Two of the most intriguing things this year will be coinciding during roughly the same time period, the 2016 Presidential Election and the 2016 College Football Season. With that said, we decided to do a comparison between the current Presidential candidates and past Virginia Tech football seasons based only on the performance and polling of the candidates.
Note: This is not an endorsement of any candidate but hopefully an entertaining comparison to lighten the mood of an intense campaign for a moment. We hope that you can take a light-hearted step back and look at how the campaign has played out along with how the fall campaign is setting up as of now.
So, let’s get the comparisons started.
Hillary Clinton and the 1999 Virginia Tech Hokies (Kind of)
The Hokies had been building towards finally getting to a national title game especially after making a Sugar Bowl appearance four years earlier. Virginia Tech also had a highly-anticipated redshirt freshman by the name of Michael Vick taking the reigns for the Hokies.
The Hokies faced some close calls along with way including a two-point victory at rival West Virginia but the Hokies had their ultimate breakthrough, making their first national title game appearance. Now this comparison may be the biggest stretch but this is probably the closest of any Virginia Tech season to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Like the Hokies, Clinton has been fairly steady through the campaign with her biggest victories during the primary seasons coming on the first Super Tuesday and in big states like New York and California just as the Hokies comfortably took care of business in some of their biggest games against Miami, Virginia, and Syracuse.
However, Clinton’s campaign also mirrors the 1999 Florida State Seminoles in some ways. After being favored for the 2008 Democratic nomination and losing to Barack Obama, Clinton finally was able to get the job done and lock up the presumptive nomination. The Seminoles were also heavily favored entering 1999 as the preseason #1 after losing in the national title game in 1998 and losing the last game of their regular season to Florida in 1997 to keep themselves out of the national championship.
Now, Clinton enters the general election as the favorite but will she be like the Seminoles in 1999 or like the ones in 1997 or 1998?
Donald Trump and the 2010 Virginia Tech Hokies
The Virginia Tech Hokies were seen as a national title contender in 2010 at the start of the season and faced the #3 Boise State Broncos to open the season. The Hokies would lose the opener before suffering a shocking upset to James Madison the following week to go 0-2.
In similar ways, Donald Trump’s campaign had a weird and difficult start in the debates with performances that scored quite low and made many see him as a loser of the debates. Trump’s primary season also started with a high-profile loss that some may have expected to Ted Cruz in Iowa but an additional loss to Marco Rubio in Iowa that many didn’t expect.
However, Trump and the Hokies followed a similar pattern after as the Hokies went on to win eleven-straight games including the ACC Championship. Trump had some ups and downs after Iowa but he dominated most of the remaining primaries outside of some states in the Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and Midwest on his way to securing the nomination.
Trump seemed like he might enter the general election season pretty close to Clinton but has dug himself in a hole, similar to the Hokies in 2010. Fortunately for Trump and his supporters, there is still a chance to dig themselves out and win unlike the Hokies had before the College Football Playoff in 2010 but will he or is his early hole plus the momentum of others too much?
Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, and the 1995 Virginia Tech Hokies
The 1995 season was a breakthrough year for Frank Beamer and the Virginia Tech Hokies that launched them as a threat on the national stage. This was two seasons after the Hokies made their first bowl game in the Frank Beamer era and went 8-4 in 1994 to start to gain some momentum.
In 1995, the Hokies started off the season with two losses but then took off after that and won nine-straight to earn a trip to the Sugar Bowl. On the big stage, the Hokies rose to the occasion shocking the Texas Longhorns and finishing tenth in the rankings.
For the Libertarian Party and Green Party, they see this election year as an opportunity to start gaining national relevance just like the Hokies in 1995.
Of course, the Libertarians momentum nearly got stopped at their convention with Gary Johnson having to suffer through a second ballot to gain the presidential nomination before his preferred VP Bill Weld also had to deal with two rounds of voting. Meanwhile, Stein and the Green Party didn’t start gaining much attention until the rise of progressive Bernie Sanders that makes Stein an intriguing option for Bernie supporters.
Like the Hokies, Johnson and Stein have a chance to bring the greatest relevance to their parties in a long time. Johnson is making progress in four-way polls towards the magic 15% while Stein is showing signs of that as well. What does seem clear is that like the 1995 Hokies, this may be the national breakthrough year for both the Libertarians and the Green Party.
Bernie Sanders and the 2011 Virginia Tech Hokies
The 2011 Virginia Tech Hokies started the season as a sleeper to be a national title contender and won all four non-conference games ahead of a home game against the Clemson Tigers. However, the Hokies couldn’t get the job done against Clemson but the Hokies knew that the season was far from over.
After that loss, the Hokies would win seven-straight games to make the ACC Championship and jump all the way to fifth in the rankings with the national title not completely out of reach. However, the Hokies once again slipped up against Clemson before losing to Michigan in the “Danny caught the ball” Sugar Bowl.
Bernie Sanders’s campaign has gone a lot like that as the independent, democratic socialist that many thought could maybe get some attention but didn’t get serious attention as a contender. Sanders also built some early momentum before going into a big delegate hole to Hillary Clinton on Super Tuesday.
Sanders kept pushing after that, going on an impressive primary winning streak and giving himself an outside chance still of getting the nomination. However, Sanders once again ran into the wall in the primaries with the largest delegates as he couldn’t get by Clinton in key states like New York and California, which proved costly.
For Sanders, the most delegate-rich states and days were some of his worst days just like the Hokies in two big games against Clemson.