ATLANTA — Tyrann Mathieu doesn't care when his team struggles.
He just takes what he wants.
In this case, it's a trip to the national championship game.
Mathieu turned in an MVP performance when the No. 1 Tigers needed him most. He ran back a punt 62 yards for a touchdown, set up another score with a fumble recovery and finally finished off No. 12 Georgia with his best play yet — a whirling dervish of a return that led to the decisive touchdown in a 42-10 rout in the SEC title game Saturday.
LSU (13-0) clinched a spot in the BCS championship game in New Orleans, 75 miles from its Baton Rouge campus. Its opponent will be announced tonight, but SEC West rival and No. 2 Alabama — already beaten by the Tigers 9-6 in overtime a month ago — had the inside track even though it didn't win its division.
"Last night, I envisioned me having three touchdowns," Mathieu said. "I think I came close to that. It comes down to me trying to do what I can for my team."
The Bulldogs (10-3) raced to a 10-0 lead that could've been even bigger if they hadn't dropped two potential touchdown catches from former Tampa Plant High quarterback Aaron Murray in the first quarter. LSU looked downright awful on offense, going three-and-out on all seven of its drives before halftime.
Murray hit Aron White for a 12-yard touchdown and a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Tigers didn't have a single first down, finishing the half with just 12 total yards, and the reason their deficit was only 10-7 was Mathieu's punt return.
On Georgia's first possession of the second half, Murray tried to scramble for a first down but had the ball knocked loose just before he hit the turf.
Mathieu, a cornerback, fell on it at the Bulldogs 26 for his fifth fumble recovery of the season.
LSU quickly seized its first lead. The Tigers finally picked up a first down before freshman Kenny Hilliard broke off a 15-yard run for the first of his three touchdowns.
That set the stage for LSU to take control with a 21-point third quarter, coming back from a double-digit deficit for the second week in a row and leaving little doubt that it's the best team in the country heading into bowl season. The only other unbeaten team, Houston, was blown out in the Conference USA championship game Saturday.
The Tigers have beaten five teams in the current AP top 25 including three of the top eight.
LSU coach Les Miles, as least for public consumption, said he looks forward to a rematch with the Crimson Tide, a game that will ensure the SEC of its sixth straight national championship.
"I would certainly understand if college football decides it should be two SEC teams playing for the national championship," he said. "It's a very special conference with very special teams."
SEC East champion Georgia came into the game on a 10-game winning streak, and the Bulldogs showed no fear early. Murray hit Tavarres King on a 44-yard pass and could've had a TD when a pass across the middle went through King's hands. They settled for Blair Walsh's 40-yard field goal.
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt called an onside kick that worked the perfection. But freshman Malcolm Mitchell dropped a pass right in his hands at the LSU 5 and Georgia came away with no points.
"I know I'm shocked," said Murray, who had a cut on his lip. "I know the team's kind of shocked, especially the way (we) started the game."
Hutson Mason, who replaced Murray in the fourth quarter, put it in more blunt terms.
"I think we kind of gave in a little bit. I don't think we handled adversity as well as we wish we could have," Mason said. "It looks like they blew us out, but I guarantee you if you go ask them and they give you an honest answer, they'll say, 'That team is a whole lot better than us beating them 42-10.' "