I woke up feeling patriotic today and awash in presidential facts and figures. So I did what any red-blooded Nebraskan would do — I queued up my Bruce Springsteen/John Philip Sousa playlist, and ran the election year numbers through the prism of Huskers football.
Nebraska first took to the gridiron in 1890, making this the 31st presidential election in Husker football history. The first came in 1892 as Grover Cleveland (Dem.) became president for the second time. On this Election Day, 120 years later, here are some facts and figures you, the Nebraska football fan, can really use.*
Nov. 2, 1920 - For the first, and only, time in school history. Nebraska actually plays on Election Day. The Huskers traveled to New York City, the first trip ever east of Michigan, to take on Rutgers in the Polo Grounds. Nebraska rolls to a 28-0 win, picking up 17 first downs to the Scarlet Knights’ 6. Meanwhile, Warren G. Harding (Rep.) is rolling to a landslide victory over James M. Cox (Dem.). Harding ended up with 60.3 percent of the popular vote, carrying 37 states including Nebraska.
11 – Number of conference championships Nebraska has won in election years. With 43 conference titles in school history, that equals 25.58 percent — or roughly one-fourth — of the Huskers’ total. How’s that for symmetry?
63.6 – Percentage of those conference titles that have come in a year where a Democrat has won the election.
.687 – The Huskers’ winning percentage in election years. That’s slightly worse than the current all-time winning percentage of .702. Nebraska is 205-90-11 in years with a presidential election.
William Jennings Bryan – Perhaps the most famous politician ever to emerge from the state of Nebraska, Bryan lost the presidential election three times (1896, 1900, 1908). Luckily for Nebraska fans, the Huskers fared pretty well in years where Bryan lost out on his presidential bid, winning 73.2 percent of their games. Bryan, known as the “Boy Orator of the Platte,” lives on, however, in Lincoln. His quote — “Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice.” — from an 1899 speech entitled “America’s Mission,” is inscribed above the entrance to the Osborne Athletic Complex.
2:3 - Odds Nebraska will win the Big Ten if President Barack Obama loses the election. The incumbent has lost five times in Nebraska football history and the Huskers have won three conference titles (60 percent) in those years. The incumbent has won 11 times, with the Huskers taking home conference crowns in six of those years (54.5 percent).
18-10-2 – Nebraska’s record all-time in its first game following a presidential election. That looks pretty good but, relatively speaking, post-election games haven’t been kind to the Huskers. Nebraska has a winning percentage of .633 in those games or about seven percent off it’s all-time winning percentage.
7.64 – The Huskers’ average rank in the final AP poll IF the Huskers end up ranked. The AP poll first appeared in 1936, meaning 19 final polls have occurred in election years. Nebraska has finished the season ranked in 11 of those polls. In all abut one of them (1992), the Huskers have finished in the top ten. That’s an encouraging sign for this year’s squad, which currently sits at No. 18.
4.56 – Nebraska’s average rank in the preseason AP poll IF the Huskers were ranked to start the season in an election year.
2:1 – Odds that Nebraska will finish with a higher ranking in the final AP poll than the preseason poll in this election year. It’s happened four out of 12 times previously and in three of those four years the Huskers went from unranked to open the season to a top ten ranking at the end. This year, Nebraska started the season at No. 16.
.711 – Nebraska’s winning percentage with a Republican in the White House.
.691 – Nebraska’s winning percentage with a Democrat in the White House.
* – Just kidding, don’t really use this information to make your decision. It is but a diversion.