As bad as Clemson fans don’t want to hear it, this is not the first time that the Tigers have been in this situation. In fact, Clemson was almost in this exact same situation back in 2000 under former head coach Tommy Bowden. The Tigers started off the season 8-0 overall and 6-0 in ACC play. They had not won a conference championship since 1991, which just so happened to be the year before Florida State joined the conference. Clemson was used to being the big dog on the block in the ACC, but Florida State came in and started demolishing everything in its path. From 1992-2000, Florida State went 70-2 in ACC play. Those are staggering numbers that will never be duplicated in college football. As you can imagine, during that span, they also won nine straight ACC championships.
In 2000, however, it looked as if Clemson would recapture their lost ACC glory with their fast start. Bowden had the Tiger faithful believing that this would be the year that Clemson would break through and bring the trophy back to the upstate of South Carolina. I don’t know if Clemson got caught looking ahead or what, but the perfect season ended against Georgia Tech the week before the showdown with Florida State. Clemson quarterback and Heisman candidate Woody Dantzler had injured his ankle and had to leave the game, resulting in back-up Willie Simmons taking the rest of the snaps. Simmons found Rod Gardner for a touchdown to put the Tigers up 28-24 with less than two minutes left, but Georgia Tech drove the length of the field and scored a touchdown with seven seconds left. The Yellow Jackets won the game 31-28, handing Clemson their first loss of the season.
However, Clemson could still win the ACC if they could defeat No. 4 Florida State in Tallahassee. Clemson was ranked No. 10 when they made the trip, and even though the Tigers had lost the previous week, all was not lost. Well, as it turns out, this game was over before it even got started. Florida State dominated the game from start to finish, winning by a final count of 54-7. Sound familiar? Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke shredded the Tiger defense with over 500 yards passing. Sound familiar? The Tigers got embarrassed in a top-10 game against Florida State with ACC title implications hanging in the balance. Sound familiar?
It should sound familiar, as the game last weekend was almost a mirror image of the 200o game and scenario. Florida State beat the Tigers 51-14, and their freshman quarterback had a field day against Dabo Swinney‘s defense. It was a big disappointment for Clemson fans, and reminded them all too well of what happened 13 years earlier. After the 2000 loss to Florida State, Clemson needed “The Catch 2” by Rod Gardner to beat a bad South Carolina team. Following that game, Clemson went to the Gator Bowl and got destroyed by Virginia Tech. It was obvious that the team had lost confidence after their blow out loss to the Seminoles, and they never looked the same after that. The point I am trying to make though, is that this is not that same Clemson team. The ‘Tigers of 2013 will not crumble like previous teams have.
This year’s Clemson team is mentally tougher than teams of years passed. Swinney has done a good job of getting his players to buy into the system and worry about the next play. This Saturday, Clemson travels to College Park to play an injury-plagued Maryland team. Don’t expect Clemson to allow the Terps to hang around in this one, as I believe the Tigers will come out on fire early. Everyone in the Clemson football program is upset with their performance last week, and Maryland will receive all of the Tiger’s built up aggression. Clemson will come out and play with controlled rage that the Clemson team of 2000 could never find. Tajh Boyd will have a big day and the defense will look 10 times better than what they displayed against Florida State.
Travis Patterson, Writer For ACC Rantsports.com. Follow on Twitter @tpat20. https://twitter.com/tpat20