Football is a tough game, but in the past few years the toughness has run out for a number of programs as spread offenses and soft defenses are taking over the game.
There are a number of programs that are staying hard-nosed, but the list of elite programs that rely on nasty streaks to win football games is dwindling. There are a handful that remain dedicated to the old school ways of winning.
Football is a simple game, and the teams that focus on the simple things win the most. Running and tackling with vicious intentions wins football games. These 10 schools have it down.
The Wisconsin Badgers have won the Big Ten title two years in a row for a reason. They are one of the toughest programs in the Big Ten right now.
The Badgers lost head coach Bret Bielema to Arkansas this offseason, but the Wisconsin program will still carry a tough mentality when it takes the field. The Badgers don’t typically score a lot of points, but they don’t give up many either.
This team loves to run the football down the throat of the defense. They rely on the play-action to get the ball down the field.
The defense is always big and angry. They play mean and always get quality results. Wisconsin is an old school program that won’t ever change—we love it for that.
Urban Meyer’s teams may be known for offense, but his defenses have traditionally been nasty. He has continued that tradition in his first year at Ohio State.
Meyer’s offense also catches a bad rap as a finesse type spread, but in reality there is a lot of downhill running that takes place out of that offense. This team proved with a 12-0 run last year that they are one of the toughest teams in the Big Ten.
This year the Buckeyes are hoping for much of the same success, and to earn it they have to keep the aggressive edge. This is a program that is built and smash-mouth football. It won’t change with Meyer.
Brian Kelly is bringing the nasty streak back to the Irish program and it is fitting the golden domer’s well. Notre Dame rode a tough defense to the national title game last year, and that will continue to be the plan in the future.
The Irish offense was not very explosive, but it was methodical and hard-nosed as any in the country. This Notre Dame program earned its yards on the ground, and it will do it again next season.
The path has been laid for Notre Dame to rise back to the top of the college football landscape. They are doing it by being nasty at the point of attack, playing really tough defense and being calculated on offense.
This is Notre Dame Football. Anything less is unacceptable.
The Stanford Cardinal have become a leader in the Pac-12 over the past half-decade thanks to a methodical offensive approach and nasty defense.
This program is now among the nation’s elite every season with its defense being the driving force behind the success. The Cardinal have also had very good pounding running backs and have lived with elite quarterback play.
All of the success this program has had can also be directly tied to tough front line play. The Cardinal are not always the most talented team on the field, but they are full, tough football players who bring their lunch-pail mentality to the gridiron every practice and every game.
The UCLA Bruins are rising stars in the Pac-12 and the dramatic shift has come at the hands of new coach Jim Mora. Mora has brought back an attacking mentality to the Bruins and the edgy approach has led to wins.
This program had a league-leading power running game last year, and their defense kept them in a number of football games that their young offense tried to give away.
This program is on the rise in the Pac-12, and they are relying on the smash-mouth mentality that is being pushed on them by new head coach Jim Mora. The Bruins needed an edge to challenge for Pac-12 titles and they have finally found it.
Georgia Tech hasn’t been the most consistent squad in the past few seasons, but the Yellow Jackets are always bringing the wood when they hit. This team relies on a downhill option running attack to move the football and a lights out, hard-hitting defense to stop opponents dead in their tracks.
When the Yellow Jackets lose, it is an earned win for the other team. These guys are constantly piling on the ball carrier, and are quick to the point of attack always getting multiple hats to the football.
This team loves to get into a ground-and-pound showdown with other teams. The Yellow Jackets know that their offensive line and backfield is built for a downhill, grinding win. When given the opportunity, they always pull out the win.
Georgia Tech will continue to be a contender in the ACC as long as Paul Johnson and his tenacious approach remain in Atlanta.
LSU is one of the best football teams in the country every year, and it is because they love to play hard football. The Tigers don’t sugar coat the approach they take, they just run at you really hard and hit you if you have the football.
This program is built around speed, athleticism and outmuscling the man in front of you.
The Tigers rely on tough defensive and offensive line play to help own the trenches and control the line of scrimmage. The LSU offense is built for time consumption, and the defense is built to smother the opponent.
This program is one of toughest in football. When you think old school, smash-mouth football, you think about the Bayou Bengals.
The Spartans have been a consistent player in the Big Ten over the past few years, relying on a power running game and strong defense to help push them into the Big Ten discussion.
Michigan State fits the mold for Big Ten football. It relies on a strong every-down back to push for tough yards and it has a serviceable quarterback that can guide the offense fluidly.
The defense is very tough up front and relies on big bodies at linebacker to crush opposing ground games. There is a lot of athleticism in the secondary, but the strength of the defense is always in the trenches.
This team comes up fast and strikes opponents hard in the mouth. They love to hit and it helped land them on this list.
The Georgia Bulldogs have built their football tradition on downhill running and powerful defense. This team throws the ball a ton, but in the end they will run the ball down the throat of the defense.
Defensively the Bulldogs love to blitz and play tough against the run with safeties. There are always head-hunters that roam the secondary for Georgia.
The major advantage that Georgia carries every year is along the trenches. The offensive and defensive line play by the Bulldogs is always a cut above.
The SEC is layered with elite programs, but Georgia is one of the best consistently from the East thanks to their ferocious and unforgiving style of play.
There is no better definition of smash-mouth football than Alabama in the college game. The Crimson Tide have put together the best defensive effort in college football consistently over the past decade, and they run one of the most dangerous downhill offenses in the country.
Alabama prides itself in being the toughest team on the field, and on most every occasion it is.
Nick Saban has built a dynasty in a little under a decade and there is no end in sight.
What is most impressive about this hard-nosed team has been the offense. The Tide has not only rolled through defenses on the ground, it has also picked up a lot of yards and scores through the air.
This team is the best in the SEC and the country for a reason—it is the nastiest, grittiest and most tenacious group in the country.
To win big, a team has to bring a smash-mouth style to the field.