In 1997 and 1998, Georgia was a powerhouse that ran through its schedule beating ranked teams and looking like the next power in the conference. It has yet to happen.
Jim Donnan made promises and failed to fulfill them and he is no longer wearing red and black. His teams took the field with a good offense and a decent defense. And often he relied on trickery and shenanigans to score points. The same thing is now happening at Clemson.
Last season the Tigers were supposed to challenge Florida State for the ACC title, instead the Tigers were handed their worse loss in the Tommy Bowden era. It was a laugher, I cant even remember the score, but it was somewhere in the 50s for Florida State and nowhere near that for Clemson.
And suddenly the expectations game came into play. It was hard for Bowden to explain his way out of the thrashing that FSU gave his team, in fact he could not.
Then this season, much the same way 1999 started for Georgia, has been slow for the Tigers. Clemson had experienced two straight seasons of "turn around." Their quarterback is supposed to be in the running for the Heisman. And their coach is a genius according to the national press.
Clemson struggled against Central Florida, much the same way that Georgia did in 1999, and had load of trouble against Wofford. But all looked fine going into Saturday's game. Clemson was 2-0 going into its first real test of the season, like Georgia going to Tennessee in 1999. But unlike the Dawgs, Clemson was supposed to win this game.
Florida State had already been beaten, trounced, knocked around like dummies, by North Carolina. North Carolina. Surely the Tigers would come up and take their rightful place at the top of the ACC, the same way Georgia was to in 2000.
It does not work like that.
Reality sets in. You have to actually play the games. Clemson and its fans just assumed that Virginia would go away in the second half. That was not the case. Like Auburn did to Georgia in 1999 and the same way South Carolina did to Georgia in 2000; Virginia did the same thing to Clemson in 2001.
Dread sets in.
"North Carolina can beat Florida State like that, and we cant even beat Virginia at home?"
Think back, does it sound a lot like:
"Arkansas can beat Tennessee, and we can't even beat a bad Auburn team at home?"
The point is that gimmick offenses are great when they work. Slick coaches are great when they win. People are happy to see their team gain over 400 yards in a win.
But Clemson lost, just the same way that the Dawgs lost to Auburn and South Carolina in the past; they did not see it coming. The coach with the snappy lines, the offense that looked unstoppable on paper, and the supposed "destiny" never matters.
Clemson was thinking that there were no problems. They thought that this week's game in Atlanta with Tech was the pivotal game of the early season. Now every game is pivotal for the Tigers.
This Clemson loss, like Georgia's to Auburn in 1999, sends the whole program spinning around, trying to answer questions that had previously not been thought of. Things that were once considered "givens" are no longer such. And teams realize quick that what has worked in the past will no longer work in the future.
Clemson still has several hard games ahead of themselves. Bowden reportedly had guaranteed 10 wins this season. Where are the Tigers going to get those ten wins from? Are they going to beat Florida State, Tech, and South Carolina? How can you win the ACC if you lose the first game of the season, and it is not even against Tech or FSU?
Some may have felt that Florida State would have a loss early in the season in conference, but they thought that it would be to Tech, not UNC. Some may have thought that Clemson would have an ACC loss in September, but to Tech, not Virginia. And I know that I never thought that Maryland and North Carolina would be the conference's leaders this far into the season.
Welcome to the world of the 1999 Georgia Bulldogs Clemson fans. And no, it does not get much better as the season goes on, only worse.