Publish Date: 03/24/2020
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa
I think it’s interesting how some of sports’ most impressive dynasties could have easily not existed without a few key things going their way at the exact right time.
The powerhouse in question today is the run Clemson has had over the past 5 seasons, with 4 championship games and 2 titles.
Most noteworthy are a few moments of a game against Notre Dame that could have set these accomplishments back a few years, or even prevented them altogether.
Let’s go back in time to 2015.
The score of the game is 16-24 with around 2 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Fighting Irish have come back from a 21-3 defect in the 2nd half and are on the brink of cutting the lead to two, if they can find the end zone.
The hit placed on #2 had no business causing a fumble. Clemson straight up got lucky here. If Notre Dame finds the end zone, maybe they get the 2-point conversion and head to overtime with all the momentum. I’m going to call this a lucky break, and it’s one that Clemson needed.
Now, I understand they still needed the 2-point conversion, but Clemson couldn’t pick up a first down and had to punt the ball away. Also, Notre Dame scored a TD on the ensuing drive, needing only the 2-point conversion here now.
Clemson gets the stop, and thus they survive. But if they hadn’t, Notre Dame had all the momentum heading into overtime.
The Tigers went on to win 14-straight games before falling to Alabama in the National Championship game. The next year they won the National Title game and started a run of dominance only rivaled by Alabama, who also won another title in 2018.
Think of the ramifications if they hadn’t gotten these stops.
Even with Clemson winning an ACC Title, maybe Notre Dame goes and runs the table, essentially eliminating Clemson from the playoff. Their only other regular season loss was a bad game against Pittsburgh. (The other loss was to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl)
The other teams that qualified that year were Alabama, Oklahoma, and Michigan State. All three of those teams had the same regular season record or better than Clemson and with an unbeaten, de-facto ACC member like Notre Dame winning out, it’s tough to put Clemson in there with a team that already beat them.
Not appearing in the National Title game that year may have done serious damage to recruiting guys that formed the basis of the years to come. It becomes like a snowball rolling down a hill. Those guys may have gone to Oklahoma, Alabama, Notre Dame, or any of those other big programs. Remember that was Clemson’s first CFP appearance.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t think this too far-fetched.