Tyrann Mathieu Dismissed: 5 Games That Are No Longer Cake Walks for LSU
The offseason of college football has not been a quiet one, and the dismissal (undisclosed violation of team policy) of last season's First Team All-American, Bednarik Winner and Heisman Finalist certainly has spiced up the Bayou even more.
Tyrann Mathieu was regarded as one of the best players in America, thanks to his electric ability to bring back punts, but his corner skills were sensational as well.
Tharold Simon will be expected to carry this secondary alongside Preseason All-American All-SEC safety Eric Reid, but several youngsters will need to fill the void.
LSU was regarded as the top team in America, and while most may still consider them the best in the nation, this loss will surely be tough to overcome.
The Tigers can still run the table and play in the BCS title, but the following five games are no longer considered cake walks after the loss of the "Honey Badger."
Sept. 22 at Auburn
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The Auburn Tigers come into the season as one of the bigger SEC dark horses, thanks to an improving defense and a talented group of receivers.
Emory Blake is a stud as he is coming off 36 receptions for 613 yards and 5 TDs. Blake has the ability to haul in passes with ease thanks to his large frame, but the help from All-American tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen is a huge deal.
With the addition of fullback Jay Prosch, the star tight end can go out for a lot more passes. Life may not be easy for the Tigers secondary, but Eric Reid is still a star that can match up with any player in the country.
The key can decide the outcome of this game should be the quarterbacks (Kiehl Frazier vs. Zach Mettenberger), but DeAngelo Benton, Trovon Reed and Travante Stallworth can make a world of difference as well.
While beyondthebets.com has Auburn as 7.5 point favorites at the moment, certainly that will change since it is the fourth game of the year for LSU. Time will tell how well they will be playing without their former All-American.
Oct. 6 at Florida
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The Gators offense was putrid last season, finishing 105th and averaging only 328 yards per game. However, with everybody returning, the numbers should increase quite a bit.
Obviously, Florida has a quarterback battle that they need to solve, and they need to produce more from their running game. But LSU's defense laughed at every SEC squad they lined up against last year.
No team had much of a chance to move the ball on a consistent basis because the Bayou Bengals defensive line was, and arguably still is, the best in the game.
Despite losing their top defensive back and special teams ace, LSU shouldn't be sleepless at night, as most experts will still lean towards LSU playing in a BCS bid (plus they are still four-point favorites).
Tharold SImon is more than capable of matching up with the likes of Quinton Dunbar, Andre DeBose and Frankie Hammond.
David Jenkins and Ronnie Vinson both transferred during the offseason, so Jalen Mills, Dwayne Thomas and Jalen Collins are just a few of the names that need to fill in admirably, but with all the talent playing in front of the secondary, the task on hand may not be mission impossible like some may assume.
Oct. 20 at Texas A&M
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I could have bet on my life savings that Texas A&M would not be considered to have a realistic chance of upsetting the LSU Tigers heading into the season, but my opinion has certainly changed a tad with the dismissal of Mathieu.
First off, Kevin Sumlin's offense is not easy to prepare against, and secondly it is vital that they have two NFL prospects at offensive tackle.
LSU can harass opposing quarterbacks as well as any team in the nation, but they still need to match up with Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu.
Both have hauled in more than 300 receptions thus far in their careers, as well as 28 touchdowns. Their careers have been consistent in College Station overall, but they will seeing their third different starting quarterback.
The musical chairs at quarterback could be tough to endure, but Christine Michael at running back could allow his teammates to get single coverage.
All that said, this game is even more intriguing (LSU was a 11.5-point favorite) after the loss of Mathieu, with a spread offense going up against one of the most athletic, talented defenses in the nation.
Nov. 3 vs. Alabama
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Ok, so this was far from a cake walk, but many believed LSU would run the table and that includes this game. Not so much anymore.
The "Game of the Century" was an absolute defensive battle last season, and although it likely will not be as low-scoring as it was last season, these two star-studded defenses should put on a clinic once again.
Playing without your top defensive player (arguably third or fourth after Mingo, Mongtomery, Reid) will not be an easy chore.
Alabama will pound the rock all game long, but they have a few young receivers that made Mathieu look like an average corner during the BCS National Championship game.
Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood and DeAndrew White are just a few of the names that will be leading the way against the LSU secondary. Perhaps the Tigers will escape the first three opponents I listed, but it may be tough to get by Nick Saban, even in Death Valley (LSU was favored by three points according to Beyond the Bets).
Nov. 23 at Arkansas
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Remember that punt return touchdown that helped turn on the switch in their victory over Arkansas last season?
It was with just under four minutes remaining until halftime, and LSU trailed 14-7. Then the "Honey Badger" went bonkers, returning a punt 92 yards to the house as the game quickly turned into a blowout.
LSU dominated and won 41-17 in a game that propelled the Tigers into the SEC and BCS title. Mathieu will be missed at corner, but the loss of his prowess as a special team kick and punt returner is devastating.
The kid was a dynamite in pads, and LSU will now need to rely on Odell Beckham and likely Jarvis Landry or perhaps Russell Shepard to fill in for the best in America.
Their game against the Razorbacks will now be extremely tough (3.5-point favorites, LSU for now) with Cobi Hamilton and Chris Gragg racing down the sidelines for six.
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There were just so many moments last season in which Mathieu came to the rescue for LSU, and the tweeting skills of BCS guru Brad Edwards backed that up.
There were only six occasions in which LSU trailed last year, and Mathieu scored half of them without even playing on offense.
Bleacher Report's own Barrett Sallee believes LSU no longer is the favorite in the West, as he thinks the loss of Mathieu gives a clear edge to Alabama at the moment.
I would have to agree at the moment, but the cupboard is not bare in the Bayou. Look at the loss of Greg Reid for Florida State as a similar comparison, but he was nowhere near the star in terms of instincts on the field.
The biggest difference in this loss when comparing the two is the slate of schedules we are looking at. Winning an ACC title compared to coming close to running the table in the SEC is night-and-day.
Don't forget LSU last season trailed Oregon (6-3, second quarter), Georgia (10-0 second quarter) and Arkansas (14-7, second quarter) before Mathieu all scored special teams touchdowns to help turn the tables and save the day (who knows how often LSU would have won had he not made those game-changing plays).
On paper, LSU still looks like a top-five squad without much question (talent-wise), but that is assuming they can stay healthy in the secondary and avoid any hiccups in the special teams after the holes Mathieu is leaving in this squad.
If they lose two or three games at the end of the regular season, we would likely see them ranked just outside the top 10.
An SEC and BCS bid are still reachable, but life in the SEC was going to be tough even if they had the ferocious waterbug (5'9", 175-pounds) making plays all over the field.
Lastly, the overall camaraderie was flawless last season (even when Mathieu and a few others were suspended against Auburn), but it is nearly impossible to endure a perfect season in the SEC for consecutive seasons.