The adage "defense wins championships" may be a cliche, but it's a cliche for a reason. Explosive offenses have become the norm in college football, but if you can't stop anybody, you have no chance of winning your conference or earning a College Football Playoff berth.
We're still a few months away from the start of the season, but which defenses project to be the best in the country? Here are the top 10:
10) LSU Tigers
LSU returns most of their starters from a group that ranked the top 15 in both total defense and scoring defense last season. Linebacker Devin White and cornerback Greedy Williams should be stars in 2018.
Auburn's defense is always really good and they return a large chunk of their key contributors from last year's team that was a top-five overall defense, according to S&P's analytics. That unit lead their late-season surge in 2017 and are a major reason why some think they could knock off Alabama in the SEC West (again).
Yes, Roquan Smith and others are gone, but are you going to doubt Kirby Smart's ability to reload a defense? While there is youth throughout their linebacking core, Deandre Baker and J.R. Reed look like stars in the secondary.
Wisconsin is this low on the list because they have to replace seven starters but, by the end of the year, don't be surprised to see them in the top five. All-American T.J. Edwards is returning, along with fellow stars Ryan Connelly and Chris Orr. However, this team's success will be determined by those seven new starters.
The Spartans ranked second in the country in rush defense last year and return 10 starters from last year's team. Joe Bachie will be a preseason All-American after racking up 100 tackles in his first season as a starter last year.
Urban Meyer has shown he can re-tool a defense as good as any team in the country, right up there with Alabama. So while the Buckeyes lost several players to the NFL, they may actually be better in 2018. Look for Nick Bosa to have a big year while getting buzz about being the potential No. 1 overall pick.
Washington's defense doesn't get the publicity they should because of when they play (#Pac12AfterDark) but they've been the best scoring defense in the Pac-12 three years in a row and bring back nine starters from last year's group.
Alabama has led the country in both scoring and total defense each of the last two years and it won't be a surprise if they manage to do so again in 2018. They rank third in the list because of the strength of the units above them and the talent they lost, but let's be real...no one re-tools like Alabama. Linebacker will be a strength for this team, headlined by Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses.
Michigan only allowed 27 touchdowns last season and return nine starters, headlined by projected top-five pick Rashan Gary. Their defensive line and front seven should be the best of any school outside of Clemson, and as a result, they may rank in the top three in the country in yards allowed per game again.
Clemson returns eight starters from last year's defense that ranked in the top six nationally in both scoring and total defense. In fact, their entire defensive line - Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant - returns, all of whom are All-American candidates and all of whom could be first-round picks. This group has a chance to be very, very special.Back to the NCAA Newsfeed