BATON ROUGE, La. — While top-ranked LSU may not need to win the SEC to reach the national championship game, the Tigers remain motivated heading into their matchup against No. 12 Georgia.
"Winning the SEC is extremely important," said sophomore cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who has never won a football championship. "I know that the last few years the team that won the SEC did pretty good in the national title game. That's our first goal.
"We really want to go undefeated and Georgia is in our way."
LSU and the surging Bulldogs — winners of 10 consecutive games — meet in Saturday night's Southeastern Conference championship game. But according to some BCS projections, the Tigers could lose the game and still play for the national title.
Coach Les Miles doesn't want to hear any of that. He is trying to ensure that the only thing on his players' minds is Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, tailback Isaiah Crowell and the rest of the Bulldogs.
"I'll go through the (BCS) issues with the players and deflect them," Miles said. "It's all fundamental to the game we're about to play. We won the West. That is an accomplishment, and this year, that's a great accomplishment. Georgia won the East side. Now we play for conference honors.
"There will be no review of what's next. Nothing will come from my mouth about that. Our team is so looking forward to play Georgia. This is what the team has set its sights upon. This is the conference where we compete week in and week out.
"It's one game for a championship."
Winning SEC championships hasn't always been a normal occurrence at LSU.
But then the Tigers reeled off three in an eight-year span. Nick Saban arrived led LSU to conference titles in 2001 and 2003. Then in Miles' third season as coach, LSU won another SEC crown in 2007.
The Tigers had won just three SEC titles in the 37 years prior to Saban's arrival: Charles McClendon lead LSU to the 1970 crown, Bill Arnsparger did it in 1986 and Mike Archer in 1988.
Today, however, there are no players on LSU's roster with SEC championship game experience.
The fifth-year seniors on the squad were being redshirted when the Tigers knocked off Tennessee in the 2007 title game en route to a national championship.
Will Blackwell, who played his high school football in West Monroe, La., was on the sidelines as an observer four years ago.
Growing up in SEC territory, Blackwell values a conference title.
"It's tough to explain why this game is important," Blackwell said.
"You can't explain it to people who live outside of the South. If you live in the region, you understand the SEC has the best competition.
"You want to have bragging rights and you can't do that unless you win the conference."
Sophomore safety Eric Reid doesn't want to leave LSU's national title hopes in the hands of computers and voters.
"I have never had an undefeated season before in football," Reid said.
"I've never won a championship in football at any level. We still have one game before the BCS game. If we lose that one, we may not make that game."