TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Who doesn’t like a good conspiracy theory?
Elvis is alive, aliens are everywhere and Coca-Cola once intentionally made a bad product with New Coke to drive up demand — to which former company president Donald Keough said: "The truth is we're not that dumb, and we're not that smart."
When things don’t go your way, or you can’t explain what happened the easy response is to put the blame somewhere else. It’s human nature, plus we’ve all seen and heard enough weird things over the years to think a lot’s possible.
There’s a lot of weird in Louisiana as well.
This week, there have been allegations of corruption from the Bayou State, that Alabama and the SEC are working together to help the Crimson Tide’s chances of winning another national championship.
It’s not from just fans, either. Following the controversial targeting call against the Tigers’ leading tackler Devin White against Mississippi State, with the linebacker set to miss the first half of the No. 1 Alabama at No. 4 LSU game on Nov. 3, political analyst and alumni James Carville wrote The Advocate and accused the SEC of being “in the tank for Alabama.”
“If there was any doubt, the SEC crew in zebra stripes made it clear Saturday night. The league is in cahoots with the Crimson Tide. Yes, it appears there is collusion.
“After the botched targeting call on LSU linebacker Devin White, the SEC is presented with a rare moment to atone for past sins and put to rest its prior affairs. It has an opportunity to take a stand for fairness and democracy.”
The governor also chimed in.
Hey, we get it. Louisianans are passionate about football. You would think people in the political world would have better things to do less than two weeks before the election (and a Google search for “Louisiana” and “corruption” turned up 7,330,000 results), but I digress.
First of all, targeting is an NCAA rule and it’s not even a new one. It’s been around since 2013.
Here’s the part about how it’s defined that’s pertinent to this discussion:
Rule 9-1-4: No player shall target and make forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting. When in question, it is a foul.
That last part is obviously crucial in this situation because anyone who says it was a borderline call is by de facto saying it’s targeting. The standard and precedence was already in place, that when the play is in question the NCAA will always err on the side of safety. Moreover, every player and coach has been told this repeatedly and to stay away from the head area.
That’s why the league didn’t overrule the decision from the game.
It's one thing to say that the rule needs to be changed, which LSU coach Ed Orgeron is already arguing. But collusion? Just a glance at a stat page debunks that as Alabama is fourth in the SEC in penalties with 49 for 430 yards (53.8 per game). Flipping it around, it’s 78th in the nation out of 129 teams in fewest penalties.
But if all that isn’t enough to convince you, here are 10 other strong indicators that the league office isn’t favoring any football team, especially Alabama — and this doesn't include the numerous rule changes that have been made over the years to try and curtail Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.
1] Alabama can still make the College Football Playoff with a loss on Nov. 3. LSU can’t. If anything the league would want to try and get a second team in for the bigger payout. Last year it was an extra $6 million for each team that made the semifinals.
2] Ratings. It only makes sense that the more people who think LSU has a chance to beat Alabama the higher the ratings for the game.
3] Which SEC team has benefitted the most from penalties made by opponents this season? That would be LSU. In eight games the opposition has been flagged 72 times for 636 yards for an average of 79.5 yards per game. Alabama is tied seventh in the SEC along with Auburn. In a 14-team league you can’t get any more average than that.
4] Can you remember the last time an opposing player was called for holding? Alabama is leading the league in sacks yet there’s been only one holding call against the other team over the last five games. It came against Missouri.
5] Alabama’s opponents had the fewest penalty yards per game (31.7) last season. Not in the SEC, but the nation.
6] Crimson Tide opponents had the fewest penalties called against them in 2016, ranking No. 128 out of 128 teams. They were flagged just 58 times for 471 yards. If Alabama's opponents had been called for their average number of penalties, there would have been 86.8 flags thrown.
7] The chippy play of late. There was a lot during the last two games as players from Missouri and Tennessee got increasingly frustrated. Sometimes the result was a penalty, but not always. Among them was a late hit to defensive lineman Quinnen Williams against Missouri.
8] History, part I: How many of you remember the quote about how Alabama was “absolutely staring down the barrel of a gun.” Cahoots? Yeah, right.
9] History, part II: In 2010, Saban’s worst at Alabama, the Crimson Tide played six straight SEC teams coming off a bye. The league responded by passing a rule stipulating that no team had to play more than three league opponents coming off a bye during a single season, but it never should have happened.
10] The Crimson Tide is much more dangerous when not No. 1. Last year Alabama was the last team into the College Football Playoff at No. 4. During its previous three national titles it was No. 2 heading into the title game (against LSU, Notre Dame and Clemson). It came up short both times it entered the College Football Playoff as the No. 1 seed.