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It's not terribly unusual to have two Heisman candidates facing off in the national championship game.
It is unusual to a Heisman finalist from LSU. Tyrann Mathieu is not only a primarily defensive player making a rare trip to New York City, he's the first player from LSU to be named a finalist since 1977.
What makes this matchup with Trent Richardson so intriguing is that not only will these two finalists' teams square off in the BCS National Championship Game on January 9, but Mathieu and Richardson will be opposing each other on the field at the same time.
We all know why Trent Richarson is headed to the Big Apple. He's been solid, if not dominating for much of the season coming out of the Crimson Tide's backfield.
Whether he's running between the tackles plowing over linemen and through linebackers or running around the tackles and past corners, Richardson has been as close to unstoppable since the last Alabama running back to win the Heisman...which was just two years ago.
When it comes to Mathieu, we have to face facts: he's a finalist not because of his stellar defensive performance (although he is unquestionably a terrific cornerback). As good as he's been this season (70 tackles, 6.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, seven passes broken up, two interceptions, et cetera, et cetera) even die-hard Tigers fans will admit that the Honey Badger's plane ticket to New York was secured with his dynamite ability to return kicks.
Mathieu averages better than 16.1 yards per punt return and has two touchdowns. A Mathieu return almost guarantees LSU good field position, and when you add his special teams performance to his impressive defensive stats, it's possible we could have our first defensive Heisman winner since Michigan's Charles Woodson won the award in 1997 (still the only primarily defensive player to win the Heisman).
It's too bad the trophy isn't awarded after the bowl season, because this game could go a long way to determining which one of these to players deserves recognition.
Because the BCS National Championship features two Heisman finalists, and because we'll have the rare opportunity to see them oppose one another on the field at the same time, Mathieu vs. Richardson gets our nod as the top player vs. player matchup of the bowl season.