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November 27, 2011
As backup plans go, Tyrann Mathieu isn't a bad option.
As a result of Reid's absence, Mathieu moved from cornerback to free safety, and he turned in the game-changing performance LSU is used to getting from its secondary.
Mathieu had eight tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery as the Tigers held the SEC's best pass offense to 202 yards in a 41-17 win. He also returned a punt for a touchdown, and his effort earned Mathieu the Rivals.com National Player of the Week honor.
The turning point was the punt return. With LSU trailing 14-7 in the second quarter, Mathieu returned a punt 92 yards to open the floodgates for LSU. The Tigers outscored Arkansas 34-3 starting with the Mathieu punt return.
"We were trying to get the ball punted to the sideline, but he mishit it a bit and punted it to the middle of the field," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "We had guys right there, and he made a tremendous run. He made a great cut and made us miss at the point of attack. He made a great play."
[Forde: LSU leaves no doubt]
No defensive player made a bigger impact through the first six weeks of the season than Mathieu. Through that span, he intercepted two passes, forced four fumbles and recovered three.
With Reid out, Mathieu reassumed his role as the top playmaker on LSU's defense.
"You have to have confidence in yourself," Mathieu said. "You never want to give up on yourself, and you never want to give up on your team. When you get the chance, you make that big play."
Louisville still needs help to reach its first BCS game since 2006, but the Cardinals took care of their end of the deal with a 34-24 win Friday over USF in Tampa.
The Cardinals' transformation from a team that lost to Florida International and Marshall early in the season to a team with a share of the Big East title has been because of a handful of factors, but the most visible is the play of Bridgewater.
He was 19-of-28 with 241 yards and a career-high three touchdowns in the comeback win over the Bulls. Louisville trailed 24-20 with 2:21 remaining in the third quarter before Bridgewater's 11-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open DeVante Parker in the end zone against a confused USF secondary.
Wisconsin could have called it a day after the first half and still had the best effort of any team this season against Penn State's defense.
The Badgers scored touchdowns on four of their six first-half possessions against the Nittany Lions, opening up a 28-7 halftime lead. The most points Penn State had allowed in a game all season was 27 to Alabama on Sept. 10.
Chryst's offense finished with 264 rushing yards, a season-high against Penn State, and 186 passing yards as Wisconsin clinched a trip to the Big Ten championship game.
"We have a lot of talent on offense, and Coach [Paul] Chryst does a great job of exposing the defense," Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson said. "No matter what it is, running the football or throwing it, we can do a lot of different things."
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