Stats & Info: Tyrann Mathieu

Crystal LoGiudice/US PresswireLSU's Tyrann Mathieu is a Heisman hopeful because he was valuable both when he had the ball, and when he didn't.
The Heisman Trophy will be awarded at 8 pm ET on ESPN. Here's a statistical snapshot of the strengths of each of the finalists for the sport's most prestigious honor.

Andrew Luck, Stanford
Luck’s 2011 season stats are eerily similar to those of his 2010 season where he was the Heisman runner-up. His completion percentage, touchdowns and interceptions, yards-per- attempt, and number of 20-yard completions are nearly identical.

Luck did improve statistically in two areas.

On passes that went at least 10 yards down the field, he finished with 17 touchdowns and only three interceptions, an improvement upon his 16-to-7 ratio in 2010

Luck’s accuracy on play-action passes (73 percent completion rate) was a near-match for 2010 (72 percent), but an increase of how often he passed out of play action (from 22 percent of the time to 28 percent) resulted in his doubling the number of touchdowns he made on such plays, from eight to 16.

Stat to know:Luck is trying to become Stanford's first Heisman winner since Jim Plunkett (1970).

Robert Griffin III, Baylor

When it comes to pressure, Griffin handled as well as any other quarterback in the nation. Griffin completed over 70 percent of his pass attempts when opponents blitzed this season with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions.

Griffin excelled in 2011 with the deep ball, as much as anyone in the country. Griffin completed a higher percentage of his passes and threw more touchdowns than many other notable quarterbacks on throws of 25 yards or more downfield this season.

Griffin’s 17 touchdown passes of at least 50 yards over the last two seasons are the most in college football by a considerable amount, five more than Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones. Griffin leads FBS with 10 touchdown passes of at least 50 yards in 2011.

Stat to know: Baylor has never had a Heisman Trophy winner. If Griffin wins, Baylor will be the sixth different school in the state of Texas with a Heisman, joining Texas, Texas A&M, Houston, TCU and SMU. No other state has had more than three schools with a winner (California, Florida).

Trent Richardson, Alabama
What made Richardson so good this season was that he was tough to tackle. Nearly half of his rushing yards (767 of 1,583) came after contact. He broke for at least 10 yards at a rate of nearly once every six runs.

Richardson had 21 rushes of 15 yards or longer in SEC play this season, including three in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. Only Cam Newton has had more in SEC play (22) over the past eight seasons.

In his last chance to impress Heisman voters, Trent Richardson ran for a career-high 203 yards on 27 carries Saturday against Auburn.

Richardson showcased his versatility by gaining 100 yards after contact and by breaking five runs for at least 10 yards, including ones of 35 and 57 yards.

Richardson’s performance was reminiscent of Alabama’s Mark Ingram, who also excelled in his last chance to secure votes, rushing for 113 yards, 75 coming after contact in the 2009 SEC title game against Florida.

Stat to Know: Richardson and Mark Ingram would be just the third pair of running back teammates to both win the Heisman Trophy, joining Charles White (1979) & Marcus Allen (1981) from USC and Doc Blanchard (1945) & Glenn Davis (1946) from Army.

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU

Mathieu has only a pair of interceptions this season, but he has forced an FBS-high six fumbles.

Mathieu is also tied for the lead in the FBS with five fumble recoveries, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

LSU is ranked third in the nation in pass efficiency defense this season (93.1) and that has a lot to do with their play on the perimeter. Opponents have struggled to throw the ball towards the sideline against the Tigers, an area usually patrolled by Mathieu.

LSU finished the regular season having allowed 5.4 yards per pass attempt in 2011, tied for third-fewest in the nation. Teams were unable to stretch the field against the Tigers as they had more than twice as many interceptions (9) as completions allowed (4) on passes of 25 or more yards downfield this season.

Overall, LSU’s foes were 4-for-38, with just one touchdown on those sorts of throws. Teams in the BCS Top 25 were 2-for-20 with four interceptions.

Stat To Know: Mathieu would be the second Heisman winner from LSU, joining Billy Cannon (1959) and the second defensive player to win the Heisman, joining Charles Woodson.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Richardson is credited with getting his numbers against tough SEC defenses, but Ball’s opponents have stacked up to what Richardson has faced.

Wisconsin’s FBS opponents ranked an average of 68th against the run this season compared to 59th for Alabama’s opponents. Ball has only faced one fewer team that ranked in the top 50 in opponents rushing defense than Richardson did.

Ball also had more yards (1,759), touchdowns (32) and big runs (57 runs of at least 10 yards) than Richardson in 2011. Richardson finished with 42 runs of at least 10 yards.

Ball's strength was in blowing past opposing defenders. He was not touched by the defense on 18 of his 32 rushing touchdowns.

Also of note: Of his 32 rushing touchdowns, 23 came against defenses that were ready for him-- those that lined up eight or more men in the box.

Stat To Know: Ball leads FBS with 38 touchdowns this season. The last national scoring leader to win the Heisman was Eddie George in 1995.

The 10 plays that shaped the CFB season

December, 6, 2011
There were 770 games played in the 2011 college football season. We give you the 10 plays that shaped the BCS Championship race.

1. Tyrann Mathieu returns fumble for TD
LSU 40, Oregon 27
Significance: These top-five teams were locked in a 6-3 game. The Tigers went three-and-out and punted, but Kenjon Barner fumbled the return at the three and LSU's playmaker snapped it up and went into the end zone for a momentum-shifting score.

2. Kirk Cousins completes 44-yard Hail Mary to Keith Nichol
Michigan State 37, Wisconsin 31
Significance: Wisconsin had its eyes on a perfect regular season and a spot in the title game. But after a last-second heave, ricochet, catch and then video review, that dream was dashed.

3. Oklahoma misses 28-yard field goal vs Texas Tech
Texas Tech 41, Oklahoma 38
Significance: The Sooners were preseason No. 1 and still undefeated, but trailed 31-7 at home. They mounted a comeback, but after Michael Hunnicutt's missed FG from 28 yards out there wasn't enough time left to overcome a 10-point deficit.

4. Tajh Boyd gets intercepted in the end zone
Georgia Tech 31, Clemson 17
Significance: Down 14 points, Clemson had just intercepted Georgia Tech, getting the ball at Georgia Tech's nine-yard line. But on the first play, Boyd was picked by Jemea Thomas, ending the Tigers' comeback and dashing their national-title hopes.

5. LSU’s Eric Reid intercepts Alabama at the 1-yard line
LSU 9, Alabama 6 (OT)
Significance: In a 6-6 game in the fourth quarter, LSU's Eric Reid wrestled the ball away from Alabama TE Michael Williams at the one-yard line for an interception, preventing what could have been the winning score. LSU would win it in overtime.

6. Boseko Lokombo picks off Andrew Luck and returns it for TD
Oregon 53, Stanford 30
Significance: This was Stanford’s last major obstacle to a perfect regular season. Down 16 points, Luck had Stanford driving. But the pick ended those hopes, putting the game out of reach and handing the Cardinal its only loss of the season.

7. Boise State misses 39-yard field goal as time expires
TCU 36, Boise State 35
Significance: Playing on the home turf where they had been dominant for so long, the Broncos went down a point after TCU made the gutsy call to go for two. But Boise drove down the field before Dan Goodale sailed his kick wide right as time expired and the Broncos were no longer unbeaten.

8. Brandon Weeden's pass intercepted in first play of second overtime
Iowa State 37, Oklahoma State 31 (2 OT)
Significance: The Cyclones came back from a 24-7 deficit to tie the game at 24 heading into overtime. But on the first play of the second overtime, Brandon Weeden was intercepted. Three plays later Iowa State scored to end Oklahoma State's dream.

9. Oregon misses 37-yard field goal as time expires
USC 38, Oregon 35
Significance: Even after their season-opening loss, the Ducks still had a shot at the BCS Championship. But USC, ineligible for postseason play, gave the Ducks a battle at Autzen Stadium. Down three, Oregon had the chance to send it into overtime. But Alejandro Maldonado missed a 37-yarder.

10. Robert Griffin III completes 34-yard TD pass with :08 left
Baylor 45, Oklahoma 38
Significance: Just like Oregon, Oklahoma still had a chance to sneak back into the title picture despite a loss. But Baylor's Heisman candidate Griffin shocked the Sooners with a game-winning touchdown pass with eight seconds left.

To see images of these plays, click here.
On Monday the five finalists invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony were revealed. This year has featured one of the most interesting races for the Heisman as no one player has stood from the rest.

Here's a look at what a Heisman Trophy win -- or loss -- would mean to these players and their respective schools.

Trent Richardson, Alabama
Two seasons ago Trent Richardson was a part of a National Championship team with a Heisman Trophy winner, when running back Mark Ingram became Alabama's first winner. Richardson has nearly identical numbers to Ingram this season, and has already totaled 23 touchdowns compared to Ingram's 20 TD's.

If Richardson were to win the award it would put him and Ingram in some rare company. In the history of the Heisman Trophy only three times have two different players playing the same position at the same school won the award in a span of three seasons. It last happened when USC QB Matt Leinart won it in 2004 after Carson Palmer had taken home the award in 2002.

Andrew Luck, Stanford
Luck is listed second here as he finished second for the Heisman last season and Stanford has actually had the Heisman runner-up in each of the past two seasons (Toby Gerhart, 2009).

If Luck wins he would be the second player in Stanford history to win the award (Jim Plunkett, 1970) and join 1981 Herschel Walker as the only Heisman runner-ups to win the award the next season.

If Luck finishes second, Stanford would set a record. No school has ever had a Heisman runner-up in three consecutive seasons.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Montee Ball earned his invite thanks to his impressive numbers. Ball needs one touchdown in the Rose Bowl to tie Barry Sanders' FBS record for touchdowns in a season (39). Sanders won the Heimsan trophy during that 1988 season.

The last time a Big Ten player had 25 touchdowns was Eddie George during the 1995 season. George went on to win the Heisman trophy that year.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor
RGIII finished off a great regular season in which he threw 36 touchdowns compared to only six interceptions, while also leading Baylor to nine wins, its most since the 1986 season.

Griffin's invite is an accomplishment in its own considering he plays for Baylor. The Bears have only had one player finish in the top five of the Heisman vote in school history. In 1963 Don Trull finished fourth.

If Baylor's Robert Griffin III wins the Heisman Trophy this year, he will be just the third player since the BCS was established in 1998 to win the Heisman without his team playing in a BCS bowl game.

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
The Honey Badger will take the trip to New York looking to join Charles Woodson as the only defensive backs to win the Heisman trophy.

Despite being a defensive player, recent history is on Mathieu's side to take home the award. Since 2003, seven of the past eight Heisman Trophy winners have come from the team at number one in the BCS standings entering the National Championship Game.

Can LSU D-eliver against Georgia?

November, 30, 2011
LSU and Georgia enter Saturday’s SEC Championship Game as two of the hottest teams in college football. LSU holds the FBS’ longest active winning streak at 13 games while Georgia’s 10-game streak is third-longest.

With a win, LSU solidifies its place in the BCS Championship Game and becomes just the fifth team in the BCS era to be a wire-to-wire No. 1 in the BCS Standings. It’s worth noting two of the previous four that went wire-to-wire lost the title game.

As LSU goes after its 11th SEC title, and second under Les Miles, it will be all about defense despite a Tigers offense that leads the conference in scoring at 38.2 points per game.

The Tigers are ranked top six nationally in five major defensive categories: turnover margin (first), total defense (second), scoring defense (second), rush defense (fourth) and pass defense (sixth). LSU has scored seven defensive or special teams touchdowns, which is just five less than their defense has allowed all year (12).

Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne lead a unit which has allowed just 27 plays of 20 yards or longer, second fewest in FBS. They have held their opponents to a completion percentage of 13.3 on passes of 20 yards or longer and no opposing player has more than one reception on passes 20 yards or longer. In fact the Tigers have more interceptions (eight) than their opponents have receptions (six) on 20-yard throws.

As a result, it takes an average of 10 plays per drive to score a touchdown against LSU, highest average in FBS.

Why has LSU been so successful on defense? One reason has been the blitz.

LSU sends five or more pass rushers on 38.5 percent of its opponents’ dropbacks on third down and is the only team in FBS that has not allowed a touchdown pass on third down this season.

With all the talk focusing on LSU’s defense, it should be noted that Georgia is no slouch on that side of the ball either. They are the only SEC team to force its conference opponents to no gain, or a loss, on at least 40 percent of their plays in every game.

That being said, Georgia has to be successful on offense to crack LSU’s undefeated armor.

Quarterback Aaron Murray leads the SEC and is sixth nationally with 16 touchdown passes on first down this season. However when it comes to the deep ball, Murray has struggled recently.

In his last two games he completed 2 of 12 passes of 20 yards or longer including two interceptions and no touchdowns. For the season, Murray has completed 28.8 percent of these throws with four interceptions.

Murray, who has thrown for a school-record 32 touchdowns, including 14 in his last four games, needs to play well if Georgia hopes to pull off the upset.

Saturday will be the third time these two teams will meet in the conference championship (each has won one). It is interesting that the winner of the last five SEC Championship games has gone on to win the BCS National Championship. Ironically, the last winner that did not win the title was Georgia in 2005. That year, the Bulldogs defeated LSU in the championship game, but lost to West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl.