The adage "defense wins championships" may be a cliche, but it's a cliche for a reason. You don't get very far in college football with just an explosive offense. Ask the Cal Golden Bears. They scored 30 or more points TEN TIMES last year but still finished 5-7 because their defense played like your four-year-old brother in Madden.
These 5 college football programs stand out above the rest when it comes to pure defensive intensity and projected dominance in 2015.
Penn State finished 7th in points allowed, 3rd in overall run defense, 3rd in yards per play, 2nd in opponents' passer rating and 20th in tackles for loss per game last season. After that, the Nittany Lions made the right call and handed defensive coordinator Bob Shoop a massive raise when LSU came knocking down his door. Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson are the best defensive tackle combination in the nation, and it doesn't stop there with one of the deepest overall units in all of college football.
There's too much individual talent on this defense to dock Ohio State for finishing 26th in scoring defense and 25th in yards per play in 2014. DE Joey Bosa, LB Darron Lee and safety Von Bell aren't just impact players -- they're superstars that'd key any defense in the country, excluding none. Bosa may be on the shelf for the opener against Virginia Tech due to suspension, but he's a sure-fire top-three 2016 NFL Draft pick and one of the most dominant front seven talents to ever step on the field in Columbus.
Not surprisingly, Virginia Tech was a dominant defensive team again this season, finishing 14th in the country in points allowed, 14th in defensive passer rating, fourth in sacks, and 39th against the run. All-America cornerback Kendall Fuller leads a unit full of potent pass rushers and a lockdown secondary, meaning nobody is going to have any success throwing on the Hokies.
Longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster is the best in the game, and he has a history of confusing everyone on Virginia Tech's schedule. If their offense can improve, the defense can bring Virginia Tech back to the top of the ACC.
2) LSU Tigers
LSU was bound to take a step back last year after losing so many juniors to the NFL Draft in the two seasons prior, but the defense got better as the season progressed, though, finishing 18th in yards allowed per play and third in defensive passer rating.
Defensive coordinator John Chavis left for Texas A&M, but new coordinator Kevin Steele inherits a star-studded secondary led by cornerback Tre'Davious White and safeties Jamal Adams and Jalen Mills. Linebacker Kendell Beckwith is a star, but the Tigers will be sporting a lot of unproved - though extremely talented - players up front. They may need some time to develop, but with a secondary full of playmakers, LSU should be competing at the top of the SEC again.
Ole Miss' "Land Shark" was one of the best defenses in the country last, and save their bowl game embarrassment against TCU, were absolutely dominant. The best part? They could (and perhaps should) be better this year, roster turnover or not.
The Rebels are smart, explosive, and athletic, and attack the ball with reckless abandon. They finished first in points allowed, seventh in yards per play, and eighth in tackles for loss per game. They need to replace cornerback Senquez Golson, safety Cody Prewitt, and linebacker Serderius Bryant, but head coach Hugh Freeze's recruiting dominance has given the Rebels the talent needed to replace them.
Former No. 1 overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche still leads the unit at defensive tackle, and with eight returning starters, Ole Miss should be even better this year - a scary proposition for other teams around the SEC.Back to the NCAA Newsfeed