Easily the most recognizable player on LSU’s roster is cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. The Heisman finalist earned himself the nickname of “The Honey Badger” because he takes away the football seemingly at will.
But when he missed time against Auburn, the Tigers still ended up winning 45-10. Is his impact on the game overrated?
Absolutely not, and in many ways his impact is underrated.
LSU’s success this year has come from winning the field position battle. The team averages more than 38 points per game—12th in the country—but is only getting 375 yards per game to do it on (74th in the country).
Special teams and big plays on defense play just as big of a part in the offense as Jordan Jefferson, Spencer Ware or Rueben Randle. Mathieu is not only a stellar cornerback but he has the third-most punt return yards this season, including two he returned for touchdowns in the past two games.
He has six turnovers that he picked up, forced six fumbles and also has broken up seven passes. That is exactly the kind of playmaker LSU’s defense needs in order to be successful.
As for the game against Auburn, his impact wasn’t as felt because of what the Tigers do offensively. They either score 30-plus points or 20 or fewer points, with every game more than 30 being a win and every game less than 20 being a loss.
Getting held to 10 points on the road where they are 1-4 on the year is therefore not entirely out of the ordinary, especially considering all of the elite recruits LSU brings in on a regular basis who are fighting for a chance at playing time.
The Honey Badger may not have a big play in every game this season, like in the first Alabama game where he only had five total tackles, but his impact on the game cannot be understated because of how crucial big plays are to LSU’s team as a whole. When he struggles, so do the Tigers.
That is almost by definition what it means to be one of the most important players on the team.