It looks like it's true, the "Honey Badger don't care."
LSU could still win the SEC West, but Mathieu's dismissal is big enough to knock this team from the pedestal of being the favorites in America's toughest division.
There is some debate as to whether or not Mathieu is more sizzle than steak, since Alabama picked on him a bit in the Tigers' 21-0 loss to the Crimson Tide in last season's BCS National Championship Game.
However, you can't argue how big his impact was on his team overall.
His work on special teams flipped momentum in three games last season. He did it in the Tigers' season-opening win vs. Oregon, in the regular-season finale vs. Arkansas and again in the SEC Championship Game vs. Georgia.
It's a cliche, but in Mathieu's case, it's true—big-time players make big-time plays in big games.
The Tigers are going to have to win big games if they want to repeat as SEC Champions, and will have to do so with Odell Beckham, Jr. as the team's punt returner and either David Jenkins or Jalen Collins lining up opposite Tharold Simon at defensive back.
That's not to say that those players can't handle the responsibility; but Mathieu's knack to get the big punt return, force the turnover or make the big tackle in the open field when his team needs it the most is unmatched in the current landscape of college football.
LSU can still win the SEC West.
It's a talented football team that still has a lot of talent on defense. Plus, it's biggest issue on either side of the ball from last season will be fixed as long as quarterback Zach Mettenberger can stretch the field. Nevertheless, Mathieu's absence absolutely throws the SEC West up for grabs, particularly for Alabama and Arkansas.
With Mathieu gone, LSU will enter 2012 without a first-round pick (Morris Claiborne), a fourth-round pick (Ron Brooks) and a Heisman finalist (Mathieu) from last season's secondary. Those are too many question marks to make the Tigers the favorites, even though Mathieu's cover skills are up for debate.
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