The axiom "offense sells tickets but defense wins championships" is attributed to Bear Bryant, but does it still hold true in today's world of spread, no-huddle, high-scoring offenses?
If last year's BCS National Championship Game is any indication, yes it does.
Last year's National Championship featured the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation versus the No. 2 scoring defense.
In fact, during the BCS era, only one national champion hasn't been a top-10 scoring defense—Auburn in 2010.
Meanwhile, only seven of the 14 BCS National Champs have been top-10 scoring offenses.
In short, odds are that if this article comes to fruition, one of the teams in this article will be the National Champion.
With that said, this is not which defenses I think will be the best in 2012, but which teams will populate the top-10 scoring defenses. Generally speaking, I am of the opinion that the fourth-best defense in the SEC will be better than the top Sun Belt Conference D, though that will not be reflected in the scoring defense leaderboard.
Of course, most of the defenses that wind up in the top 10 also happen to be the best Ds.
I will also note that a "returning starter," for my purposes, started at least four games last season. I realize there are plenty of experienced players that haven't started a game, but one has to draw the line somewhere.