If Louisiana State University's two conference losses earlier this year had briefly quieted anxious chatter in Bayou State political circles, the school's Oct. 25 victory over Ole Miss has both college football fans and Senate campaigns in the state keeping a close eye on the rest of the season.
The Southeastern Conference is holding its championship game Dec. 6, the same day Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy — both LSU graduates — would face off in a runoff if neither takes a majority of the vote on Election Day.
The issue for the campaigns: The game is in Atlanta, and if LSU qualified, tens of thousands of voters would be out of state on that day to cheer on the Tigers. Motivating turnout on a Saturday a few weeks before Christmas is never easy, but the exodus of a portion of the voting base — or simply not paying as much attention to politics — would add an unpredictable wrinkle. Still, LSU's path to the SEC championship game remains an uphill climb.
"Down two SEC West losses already, it would take a fairly miraculous run to compete for the division title," Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples wrote last week about LSU.
That was before LSU's crucial 10-7 victory on Saturday. But the math to win the SEC's western division hasn't gotten much simpler, and LSU is currently ranked behind four other teams.
It needs plenty of help — other schools losing — and must win its final three games: Nov. 8 against No. 3-ranked Alabama, Nov. 15 against Arkansas and Nov. 27 (Thanksgiving) in a nationally televised game against Texas A&M. The winner of the SEC West will most likely face Georgia, the favorite in the eastern division, in the championship game.
LSU's first and perhaps most stinging loss of the season came Sept. 20 against Mississippi State. That day, both Landrieu and Cassidy worked the school's campus-wide, pregame tailgate .
Both national parties have reserved millions of dollars in airtime for the potential overtime period. If a runoff is needed, the Senate race, rated Tilts Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call, may ultimately decide which party controls the Senate. Republicans need a net gain of six seats to win the Senate majority.
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