Defense is the main reason the SEC has dominated college football over the last decade, which shows its importance in terms of handicapping on a weekly basis.
Let’s take a closer look at the defensive power rankings of five teams that should hold opponents at bay during the 2013 campaign. How can this information help you when it comes time to place your college football picks this season?
Alabama allowed just 153 points in 14 games a season ago, as it captured its third national title in four years, with the defense being the team’s main strength over that span.
The Crimson Tide will likely have the best linebacker corps nationally, with senior C.J. Mosley leading the way, who has played in 38 games and started 20 in his first three seasons in Tuscaloosa.
A season ago, the group led the nation in rush defense (76.4 ypg), total defense (250 ypg) and scoring defense (10.9 ppg).
Expect similar numbers in 2013—especially since the defending national champions don’t have Georgia, Florida and South Carolina on their schedules.
2. Florida State Seminoles
Florida State forced opponents into the highest percentage (46.5) of three-and-outs in the country during the regular season in 2012, which is a major statistic in demonstrating a dominate defense.
The Seminoles return just four starters, but first-year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has seven of his top eight players back in the secondary, including First Team All-ACC strong safety LaMarcus Joyner.
Pruitt spent the last three seasons as Alabama’s secondary coach—a group that has had numerous players taken in the first round of the NFL draft in recent years.
3. Stanford Cardinal
It all starts with the linebacker core on a defense that led the nation in sacks and tackles for loss during the regular season a year ago, while also finishing third overall in rushing defense.
Trent Murphy, Shane Skov and A.J. Tarpley are back in the fold, while the entire group has compiled 94 career starts in Palo Alto.
Stanford welcomes back eight total starters on this side of the football, including nose tackle David Parry, who is known for occupying numerous offensive linemen—enabling the linebackers to make plays in the backfield.
4. Michigan State Spartans
One of just five schools to rank among the Top 10 nationally in total defense in the past two seasons, as it welcomes back seven starters and 11 players with starting experience in 2013.
The Spartans will rely heavily on the talent of linebacker duo Denicos Allen and Max Bullough, while cornerback Darqueze Dennard is one of the top cover players in the country.
There’s no doubt this group will be motivated to demonstrate it can dominate opposing offenses without Manti Te’o, as Notre Dame returns 70.8 percent of its tackle production and 77.9 percent of its sacks.
The Fighting Irish may possess the best defensive line in the country, with Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt both being potential first round draft picks in the NFL.
Eight of its top nine linebackers are back in South Bend, with outside linebacker Prince Shembo being the player to watch—finishing with 51 tackles and 7.5 sacks in 2012.
Also check out our College Football Offensive Power Ranking Report.