Is the 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide Defense the Best Ever?
A 21-0 shutout in the BCS National Championship Game against the top ranked LSU Tigers may have secured more than just a 14th national title (or 9th depending on your calculations).
The 2011 Alabama Crimson Tide just capped off a season as arguably the greatest defense in college football history. This was the first defense in 26 years to lead the nation in total, passing, rushing and scoring defense. Multiple touchdowns were surrendered in only three games and only one team scored more than 20 points against them. They helped avenged Alabama's 9-6 overtime loss on November 5th by limiting the number one team in the land to only 93 offensive yards.
The talent in this defense could be mistaken for an NFL starting lineup at times, especially because of their linebackers and secondary.
Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw will be among the first linebackers chosen in the next NFL Draft, while Nico Johnson and super-sub C.J. Mosley could be among the first off the board in next year's draft.
LSU's cornerback duo of Jim Thorpe-winner Morris Claiborne and Heisman-finalist Tyrann Mathieu may gotten more attention this season, but the Crimson Tide's secondary is just as talented and deeper.
Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron, and Robert Lester could all be first round picks in April. Dee Milliner and Jarrick Williams could also be future first round picks and would have been star players on most defenses this past season, instead both sophomores played reserve roles on the Tide's title winning team.
The 2011 Crimson Tide defense was historic but it may not have been the best or most dominant of all-time. In fact it may not even be the best that has ever taken the field in Tuscaloosa for the matter.
1901 Michigan Wolverines
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Offenses scored a lot less points at the turn of the century then they did at the turn of the millennium, but when discussing the best college football defenses of all-time you have to at least mention a team that outscored their opponents by a margin of 550-0! There's a reason why this was called the Point-A-Minute team.
1939 Tennessee Volunteers
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This Robert Neyland-coached team were the defending national champions and gave no points in their first ten games. They would be denied an 11th shutout and a national title repeat after a 14-0 loss in the Rose Bowl against USC.
1956 Oklahoma Sooners
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In the middle of their record-57 game winning streak, this defense recorded six shutouts and surrendered only 51 points on their way to a second straight national title.
1959 Syracuse Orange
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This may be the most underrated defense of all-time. This group allowed only 193 rushing yards in ten regular season games and gave up only 59 points. Syracuse defeated Texas in the Cotton Bowl 23-14 to claim their only national title on the gridiron.
1961 Alabama Crimson Tide
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Bear Bryant led the Crimson Tide to a national title during his fourth season in Tuscaloosa with defense that is still regarded by many as the most dominant of all-time. Future Dallas Cowboy star Lee Roy Jordan led the way for a group of defenders that allowed only 22 points all season. The Tide entered the Cotton Bowl with five consecutive shutouts and nearly made it six after a 10-3 win over Arkansas.
1966 Alabama Crimson Tide
Ken Stabler was the quarterback for this team.
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Alabama went 11-0 during the 1966 season but were not awarded the national championship by either poll, however Bear Bryant's defense was impressive once again giving up only 44 points. The Crimson Time ended the regular season with four consecutive shutouts.
1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers
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This Cornhusker team won 12 of their 13 games by more than 24 points and is considered one of the greatest teams of all-time. Their offense was led by Heisman winner Johnny Rodgers and Jeff Kinney. While they scored a lot of points part of their dominance can be attributed to their defense that surrendered only 104 points, 31 of which came against #2 Oklahoma in the "Game of The Century".
1974 Oklahoma Sooners
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Oklahoma entered 1974 season at number one after going 10-0-1 the previous year. The defensive front led by future Tampa Bay Buccaneer Lee Roy Selmon, his brother Dewey, Jimbo Elrod, and three-time All-American Rod Shoate never gave up more than 14 points. The Sooners were awarded the national title after a 10-0 season and were national champions again the following year.
1985 Oklahoma Sooners
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Brian Bosworth and the Sooners defense led the nation in all four major categories (scoring, passing, rushing, and total defense. Oklahoma went 11-1 with their only loss (27-14) coming on the road against the Hurricanes in Miami. They would return to South Florida at the end of the season and secure the national title with a 25-10 Orange Bowl win over Penn State.
1987 Miami Hurricanes
Bennie Blades played in 10 NFL seasons after his college career in Coral Gables.
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After being upset by Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl, the 1987 season was suppose to be a rebuilding season for the Hurricanes after losing Vinny Testaverde, Alonzo Highsmith, and Jerome Brown to the NFL. Miami didn't miss a beat and posted a record of 12-0 on their way to another national title. The defense was even better than the year before surrendering only 125 points.
1991 Washington Huskies
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Don James Huskies entered the season ranked fourth after going 10-2 the previous year and winning the Rose Bowl. This defense was led by dominant defensive tackle Steve Emtman and defensive back Tamba Hall. Emtman was Ndamukong Suh-like finishing fourth in the Heisman voting after winning the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award. He was the first overall pick in the 1992 NFL Draft, but numerous injuries derailed what could have been a great career.
The defense surrendered only 115 points (9.6 per game) and the Huskies were awarded a share of the national title with Miami.
1992 Alabama Crimson Tide
Antonio Langham was one of four 1st round picks from this defense.
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The tandem of defensive ends Eric Curry and John Copeland and the cornerback pair of George Teague and Antonio Langham helped give the Crimson Tide one of their best defenses in school history. Alabama went 11-0 during the regular season and defeated Florida in the inaugural SEC Championship. The Crimson Tide beat the defending national champion Miami Hurricanes 34-13 in the Sugar Bowl and did not allow an offensive touchdown in that game.
2001 Miami Hurricanes
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The 2001 Miami Hurricanes may not have been the most dominant defense of all-time, but their depth chart was stacked with future NFL players. 17 players on this team were future first round draft picks, 11 of whom were defensive players.
2011 LSU Tigers
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Before the BCS National Championship Game, many considered the 2011 LSU Tigers to be one of the most dominant teams college football teams ever. They entered the game with eight wins over Top 25 teams including three against teams ranked in the top five. A 21-0 grudge match loss against the Crimson Tide keeps the 2011 Tigers out of the discussion as one of the best ever, but it does not diminish their successful season.
LSU's defense could be even better next year with many key players returning including Sam Montgomery, Tyrann Mathieu, and Morris Claiborne (if he doesn't declare for the NFL Draft). The 2012 Bayou Bengals could join the discussion as one of the best defenses ever.