NCAA Football
NCAA Football

2010 College Football Team-By-Team Rankings: Defense

| by Sports Nickel
It’s one of the things we most often delude ourselves about in college football. We are quick to assert that this or that team has a dominant defense, or that other teams win despite defensive deficiencies. But far too often a look at total yardage and points allowed tells but one part of the story.

A team’s numbers can be predicated on so many different things. Allowing as few yards as possible is always a good thing, but often the yardage can be misleading. How long the defense is forced to sit on the field

Does a team play hurry-up offense, which allows them to score like crazy but forces the defense to see more snaps by the opposition? What really constitutes defensive strength? A better indicator of a team’s real defensive strength or weakness, as I see it, is how many yards their defense allows each time the opposition snaps the ball. Going off those averages can be quite revealing, dispelling a lot of the myths about one team’s strong defense and another team’s seemingly weak stoppers. Just take a look for yourself… 


TEAM YD/PLAY PLAY/GM BCS POS
1 Boise State 3.61 58.2 3
2 Texas 3.72 66.0 19
3 LSU 3.97 61.0 6
4 TCU 3.99 54.7 5
5 Utah 4.02 63.0 9
6 West Virginia 4.10 60.0 20
7 Nebraska 4.16 66.0 16
8 Kent State 4.17 72.7  
9 UCF 4.23 62.7  
10 Ohio State 4.29 58.6 10
11 Florida State 4.35 70.9 17
12 Arizona 4.49 63.3 18
13 Miami (FL) 4.50 67.8  
14 Iowa 4.52 63.8 15
15 Oregon 4.55 74.3 2
16 Maryland 4.57 77.5  
17 Texas A&M 4.61 71.5  
18 Boston College 4.61 71.5  
19 Missouri 4.63 71.0 11
20 San Diego State 4.64 74.8  
21 South Florida 4.65 64.7  
22 Syracuse 4.67 64.7  
23 Alabama 4.67 61.7 8
24 Michigan State 4.68 69.4 7
25 Rutgers 4.74 61.7  
26 California 4.77 65.5  
27 Florida 4.80 62.0  
28 Buffalo 4.81 69.5  
29 Southern Miss 4.82 59.9  
30 Oklahoma State 4.85 83.3 14
31 Pittsburgh 4.85 68.8  
32 Illinois 4.93 61.5  
33 Purdue 4.94 69.7  
34 North Carolina 4.94 67.2  
35 Middle Tennessee 5.01 77.8  
36 Temple 5.03 73.4  
37 Ohio 5.04 66.0  
38 SMU 5.04 71.3  
39 Georgia 5.06 57.3  
40 Clemson 5.07 70.5  
41 Baylor 5.09 75.1  
42 Hawaii 5.11 70.3  
43 Connecticut 5.13 69.7  
44 Mississippi State 5.14 64.7 24
45 Arkansas 5.15 64.2 23
46 Auburn 5.15 71.4 4
47 Georgia Tech 5.15 67.4  
48 Cincinnati 5.19 70.5  
49 Wisconsin 5.21 59.3 13
50 Notre Dame 5.22 73.9  
51 Penn State 5.23 60.2  
52 Houston 5.23 75.3  
53 Air Force 5.24 65.7  
54 Toledo 5.24 68.9  
55 Arizona State 5.25 66.3  
56 Stanford 5.29 67.7 12
57 UCLA 5.30 69.8  
58 Ole Miss 5.31 66.8  
59 Navy 5.31 60.8  
60 Vanderbilt 5.32 71.2  
61 FIU 5.32 64.0  
62 Troy 5.32 75.0  
63 Northern Illinois 5.34 63.6  
64 Central Michigan 5.34 66.4  
65 Fresno State 5.38 64.5  
  STATISTICAL AVG 5.38 67.5  
66 Tennessee 5.38 70.8  
67 Oklahoma 5.41 69.0 1
68 Northwestern 5.42 65.8  
69 Utah State 5.42 72.0  
70 UTEP 5.43 68.3  
71 Army 5.45 57.6  
72 South Carolina 5.47 67.8 21
73 Virginia Tech 5.48 64.7 25
74 NC State 5.48 64.0  
75 Nevada 5.54 65.4  
76 Kansas State 5.54 69.7 22
77 Tulane 5.60 66.2  
78 Idaho 5.61 68.0  
79 Marshall 5.64 73.2  
80 Texas Tech 5.68 76.5  
81 Louisville 5.71 60.5  
82 Virginia 5.80 65.7  
83 BYU 5.80 69.4  
84 Miami (OH) 5.81 64.0  
85 Kentucky 5.82 62.1  
86 LA-Monroe 5.82 67.8  
87 LA-Lafayette 5.82 71.8  
88 UAB 5.87 63.8  
89 Florida Atlantic 5.89 64.6  
90 North Texas 5.99 62.6  
91 Louisiana Tech 5.99 74.9  
92 Western Michigan 6.01 62.8  
93 USC 6.03 66.7  
94 East Carolina 6.06 76.0  
95 Iowa State 6.09 74.7  
96 Washington 6.09 68.5  
97 Michigan 6.10 72.3  
98 Wake Forest 6.11 74.4  
99 Ball State 6.12 68.6  
100 Tulsa 6.14 72.1  
101 New Mexico 6.14 72.3  
102 Oregon State 6.19 74.2  
103 Colorado State 6.21 66.1  
104 Kansas 6.22 63.2  
105 Colorado 6.23 59.8  
106 Rice 6.26 70.0  
107 Bowling Green 6.29 73.7  
108 Duke 6.30 69.0  
109 Akron 6.34 69.1  
110 Wyoming 6.36 73.1  
111 Memphis 6.42 69.7  
112 Western Kentucky 6.57 62.2  
113 UNLV 6.57 62.9  
114 Arkansas State 6.58 71.7  
115 Eastern Michigan 6.61 67.0  
116 Indiana 6.66 60.2  
117 San Jose State 6.67 68.3  
118 New Mexico State 6.85 68.0  
119 Washington State 6.90 71.6  
120 Minnesota 6.97 59.4  

Of course, yards allowed per snap don’t tell the whole story… so now that we know how each BCS-ranked school is performing on defense snap after snap, let’s take a look at the top 25 teams and how they stack up in the truly important category — how many points they allow each game. But let’s go further with the analysis. What are the other two main indicators in how well a defense is disrupting opponent’s offenses? That’s right… turnovers and red-zone defense. So let’s break it all down and come up with a metric that rewards each team’s performance in the four key areas:

BCS POS TEAM YD/PLAY PLAY/GM RK PT/GM RK TO RK RZ PT/APP RK (BCS)
1 Oklahoma 5.41 69.0 67 19.00 28 14 22 4.71 19
2 Oregon 4.55 74.3 15 16.33 16 22 1 3.18 3
3 Boise State 3.61 58.2 1 12.33 3 13 31 4.09 11
4 Auburn 5.15 71.4 46 24.43 63 14 22 5.43 24
5 TCU 3.99 54.7 4 9.29 1 11 58 3.38 6
6 LSU 3.97 61.0 3 14.43 11 15 18 4.83 21
7 Michigan State 4.68 69.4 24 16.57 17 18 7 4.18 13
8 Alabama 4.67 61.7 23 12.86 5 15 18 3.50 7
9 Utah 4.02 63.0 5 14.00 9 6 108 3.73 10
10 Ohio State 4.29 58.6 10 16.00 13 18 7 4.80 20
11 Missouri 4.63 71.0 19 10.83 2 14 22 2.60 1
12 Stanford 5.29 67.7 56 23.67 58 13 31 5.00 23
13 Wisconsin 5.21 59.3 49 18.86 27 7 101 4.83 21
14 Oklahoma State 4.85 83.3 30 27.17 73 18 7 4.59 17
15 Iowa 4.52 63.8 14 13.17 6 13 31 3.24 4
16 Nebraska 4.16 66.0 7 14.00 9 13 31 4.44 15
17 Florida State 4.35 70.9 11 16.14 15 10 69 3.65 9
18 Arizona 4.49 63.3 12 13.33 7 12 41 3.17 2
19 Texas 3.72 66.0 2 18.83 26 8 93 4.60 18
20 West Virginia 4.10 60.0 6 12.33 3 11 58 4.11 12
21 South Carolina 5.47 67.8 72 20.83 39 8 93 3.33 5
22 Kansas State 5.54 69.7 76 22.33 49 10 69 4.19 14
23 Arkansas 5.15 64.2 45 23.33 56 9 83 5.50 25
24 Mississippi State 5.14 64.7 44 16.00 13 12 41 3.62 8
25 Virginia Tech 5.48 64.7 73 21.86 46 11 58 4.57 16

So let’s distill this information a little bit more. Crunching the numbers for a rubric similar to the weekly conference rankings, here’s how everything stacks out. And because the BCS takes it into account, let’s also put it into perspective by including schedule strength in the equation (which I’ll take from Sagarin, though any one is as good as another at this point). And for full disclosure, here’s how this works:

The quotient is calculated by multiplying the yards per defensive snap against the statistical average of 67.5 snaps per game per team. This sets a baseline independent of the discrepancy of snaps taken per game between teams. Then the points per game is divided by the defensive snaps per game to determine how many points are allowed per defensive snap. Finally these two totals are multiplied and then divided by strength of schedule. The lower the number in the quotient, the better the defense. So without any further explanation, here’s how each BCS top-25 team stacks up:

DEF RK TEAM BCS  RK
YD/PLAY PLAY/GM PT/GM SOS QUOTIENT
1 TCU 5 3.99 54.7 9.29 68.07 0.672
2 Missouri 11 4.63 71.0 10.83 70.06 0.680
3 Boise State 3 3.61 58.2 12.33 68.64 0.752
4 Nebraska 16 4.16 66.0 14.00 68.73 0.867
5 Arizona 18 4.49 63.3 13.33 72.58 0.879
6 LSU 6 3.97 61.0 14.43 71.12 0.891
7 Alabama 8 4.67 61.7 12.86 70.19 0.936
8 West Virginia 20 4.10 60.0 12.33 60.24 0.944
9 Iowa 15 4.52 63.8 13.17 66.58 0.946
10 Texas 19 3.72 66.0 18.83 75.25 0.952
11 Utah 9 4.02 63.0 14.00 62.45 0.966
12 Oregon 2 4.55 74.3 16.33 69.42 0.972
13 Florida State 17 4.35 70.9 16.14 67.71 0.987
14 Michigan State 7 4.68 69.4 16.57 66.91 1.127
15 Ohio State 10 4.29 58.6 16.00 66.42 1.190
16 Mississippi State 24 5.14 64.7 16.00 70.65 1.214
17 Oklahoma 1 5.41 69.0 19.00 75.08 1.339
18 South Carolina 21 5.47 67.8 20.83 74.37 1.525
19 Oklahoma State 14 4.85 83.3 27.17 65.82 1.622
20 Stanford 12 5.29 67.7 23.67 75.76 1.648
21 Auburn 4 5.15 71.4 24.43 70.91 1.677
22 Wisconsin 13 5.21 59.3 18.86 65.47 1.708
23 Arkansas 23 5.15 64.2 23.33 72.64 1.739
24 Kansas State 22 5.54 69.7 22.33 68.27 1.755
25 Virginia Tech 25 5.48 64.7 21.86 68.51 1.824

And there you have it. Some things are self-evident without the numbers — it’s easy enough to see that TCU, Boise State, Nebraska, Alabama, Iowa and Texas have good defenses just by watching the contests. But some other myths get dispelled when looking at things this way. For instance:

  • Maybe the Pac-10 isn’t as bad at playing defense as people want to assume. For years the knock has been that the west coast is full of teams that can score at will but have no defensive bite. But with Arizona’s surprisingly-stout unit, and the Ducks’ success predicated as much on a defense that sometimes bends but rarely breaks as it is on their lightning-quick offense. Oregon might see more defensive snaps per game than any other team in the BCS standings, but they still hold their own on the field.
  • The SEC’s success this season has been built not on its traditional argument as the best defensive conference in the country but rather on reputation and offensive games that are catching up with the defensive coordinators of the conference.
  • Oklahoma is #1 almost despite their defense, which has benefited from an opportunistic amount of turnovers as much as it has any actual competence against opposing offenses. That was already evident to fans who watched them struggle against Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati, but the BCS computers obviously don’t take defensive performance into account when analyzing the teams in quesiton.
  • And how about the rest of the Big XII? For a league which in recent years has been known for its pinball spread offenses, Texas and Nebraska have helped turn the reputation a little bit. Missouri, too, has shed its reputation as solely an offensive success and is playing better defense than either of those two teams. But while the Tigers are a pleasant surprise, the Huskers and Longhorns have always been the exception to the norm in the league — as evidenced by Oklahoma’s less-than-stellar defensive performance and the reeling units in Stillwater and Manhattan.
  • The Big Ten, normally the biggest proponent of the type of smashmouth football that traditionally will yield fewer yards per play, finds just Iowa amongst the top ten in defense. Just like the SEC, teams have been winning shootouts rather than on the strength of a lockdown defense. With the Spartans, Buckeyes and Badgers all in the bottom half of the quotient of BCS-ranked teams, the reputation seems moot.
  • And how about the Big East and ACC? West Virginia has been impressive in the former, with a defense that has more than done its job in 2010. Their neighbor? Not so much, as the Hokies have been a shell of their former dominant defensive self.

So there it is, folks… take the numbers for what they are. No way of judging these teams is perfect, but remember that simply giving up a lot of yardage is indicative of more than merely defensive laxity. Dig beyond the raw numbers and you might just be amazed at the truths you find underneath the surface…

How defenses really stack up in NCAA football at midpoint of 2010 is a post originally from: SportsNickel.com - In Sports We Trust

 

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