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What if...Arizona State was the 1996-97 National Champion?

The banners would be everywhere

Jake Plummer

Every Sun Devil fan asks the question. What would’ve happened if Arizona State’s defense made one last stop in the 1997 Rose Bowl. Of course in all likelihood, had the Sun Devils beat Ohio State, they would’ve ended as the nation’s top team after previous top-ranked Florida State lost to eventual national champion, Florida.

We’ll save you a rerun of the actual history of the 1997 Rose Bowl, but let’s tell you our “What if” situation. Instead of multiple pass interferences on Ohio State’s game-winning drive, the Sun Devils knock away passes. Setting the Buckeyes up for a long field goal, that they miss it, and Arizona State wins the Rose Bowl, 17-14, and become national champions of the 1996-97 season.

How different would the past few decades have been for the program? Would the recruits had flocked into the party school in Tempe and be a part of a university that proves it can hang at the top? Does Bryce Snyder hang onto his job longer if his team pulls out the win?

Even if Arizona State beats Ohio State, as much as it seems likely that the Sun Devils would’ve gotten the top spot over a one-loss Florida school, it wasn’t guaranteed. The Gators demolished Florida State, after falling to them by three just two games earlier. Would’ve it been enough to leap Arizona State? There’s a chance but it’s unlikely.

Let’s say a bunch of recruits see the Sun Devils as champions, head to Tempe as top recruits. Instead of going 26-21, Arizona State ends up closer to 35-12 with another Rose Bowl and Pac-10 championship.

Synder hangs around till about 2002 until he retires. Finishing with a title and three Rose Bowl victories. Arizona State takes a chance by hiring Bowling Green head coach Urban Meyer, who starts to create a Pac-10 powerhouse and Sun Devil quarterback factory. The Sun Devils win two more national championships and a handful of conference titles behind quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Patrick Mahomes, who they were able to recruit from Texas, which becomes a staple of Sun Devil recruiting classes.

The Sun Devils head into 2020 as the favorite for the Pac-12 and a top 10 preseason ranking.

What do you think changes in history if the Sun Devils win the 1997 Rose Bowl and declared national champion?