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."
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."