What happens on the football field does not decide the presidential election … or does it?
AL.com’s John Archibald noted that the winner of Alabama-LSU has mirrored the winner of the presidency in each of the past eight election years, with four Alabama wins aligning with four Democrats reaching the White House, and four LSU wins aligning with four Republican victories.
Saturday, the Hillary Clinton campaign got good news when the Crimson Tide blanked the Tigers, 10-0, in Baton Rouge.
But Donald Trump supporters can take solace in the fact that we all followed a similar football guideline — the “Redskins Rule,” as explained by TIME Magazine — for the better part of a century, and it’s been failing miserably since George W. Bush bucked the trend in 2004.
(As Archibald noted, this year’s deciding Redskins game ended in a 27-27 tie, which surely has no larger symbolic meaning.)
We don’t know who will win the election on Tuesday. But we do know who won Saturday, and the polls are all in agreement that Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide are the most impressive team in the country.
One-man race for Heisman
When was the last time the Heisman Trophy was decided after the first game of November? Perhaps 2014, when Oregon’s Marcus Mariota ran away with the voting … but he did use a blistering final month to do so. Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton both needed big performances down the stretch to seal their awards.
I’d argue you need to go back to the 11-game schedule era in 1999, when Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne ran for 222 yards against Purdue in the first week of November and fellow Heisman candidate Drew Brees — Purdue’s Saban-stymieing quarterback — endorsed Dayne for the award following Wisconsin’s win. The following week, Dayne became college football’s all-time rushing champion, while Brees, Virginia Tech’s Michael Vick and Georgia Tech’s Joe Hamilton were all just happy to get a free flight to New York.
The 2016 race seems like even more of a blowout. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson racked up 7 more total touchdowns against Boston College — a team that currently ranks No. 15 in total defense — and now has 3,936 total yards and 45 total touchdowns through nine games.
He is a video game character that no team has been able to bottle. His status as Heisman runaway is also aided by the fact that his “challengers” aren’t even in the same zip code, statistically.
Washington quarterback Jake Browning had another great week, and Michigan all-purpose star Jabrill Peppers is a great player, but the vote for Jackson would be unanimous if it took place this week, and we would need to see a miracle over the final few weeks to make this a true race again.
DPOY too close to call
The SEC Defensive Player of the Year race is white hot. Defenders littered the top half of our preseason SEC 101 rankings, and many of them are living up to their billing.
LSU’s Arden Key and Kendell Beckwith continued to build their All-American campaigns against Alabama, while the Crimson Tide’s Reuben Foster and Jonathan Allen are still clearly among the nation’s best players.
There’s Myles Garrett out in College Station, Derek Barnett in Knoxville and Jalen Tabor in Gainesville (and we’re still missing plenty of worthy names).
Take a moment to consider the following situation, though; Vanderbilt was down seven points with time running out at Auburn when All-American Tigers kicker Daniel Carlson trotted onto the field to attempt a game-clinching 35-yard field goal. The broadcast announcers had been assuming a 10-point Tigers lead for several minutes. Vandy was cooked.
At least, until Zach Cunningham made the defensive play of the year:
HOLY COW ZACH CUNNINGHAM pic.twitter.com/BXUv16VsXH
— Alex Martin Smith (@asmiff) November 5, 2016
ICYMI: Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham at Auburn today with the greatest field goal block you've ever seen pic.twitter.com/OpOeC9bziL
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) November 6, 2016
This came after Cunningham made the “other” defensive play of the year to seal a win against Georgia. His team has been struggling in all facets of the game, but he willed it to victory in Athens and nearly did the same at Auburn on Saturday.
It seemed as if the Commodores were destined for overtime when Kyle Shurmur “hit” his receiver on fourth-and-18 following Cunningham’s play:
Alas, Shurmur tossed an ugly interception in the red zone, and Auburn escaped.
But don’t let that take away from Cunningham’s performance. He’s not only a big-play guy, he’s been one of the SEC’s most consistent defensive players all season, garnering serious attention from pro scouts while checking the traditional statistical boxes (94 total tackles — including five games with 10 or more — and 13.5 tackles for losses).
If you’re a “linebacker” type of guy or gal, Cunningham is the name you want on your ballot.
Party for four
The College Football Playoff committee threw a curveball in its first ranking, placing Texas A&M at No. 4, ahead of undefeated Washington and one-loss Ohio State.
Most people outside College Station agreed that this was a silly thing to do, and the Aggies validated our concerns by getting slapped around in Starkville. Meanwhile, Washington and Ohio State both picked up blowout wins.
So … what now?
I’m still feeling confident about the following four-team field:
- No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Louisville
- No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson
Alabama wins out. Ohio State wins out, including a two-touchdown “W” vs. Michigan. Clemson wins out. Louisville wins out and watches championship weekend from home. The committee gives Louisville the nod over Michigan, and we get the Lamar Jackson vs. Alabama consolation prize instead of the Saban vs. Harbaugh showdown everyone wants.
More SEC moments that caught our eye
- South Carolina defeated Missouri, 31-21, behind a strong performance from freshman quarterback Jake Bentley. The 18-year-old is supposed to be in his senior year of high school but decided to enroll at USC a year early when his father was hired to be the Gamecocks’ running backs coach. Saturday, he posted an excellent stat line (22 of 28 for 254 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions) and his season totals are remarkable after three starts: 54 of 74 for 622 yards, 6 touchdowns and no picks. Here’s a pass he got a little bit lucky on against Mizzou:
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 5, 2016
- Health might be an issue in Auburn. Starting quarterback Sean White missed the first half vs. Vandy with a shoulder injury, and speedy backup John Franklin mustered only 6 yards through the air in two quarters. Even if White returns to 100 percent, running back Kamryn Pettway “pulled something” and might not be available in the coming weeks. Pettway, who became the first Auburn running back to record four straight 150-yard games since Bo Jackson, is a crucial part of the offense. Without him, Auburn won’t be able to beat Alabama on Thanksgiving weekend.
- One of the strangest moments of Mississippi State’s 35-28 upset win over Texas A&M was when Aggies wide receiver/returner extraordinaire Christian Kirk “shushed” the crowd … while losing to an unranked team by two touchdowns.
1. STOP KICKING TO CHRISTIAN KIRK
2. I feel so bad for #64 on MSU. At least he tried. pic.twitter.com/2ecyYKoxoj
— Jack McGuire (@TailgateHeisman) November 5, 2016
- Missouri quarterback Drew Lock one-upped Kirk in the category of fan interaction. Someone in the stands at Williams-Brice Stadium tossed a water bottle at Lock, who promptly picked it up off the ground and began drinking it:
— ZouGifs (@ZouCast) November 5, 2016
- Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship beat Kentucky at the buzzer, then left his helmet and glasses on during what might have been his first career TV interview:
Rodrigo Blankenship keeps the mystique alive, doesn't remove helmet in postgame interview. pic.twitter.com/eQn45efO89
— Brandon Zimmerman (@BZSEC) November 6, 2016
- If you were tailgating at LSU on Saturday, you might’ve come across Big Al’s remains:
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) November 5, 2016
- He’s also still throwing sideline tantrums:
- Speaking of upset coaches, Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville got a tad heated with hecklers after the Bearcats’ loss to BYU:
— Keenan Singleton (@KJMSingleton) November 6, 2016
- Marshawn Lynch returned to Cal and reprised his role as a crazy golf-cart driver. Some context: Ten years ago, he was knocked out of a game, so he went for a joyride on an injury cart. On Saturday, he brought rapper E-40 along for the ride:
Marshawn Lynch is back (and almost ran over the band). pic.twitter.com/MdqIBnJSUc
— Sean Wagner-McGough (@seanjwagner) November 6, 2016
- The program really milked this:
— Cal Bears (@CalAthletics) November 6, 2016
Best bobblehead of all time for tonight's Washington at Cal game: Marshawn Lynch driving an injury cart pic.twitter.com/m5856WA6Bj
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) November 5, 2016
Baylor … why???
Nearly two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal released a report that claimed former Baylor coach Art Briles knew about an alleged sexual assault by one of his players and failed to alert any of the necessary authorities.
Also in the report: As many as 17 women reported domestic violence or sexual assault by as many as 19 Baylor football players between 2011 (Briles’ fourth year at Baylor) and the time Briles left his post in May.
On Saturday, Bears fans inexplicably lined up to support their ex-coach by purchasing “#CAB” shirts from a private vendor. The team wore all-black uniforms (despite preseason plans for a “green out” against TCU) and alluded to the fact that the color choice was a nod to its former coach.
Naturally, all of this prompted national outrage and proved that Baylor still has a long way to go before it gets through this dark period.
— Tony Adame (@t_adame) November 5, 2016
Ballot advice for conflicted Americans
Pop has casted his vote pic.twitter.com/Uuu8m7pdKV
— Rowan Kavner (@RowanKavner) November 5, 2016