LSU fans, it's been a while since you've been nervous on a game day, hasn't it?
Tell the truth.
You are nervous right now in a way you haven't been since the Tiger packed for West Virginia. This team has been so good, and the during-game-week news has been so favorable in previous games (particularly concerning opposing quarterbacks), the collective Saturday morning pulse rate in Baton Rouge has probably been at an all-time low this season.
But not this week.
You're sweating a bit because of the reported disciplinary suspensions that have sent three of top-ranked LSU's players, including two of its most productive players, to the sidelines for today's game against No. 19 Auburn.
You've lost your top rusher in Spencer Ware. You've lost your Heisman Trophy candidate in Tyrann Mathieu. And while Cam Newton and Nick Fairley aren't walking through the door, Auburn ain't chopped liver, either.
So you have every right to feel a little bit of anxiety.
And I'll give you one more reason:
The national media has sort of dismissed the third suspended player, cornerback Tharold Simon, as a mere backup, the least significant of the three players.
And no, he isn't an offensive star like Ware and he doesn't 'take what he wants 'like the Honey Badger, but he is no small piece of LSU's defensive identity.
He doesn't just give LSU depth, he allows the Tigers to go into what's probably their best defensive package. At 6-foot-3, 187 pounds, he's the rare tall player with the ability to turn his hips quickly, a prerequisite to being able to cover receivers man-to-man. And once he turns, he can run.
You just don't see that often in 6-foot-3 guys. The need for quick changes in direction has made corner a position generally for shorter guys with lower centers of gravity.
Being able to be fluid enough at his size allows Simon to not only function, but also to use his height and length to negate the usual advantage big receivers tend to have on smaller cornerbacks.
That coverage ability makes Simon and outstanding complement to the other starting corner, Morris Claiborne and on passing downs allows LSU to move Mathieu to the nickel back, where he can unleash his ball-hawking fury in a number of ways.
And it creates the ability for defensive coordinator John Chavis to load the box to stop the run, and dare people to throw on Claiborne, Simon and Mathieu (if the Honey Badger isn't blitzing).
That dynamic is gone today, or at least it would appear it's gone.
Ron Brooks, LSU's fourth cornerback, will likely get the start. If LSU goes to a nickel, it'll either have to bring in a little-used corner or a safety. Either way, it's hard to imagine LSU's secondary being able to just crowd Auburn's receivers today the way it normally does.
LSU caught (another) break when Auburn went into a passing slump that made it change quarterbacks for today's game, giving Clint Moseley his first start. That helps the secondary issues.
But don't be fooled. Today's a real test for not only a player like Brooks, but also for defensive coordinator John Chavis, who may have to mix things a little differently, perhaps coming up with a slightly different formula to stop Auburn the way LSU has stopped offenses all year.
And that might be your source of comfort this morning.
While there's no Mathieu or Simon today, LSU still has the luxury of a John Chavis to lean on.