SEC Football: Power Ranking the Conference's Best Defenses of September
While the argument continues about whether defenses win championships, there is no question the SEC is known for great defensive play. Whether you want to attribute six consecutive national championships to that side of the ball, it remains up to you.
Believe it or not, we are already a month into the college football season. And with nearly half of each team's schedule finished, we have seen some terrific defensive play from the SEC and some surprising teams that haven't lived up to expectations. There are currently four SEC defenses that are ranked in the top 25 in total yards allowed.
While the month of October will tell us more about which units are better than the rest, let's take a look at the best SEC defenses from the month of September.
The Rest of the Pack
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6. Mississippi State
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Florida is one of the more experienced defenses in this conference, as a total of 10 starters returned from last year’s squad.
The Gators are ranked fourth in the SEC in total yardage, allowing 305 yards per game, which includes the fourth-best passing defense and sixth-best run defense. Florida shut out the Kentucky Wildcats and have forced at least two turnovers in three of the four games that have been played.
While the pass rush is seriously lacking (five sacks on the year), Florida is a fast defense and makes you work for everything on the offensive end. It is also the only SEC defense that has allowed only one play of at least 30 yards, while every other defense has allowed two or more.
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LSU is clearly not as good as it was a year ago, but that defense is still doing a better job than most units in the country. The 217 yards per game allowed is not only the second best in the conference, but only three teams in the country are allowing less (Texas Tech, Alabama and Florida State).
The Tigers are also allowing only 27 percent of third downs to be converted, which is second best in the SEC.
And while these numbers may say that the Tigers should be higher on this list, LSU is also allowing 75 percent of opponent red-zone trips to result in touchdowns. Despite having the top two defensive ends in the country, this unit has gone two of five games without a sack. The Tigers also allowed Towson to rush for 188 yards last week.
If this is a program that would like to return to the title game, this unit must step up and make bigger plays. But even having the fourth-best defense in the SEC, it is still better than the majority of what the rest of the country has to offer.
3. Texas A&M
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The newbies have one of the best defensive units in the SEC?
While this may make many SEC fans upset, the Aggies have shown to be a legit squad in the first month of the season.
The 338 total yards given up is only good for seventh in the SEC, but there are so many other things that this unit does well. The 34 tackles for loss are tied with Alabama and only one behind the Georgia Bulldogs. The rushing defense is only allowing 106 yards on the ground, while the 26 percent conversion rate on third down is the best in the conference and seventh best in country.
The Aggies have also picked up 17 sacks, as this unit led college football with 51 last season. This has been one of those bend-but-don't-break defenses that has kept teams out of the end zone. Although offenses have reached the red zone 11 times, the Aggies have only surrendered three touchdowns out of those trips.
This is simply a unit that is fast and aggressive to the football and if you haven't seen them play yet, you may be surprised with how good they truly are.
2. South Carolina
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South Carolina is this high on the list because it is a defense that makes game-changing plays. It is great if your squad is able to hold the opponents out of the end zone, but it is the elite units that are able to take games over and make momentum-changing plays.
The Gamecocks lead the conference with a remarkable 22 sacks this season, which is also tied for second best in college football. They also have forced two turnovers per game, as there have been a total of seven interceptions so far for this squad.
Nobody has been able to block defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, as he has at least one sack in four of five games this season. And overall, this defensive unit of South Carolina is the main reason a lot of people like the Gamecocks to come out of the SEC East.
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Alabama didn't get the memo that the defense was supposed to take a step back when it lost players such as Courtney Upshaw and Mark Barron. Instead, this defense may have gotten even better if the month of September is any indication of how things will turn out.
The Crimson Tide has the best defense in the SEC, as it is allowing only 191 yards per game, which is also good for second in the country. The defense is also only allowing a touchdown per game, which is good for the best in college football as well.
But what make this defense so special are the 15 turnovers it has forced in the first five games. Last season, the Crimson Tide only created 20 turnovers which will likely be topped very soon by the 2012 squad.
We all thought last year’s Crimson Tide defense was one for the record books; this one may not be on that level, but it is good enough to get this team back to the BCS National Championship.