Just when you thought it was safe to survey the ACC football landscape, last week happens.
Maryland's offense, always so strong under head coach Ralph Friedgen, manages a meager 81 total yards in an upset loss to Georgia Tech. North Carolina survives a late scare - thanks to an overturned touchdown call - to knock off heavily favored N.C. State. Florida State came up with a late interception in the end zone to avoid being beaten on the road by a bad Syracuse team.
It just goes to prove that when you think you've got this conference pegged, it's time to think again.
In fact, the week's events are almost enough to start up the "what if" machine - not to be confused with the "way back" machine - again at Clemson. For example:
What if Clemson's offense breaks out Saturday at home vs. Utah State. What if the defense finally shows up and the Tigers roll? Sure, the Aggies (2-4) aren't expected to provide much in the way of opposition. That's why they're the homecoming opponent.
"There are some things happening," Bowden said. "But there ain't enough happening. The fourth quarter, I've got to get us (through that). I know they're frustrated. Everybody's frustrated."
But what if a big victory provides a need spark? What if the team's confidence returns?
If Maryland and State can lose the way they did, and to whom, this past weekend, then as the next two teams on Clemson's schedule is it impossible to believe the Tigers don't at least have a passing chance to also defeat both?
Is it so improbable to fathom a scenario that sees Clemson at 4-4, needing two wins among its final three opponents - Miami, Duke and South Carolina - to qualify for a bowl?
What if...well, you get the idea. Once you get started "what iffing," your senses begin to dull.
I've had enough problems with that already this season.
A tip of the cap to sophomore Tremaine Billie, who gets the chance to play regularly now that Eric Sampson is shelved with a broken jaw.
You always hate when someone's big chance comes at the expense of another player's injury, but it may not have been long until Billie took over for Sampson as the starter at the "whip" linebacker anyway.
Billie, a converted running back, has comparable numbers to Sampson in less than half the chances. In 256 plays, Sampson has 22 tackles, including two for loss (QB sacks).
Billie has 21 tackles, three for loss, in just 115 plays.
Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden at his weekly press conference, speaking on his team's schedule:
"We’ve played good competition. We could probably schedule two more wins and could have been here at 4-1 instead of 1-4 and getting ready to go into the meat of the schedule," he said. "We’re probably the only team in the country that’s probably started out with two straight conference games. It’d be preferred that I’d like to have those (non-conference) games at the beginning as opposed to the end and the middle.
"An early season non-conference loss is not as demoralizing as an early season conference loss."
ACC coordinator of football officials Tommy Hunt was quoted in Tuesday's Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer as being in favor of instant replay in college football.
Told about this, one man was overheard to remark that if implemented, a replay system wouldn't last long in this conference.
"As bad as ACC officials are, why in the world would they want the evidence on tape," he reasoned?
Food for thought, to be sure.