Alabama Football: Clemson and the Tide share much history

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09: Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow /
1 of 2
Alabama football at Bryant-Denny
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Alabama football and Clemson have a history.  From Wade to Bryant to Stallings to Nick and Dabo, it is a lineage that includes 18 National Championships.

They say in South Carolina, the ones that know their college football history, that Clemson is built in the image of Alabama football. There’s a lot of truth in that and it began before Dabo Swinney ever coached a game at Clemson. Even before he was a walk-on player at Alabama. There is a long lineage connecting national championships from Alabama’s first to Dabo’s first.

To identify the Alabama football hunger for championships you must go back before Paul Bryant, all the way back to Wallace Wade. A quick sketch of the Alabama – Clemson lineage is: Wallace Wade’s assistant Frank Thomas succeeded Wade; Clemson coaching legend, Frank Howard played for Wade and coached at Alabama; Paul Bryant coached Gene Stallings and later hired Stallings as an Alabama assistant; Gene Stallings coached Daboo Swinney.

For those wondering, there is a similar lineage that connects Wade, Thomas and Bryant to Saban through Mal Moore.

Even more Tide and Clemson connections exist. The most noteworthy include Jess Neely, Hootie Ingram, Charley Pell, Danny Ford, and Tommy Bowden, Details of those individual connections are provided at the end of this post.

For decades Clemson coaches have measured success after Alabama football

Expectations of football greatness are high for miles around Clemson University, far beyond the entry roads that are painted with orange Tiger paws. This season the faithful can smell the whiff of a dynasty. They believe another win over the Alabama Crimson Tide and in the NC game and the Clemson Tigers will be the Kings of college football.

The King (Alabama) is dead! Long live the King! (Clemson) will be their full-throated cry, stated in words of a more common vernacular. If believing can make it so, their expectations will be fulfilled.

The King (yes, college football world, Alabama is still the King) has other ideas. Restoration is the order of the moment and nothing will be held in reserve for a future foe.

Incorporating some aforementioned common vernacular, Alabama football is pissed. The players, the coaches, the legion of fans are all demanding redemption. To the extent a game can become a war, the Sugar Bowl will be one. It matters not the game is a semi-final.

Football pundits like to talk about winning teams as the side that ‘wanted it more.’ Let’s be clear, in New Orleans, no team will ‘want it less.’ The teams will be superbly prepared. The array of athletic talent will be impressive. The intensity in the Dome will literally feel electric.

Can history impact a battle between two evenly matched foes?

Coaches say big games come down to execution under pressure. But differences in execution may not be the decider. It could come down to the precariousness of luck.

Just the bounce of a ball, or a player’s momentary error in judgment, or even a synaptic misfire redirecting a normally reliable player reflex. It could be that close. Banish the thought but the outcome could come down to a bad call by an official.

Fans like believing winners choose victory. Such a perspective makes the game a battle of collective wills. Collective wills shaped by leaders, sometimes coaches, more often players. Clemson had one of those powerful wills on its side last season in Deshaun Watson. Do they have one this year? Does the Tide?

Anticipation begs for an answer. There is none. Not now, not yet, not until it is time. Until then we wait.