An analysis of strength of schedule, player injuries, home/away matchups, and performance revealed the nation’s top defensive units in college football.
Teams with impressive statistics, but lighter competition were commonly knocked down the list, while teams that fought through brutal schedules and significant injuries were not wholly penalized for their slightly lower numbers.
Separate from the pack, Big Ten and Southeastern Conference squads dominate the rankings, filling eight of the top 10 spots.
In the end, only two teams remain in the conversation for “best defense in college football”.
10) Virginia Tech Hokies
Ranking eighth in the nation in points allowed (17.2 points/game), Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster led his rag tag bunch through an injury-plagued campaign. The Hokies lost multiple players in each level of the defense this season, but somehow managed to net a 11-2 record. Starring on defense, 2010 All-American CB Jayron Hosley registered three interceptions and 59 tackles despite suffering a hamstring injury early this season. He will consider leaping to the NFL in the upcoming draft.
Senior S Eddie Whitley helped hold the secondary together, providing leadership, stability, and 78 tackles. Redshirt sophomore safety Antone Exum filled in more than admirably in his first year as a full-time starter, leading all Hokies with 10 pass break-ups and 85 tackles.
The Hokies landed four players on the All-ACC second team- Hosley, Whitley, CB Kyle Fuller, and DE James Gayle.
9) South Carolina Gamecocks
Freshman sensation Jadeveon Clowney brought a welcomed level of nastiness to the Gamecocks. The 18-year-old defensive end has already met lofty expectations with six sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Equally impressive, his senior adviser on the defensive line Melvin Ingram led the team in tackles for loss (13.5), sacks (8.5), and defensive touchdowns (2).He also helped secure a win against Georgia by running a fake punt 68 yards for a score.
These two monsters in the middle allowed the Gamecock defense to clamp down opposing wide receivers. South Carolina ranked second nationally in pass defense (133 yards/game), behind only Alabama. They also forced 18 interceptions, fifth in the nation.
Impressively, the Gamecocks held in-state rival and ACC champ Clemson 20 points under their season average in a 34-13 victory November 26.