BCS Championship 2012: Why Honey Badger Is Monday's Most Important Player

T.J. McaloonContributorJanuary 6, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03:  Tyrann Mathieu #7 of the LSU Tigers reacts after he returned a punt 42-yards against the Georgia Bulldogs during the third quarter of the 2011 SEC Conference Championship at  Georgia Dome on December 3, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There are a number of players who could help decide Monday’s BCS National Championship Game. However, because of Tyrann Mathieu’s ability to be a shutdown cornerback, plus his ability to break a game open with a punt return, there is no player who is more important in the outcome more than Mathieu, aka “The Honey Badger.”  

In their first meeting between Alabama and LSU, Mathieu did not have that great of an impact. He was held without a punt return, only had four solo tackles and assisted on another, and didn’t have a chance to disrupt any of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron’s passes. 

However, his average stats can be related to coming into the Alabama game after serving a one-game suspension. The suspension, plus Alabama’s punter kicking two nonreturnable balls, kept Mathieu from having a huge impact. 

Since that Alabama game, Mathieu has gone on a tear against opposing offenses with 23 tackles, two forced fumbles and two crucial punt returns that helped launch LSU to two crucial wins in their last two games.  

The punt return against Arkansas was huge, however, his two forced fumbles against was the deciding factor in keeping Arkansas from mounting any comeback.  

His punt return against Georgia lifted a lifeless Tigers team when they were down 10-0. He was the spark that catapulted LSU from possibly missing out on a perfect season, and a chance at playing for its third BCS championship. 

Those two huge games leading into the BCS National Championship Game will lead to Mathieu having a huge game.  

No other player on the field in the BCS Championship Game can lay the claim that more than one game plan will be made for him. Mathieu will dictate how Alabama’s offense and special teams plan their attack on LSU.   

Mathieu will hold the Alabama passing game to another sub-par performance against LSU.  McCarron will finish with a stat line of 15-of-30, with 180 passing yards no touchdowns and two interceptions.  

While shutting down the Alabama passing attack would be good enough, Mathieu will have a big punt return in the second quarter that breaks that game open for LSU after being down 6-0. 

The touchdown will ignite the LSU offense to score 21 unanswered points, resulting in a 28-13 win for the LSU Tigers.