successful but refs said we ran out of bounds with no time although youtube videos show there was actually 1 or 2 seconds left to kick an easy tying field goal.

GT: Down 21-0 and rallied all the way back to tie it 21-21 but couldn't stop Robert Lavette as they scored winning TD with less than a minute left.

MD: Tigers held 23-17 lead in second half and then go steamrolled the rest of the way losing 41-23.

SC: Up 21-10 at half only to watch it slip away and lose to SC with a TD with less than a minute remaining.

This 1984 team easily could've finished 9-1-1, 10-1, 10-0-1 or even 11-0. Probation prevented a bowl in 84 but this could've springboarded the team to something better in the mid to late 80's... the way our win against LSU launched a mountain of success the following years after 2012. Maybe all those 10-2 seasons in late 80's end up being 12-0 seasons instead?

Re: 1984 7-4 regular season...

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 5:06 PM

Yes, this is the year I was thinking of as well. If I remember correctly, we would have been number 1 the next week if we had beat GA. Had a huge lead at the half but let GA back in the game with turnovers, (7) I think. Truly believe that if we hadn’t lost that game, we may have been undefeated. With probation and all, that loss seemed to take the wind out of our sails. Still think that was one of our best teams ever on paper, until the last few years at least, with a veteran team including Seniors William Perry and Mike Eppley. Was at the game. That one hurt.

What If is Tommy Bowden’s middle name.

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 4:20 PM

What if Tay Cody doesn’t partially block the FG attempt at the end of the FSU game in 1999? What if Godsey overthrew Kerry Watkins at the end of GT game in 2000, and Clemson goes to 9-0? What if Roscoe Crosby stuck to football? What if Rob Spence ever taught our WRs to run past the sticks in third down? I could go on but I’ll stop because it’s painful how close those teams were to a breakthrough yet never had one.

I for sure thought we were on our way after the 2003 finish. But nope. 2004 was a complete dud and the only highlight was beating Miami- which just proved how much those teams under performed.

Well...this was fun. ????????

Re: Historical "what-ifs" for football program

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 4:46 PM

I have a different perspective on the 1978 "snubbed"... During that time frame, the bowls were supposed to wait until after the regular season to "invite" teams to their bowl... But every bowl was jockeying the best match up... I have always felt that the Gator Bowl told Clemson if they beat Maryland that they would be a lock... At that time,the Gator was big cheese to our Tigers...
When we won, we were honor bound to accept the Gator... The Orange Bowl, with Clemson playing there was a conceivable NC... Why else would they accept a replay of OK/Neb? You can thank Bill Mclellan for that SNAFU...

2019 white level member

Re: Historical "what-ifs" for football program

Posted: Feb 23, 2019 5:44 PM

I'm not a "what if" game person. particularly as it relates to the past. If the "what if" had occurred, every thing from that point on would have been entirely different from what actually occurred. We may have won and there is the possibility we could have lost by a larger margin. I do speculate on the "what ifs" in our future and dreaming, particularly dream of a positive nature, surely does give me a good feeling.


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