So many of our favorite campus soccer matches are played only once – Kick Six, Bush Push, flag late at Miami vs. Ohio State. And if the game goes the other way, not only does the result change, but the domino effect is almost impossible to measure. Inheritance is rewritten, trainers stay and programs run on tracks they may not enjoy.
Nick Saban and Crimson Tide are featured in several games here. And after writing about how close Rich Rodriguez, not Nick Saban, came to train Tide in 2007 – along with others what-if great training – now it’s time to turn our attention to our journalists’ favorites which involve classic games.
Ryan McGee: I will never question Tom Osborne’s desire to win the 1984 Orange Bowl instead of binding. In fact, going for two and losing to Miami is the fuel that drives Huskers to be what they are in the next decade. BUT … they will really win the title if they kick PAT.
Adam Rittenberg: What if Colt McCoy never suffered an injury in the first quarter against Alabama in the 2009 BCS title game? Texas has never returned, and Alabama has been on a historic journey since its first championship under Nick Saban. Or what if Notre Dame defeated USC in 2005, and the game was considered before Bush Push? Maybe Ireland reached the national title game that year. Maybe it still ended badly for Charlie Weis at his alma mater. USC also probably will never play Texas for the championship in the biggest CFB match ever.
Chris Low: What if referee Terry Porter did not throw the controversial fourth penalty flag down in overtime for bait interruptions at the 2003 Fiesta Bowl (after about 3 seconds of delay, because Miami fans will gladly remind you)? Miami will win the second consecutive national championship to close the 2002 season with a Fiesta Bowl victory over Ohio State, which means Hurricanes will remain the last FBS team to win consecutive national championships and be unbeaten in both seasons. They won 12-0 in the 2001 national title season and have won 34 straight matches before 31-24 doubling the Buckeyes.
Mark Schlabach: What if Alabama player Nick Saban kicked the ball – instead of trying to field a goal along 57 yards – in the last Iron Bowl 2013 match? What if Saban did not challenge the timekeeper and argue for one more second? Adam Griffith’s long field goal was short, Auburn Davis Chris Davis caught the ball in the final zone and ran 109 yards to win the touchdown in a 34-28 victory. It is one of the most iconic touchdowns in the history of campus football. The victory put the Tigers in the SEC championship match, which they won to reach the BCS National Championship, losing to Florida State 34-31.
The 2013 Auburn-Alabama match was decided by one of the most famous plays in the history of college football: “The Kick Six.”
Alex Scarborough: There is another Alabama what if it will not send Saban’s blood pressure through the roof: What if he has not reserved Jalen Hurts during the half-time CFP National Championship match in favor of Elder Tagovailoa? That is probably the most unprecedented training decision in the game in the last decade, placing a former SEC of the Year offensive player who supports a true new freshman unknown without meaningful experience, but it pays off with Saban’s fifth degree in Alabama. Tagovailoa might be at USC if not, due to lack of playing time. Ill probably never been to Oklahoma. And these are just the two finalists of the Heisman Trophy who were directly influenced by the move. Take a step back, and take steps indirectly impact on a number of other programs, including Georgia, Ohio State and Miami.
Ivan Maisel: The State of Florida began the 1991 season ranked No. 1 and for seven weeks looked like one of the best teams in modern memory. In consecutive weeks, the Seminoles set a record for scoring Big House by beating number 3 Michigan 51-31, then shaming No. 10 Syracuse 46-14. It looks like this will be the season in which the State of Florida defeats cross-country rival Miami and wins Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden as his first national championship. But on Week 8, the State of Florida plays at LSU in muddy and muddy Death Valley. The State of Florida won 27-16, coming back from 13 points behind, but lost the war. Seven Seminoles suffered serious injuries, including three shoulder splits and two knee sprains. The State of Florida has never been the same team. Seminoles ended the season by losing to Miami 17-16 in Wide Right I. What if the Seminoles were healthy?
GameDay 100: 1991, 1992 and 2000 The fight between Seminoles and Hurricanes is determined by a wide right kick.
David M. Hale: Some coaches have been condemned by “what if” more than Mark Richt. What if Rex Grossman didn’t carve out his defense in 2002? What if D.J. Shockley wasn’t injured before the Florida match in 2005? What if Steve Spurrier did not attract massive anger in Athens in 2007, the year Georgia finished No. 2 in the poll? But, of course, there is nothing if the loom is bigger than in 2012, when Aaron Murray’s bait was deflected and captured by Chris Conley in the 5-yard line, running out of time on the return of the Bulldogs against Alabama in the SEC in the SEC game championship. Losses by Tide won’t do much to change Nick Saban’s legacy, but the boy who wins will change the way we look at Richt. Georgia’s victory will likely send the Bulldogs to a national championship match, where the less talented Notre Dame will be the last obstacle to winning the trophy. Instead, assuming he never coached again, Richt will replace his position in the ranks of the greatest coaches who have won national titles, along with Frank Beamer, Pat Dye and Bo Schembechler. Ah, what might happen.
Heather Dinich: What if the 2014 unbeaten Florida State – the team that won seven of 13 matches with touchdowns or less – finally saw its luck run out in the ACC championship match against Georgia Tech? Seminoles are the only undefeated Power 5 team left in the country that season – the first year of the CFP – and the selection committee put them in No. 3, behind two one-loss teams in Alabama and Oregon. It was the year that the committee surprised everyone with the final ranking when dropping TCU from No. 3 to No. 6. However, if Georgia Tech wins the ACC, FSU will likely come out of the top four, making room for one of the Big 12 teams. If TCU or Baylor enter, will the Big 12 still have a conference championship match?