In addition to being the only defensive player on the list of finalists, Mathieu is also the only sophomore in the group.
Mathieu, who has been named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week twice this year, currently leads the top-ranked Tigers in tackles with 66. He leads the SEC and ranks second in the nation in both forced fumbles (6) and fumble recoveries (4). Mathieu has also intercepted two passes, recorded seven pass breakups and a pair of quarterback hurries. He has 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks to his credit for an LSU defense that is allowing just 10 points and 248 total yards per game.
Mathieu has scored three touchdowns this year, most recently returning a punt 92 yards for a touchdown in LSU’s comeback win over Arkansas. Mathieu scored on a 3-yard fumble return against Oregon in the season-opener and he followed that with a 23-yard fumble return for a score against Kentucky.
Georgia coach Mike Richt answered questions from the medias at his weekly media session in Athens on Monday.
Richt was asked about LSU playing this season with a bulls eye on them all year and getting everyone's best shot?
Richt: "A lot of people had them preseason No. 1, and I've been on teams that were preseason No. 1 and you do get everyone's best shot. Their style of play is so solid that you have a lot less chance of messing it up on any one given day. It's real simple, it's real solid and it's real physical and you just get after people and they've been sable to do it."
Richt was asked how Georgia could win with LSU being the favorite?
Richt: "You do what you do and you do it well. They're going to do what they do and they are going to try and do it well. I'm a broken record on the turnover ratio in, but that's huge. If we can come out of there and win that part of the game we got a lot better chance of winning it. You don't want to give up the big play on special teams. I just think that we have to look at our strengths and play to those and just get after it.
"That's really what it's going to come to. It's going to be a good football game."
Someone asked the Georgia coach on LSU trying to win a national championship and Georgia trying to win an SEC Championship and if that puts added pressure on LSU and makes it easier for Georgia?
"There's plenty of motivation in my opinion for both teams to play their best.When you get used to winning it becomes just a habit just like anything else can become a habit, so you are going to play in such a way that gives you the best chance of winning again.
"Only one team can win and we know that, but both teams have plenty of motivation to get up and play in this ball game. Just playing in the Georgia Dome is a special thing. You know if you are in there something good happened to you, especially this time of year. The fans will be excited. The players will be excited. Coaches will be jacked up.
"It's going to be a great atmosphere."
by Ed Staton