ATLANTA -- It was bordering on the ridiculous.
For two months since that slop of Game of the Century we’ve had to listen to SEC loyalists argue about the defensive aesthetic value of its top teams. For the first half of the SEC championship game the Strength Everywhere Conference had lost the benefit of the doubt. It shamed itself. It shamed football. It shamed the No. 1 ranking.
At least the top two BCS remain intact. Or so it seems after No. 1 LSU did enough in the second half Saturday to beat Georgia in the SEC title game thanks to a kid renamed Heisman Badger.
His real name, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, not only saved the game for the Tigers, in one stunning afternoon-turned-night that turned Georgia into goo. At the same time he saved the SEC’s rep and legitimized, somewhat, the BCS national championship game.
Mathieu returned one punt 62 yards and set up another score with a 47-yard in the third quarter. Somewhere, Johnny Rodgers was giving props. Everywhere crotchety gray-haired Heisman voters conditioned to write “Andrew Luck” on the top line over the top few weeks had to scramble.
Spelling lessons – no, it’s not Tyrone Matthew – and a highlight package were in order for the uninitiated. A cornerback for Heisman is an acquired taste. Ask Charles Woodson. Can Mathieu get to New York? Debatable. Should he win the Heisman? No question.
With apologies to Robert Griffin III, this might have been as big a Heisman Moment as there has been on the last Saturday in recent years.
That was all a mostly punchless LSU offense needed. It had tortured its coach and LSU fans for most of the game, but particularly in the first half. The Tigers had 12 yards and no first downs at halftime. The only reason they any points was Mathieu’s punt return.
The defense took over in the third quarter, giving LSU field position that led to 21 points. That’s all the Tigers needed to (we think) secure a spot in the BCS title game for the third time in eight years. Believed to be accompanying LSU is Alabama which waited on the sidelines Saturday for the Tigers to rubber-stamp things.
That would be a matchup of the No. 31 (Alabama) and No. 62 (LSU) offenses. But on defense those teams are 1-2 in total defense. But there is only one Honey Badger which was the only original nickname stuck on the sophomore from New Orleans when he began making play after play.
For those of you not caught up on the Honey Badger saga, watch this. You too will see why the Honey Badger takes what he wants.
In the season opener against Oregon, Mathieu led all LSU tacklers with 10 accenting that with a strip and score of Duck Kenyon Barner. At the end of the season, in his 25<sup>th</sup> career game, Mathieu has averaged one big “Badger play” per game. That would be four career interceptions, 11 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries and two punt returns for touchdowns. Total: 25.
The SEC as a whole really couldn’t lose Saturday. LSU could have lost and possibly opened the door for the best postseason day in SEC history. Three teams – LSU, Alabama and Georgia – would have stood a chance of getting an unprecedented three BCS bids.
Turns out it doesn’t matter who lost that Nov. 5 Game of the Century. If it was LSU, Alabama would have been here causing Georgia to tap out. One was going to be No. 1 and the other was going to be No. 2. That is all but assured now. Right?