Early Predictions for the Top 25 Defenses of 2014 College Football Season

Sebastian Lena@SP7988Analyst IJanuary 22, 2014

Early Predictions for the Top 25 Defenses of 2014 College Football Season

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    With nine returning starters, the Sooners D will be fierce.
    With nine returning starters, the Sooners D will be fierce.Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    It’s no secret: In college football, defenses win championships.

    In fact, seven of the last eight BCS title winners finished in the top 10 in total defense. Six of those seven finished ranked in the top three.

    All in all, there’s a strong possibility that next year’s college football champion will boast one of the nation’s most stifling defensive units.

    But why wait until the start of the 2014 season to get a feel for who that team might be? Why not take an early—keyword: early—guess as to which teams will have the top defenses in college football?

    Join Bleacher Report as we count down the top 25 defenses for the 2014 season.

25. Minnesota

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    The Golden Gophers will be no easy defense to face in 2014.
    The Golden Gophers will be no easy defense to face in 2014.Jesse Johnson/Associated Press

    Returning Starters: Seven

    Key Losses: LB Aaron Hill, DB Brock Vereen

     

    The Skinny 

    The Golden Gophers had quite the impressive 2013 campaign, which saw the team race out to an 8-2 mark.

    Credit for the turnaround belongs largely to the defense.

    In 13 games, Minnesota ranked No. 43 in total defense (373.2 yards per game) and No. 24 in scoring defense (22.2 points per game).

    Sophomore defensive end Theiren Cockran was the obvious star of the show. The Homestead, Fla., native finished with 30 tackles (10.0 for loss), 7.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.

    Along with Cockran, the Gophers will be returning their two leading tacklers Cedric Thompson and Damien Wilson.

    In a weak Big Ten conference, expect Minnesota’s defense to flourish.

24. Notre Dame

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    The Irish D will look to rise back to prominence in 2014.
    The Irish D will look to rise back to prominence in 2014.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Returning Starters: Five

    Key Losses: DE Stephen Tuitt, DT Louis Nix, LB Dan Fox

     

    The Skinny

    A year after carrying the team to the BCS National Championship Game, the Irish defense had a rough going in 2013.

    However, the unit did finish strong. Overall, Notre Dame finished No. 31 in total defense (366.2 yards per game) and No. 27 in scoring defense (22.4 points per game). Furthermore, the team only allowed 5.12 yards per play.

    Losing players such as Louis Nix and Stephen Tuitt isn't easy to overcome. But with young playmakers such as freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith and sophomore cornerback KeiVarae Russell ready to step up, the Irish should be fine in 2014.

    Not to mention, the team also happens to have the No. 8-ranked recruiting class currently, led by six 4-star defensive prospects.

    Look for Notre Dame’s defense to regain its swagger next season.

23. South Carolina

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    The Gamecocks defense will be ready to get back to business.
    The Gamecocks defense will be ready to get back to business.Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

    Returning Starters: Six

    Key Losses: DT Kelcy Quarles, DE Jadeveon Clowney, CB Victor Hampton

     

    The Skinny

    The Gamecocks had their best season in quite some time. In fact, the team’s No. 4 ranking in the final polls is the highest in the nine years that head coach Steve Spurrier has been there.

    However, South Carolina’s two top defensive linemen in Kelcy Quarles and Jadeveon Clowney are heading to the NFL. Not to mention, the team will also have to replace both corners.

    Luckily, deep depth at linebacker could help take some of the burden off the unit. Freshman linebacker Skai Moore had quite the debut season, leading the team in tackles (56) and interceptions (four).

    The losses might prove to be a lot to overcome, but you’d have to be a fool to doubt Spurrier.

22. Virginia

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    The Cavaliers defense could be very good in 2014.
    The Cavaliers defense could be very good in 2014.Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

    Returning Starters: Eight

    Key Losses: DL Jake Snyder

     

    The Skinny

    No, this is not a typo. The Cavaliers defense may be one of the most surprising units of 2014.

    Yes, the team only ranked No. 65 in total defense (403.6 yards per game) and No. 98 in scoring defense (33.3 points per game). However, Virginia has some key contributors returning next season.

    Junior strong safety Anthony Harris returns for his senior season. He finished third on the team in tackles (80) while leading the nation in interceptions (eight).

    Furthermore, the Cavaliers return eight of their nine leading tacklers and their six leaders in sacks. Sophomore defensive end Eli Harold—who had 15.0 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and two forced fumbles—is another name to keep an eye on.

    Then there’s Virginia’s splash in the recruiting trail.

    The team currently ranks No. 30 in the nation for 2014. That class is led by 5-stars Andrew Brown and Quin Blanding. Both could make an immediate impact on defense.

    Keep an eye out for the Cavaliers.

21. Stanford

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    Vaughters should emerge as a leader for the Cardinal D in 2014.
    Vaughters should emerge as a leader for the Cardinal D in 2014.Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    Returning Starters: Seven

    Key Losses: LB Trent Murphy, LB Shayne Skov, DB Ed Reynolds

     

    The Skinny

    The Cardinal defense continues to thrive year in and year out.

    Although the unit’s ranking against the pass may seem poor—No. 98 (253.8 yards per game)—Stanford has developed a tendency to come up with the big play when it needs it. The team recorded 13 interceptions last season and has forced a turnover in 39 of its last 40 games.

    Losing their four leading players in sacks will hurt the Cardinal. But big things are expected from James Vaughters, who had 37 tackles (6.0 for loss), 4.0 sacks and a forced fumble.

    With several redshirt freshmen and incoming recruits coming in, head coach David Shaw should have another competitive defense to boast about in no time.

20. Penn State

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    Look for the Nittany Lions to make a statement in 2014.
    Look for the Nittany Lions to make a statement in 2014.Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Returning Starters: Eight

    Key Losses: DL DaQuan Jones, LB Glenn Carson

     

    The Skinny

    The Nittany Lions had a pretty solid defense last season, ranking No. 48 in total defense (381.3 yards per game) and No. 59 in scoring (26.2 points per game).

    With new head coach James Franklin taking over, the defense should only improve. Over the last couple of years, he helped Vanderbilt undergo a resurgence. That was mainly evident on defense.

    After ranking No. 93 in total defense in 2010, Franklin helped the Commodores finish in the top 25 in the category in each of his three seasons. Furthermore, he also allowed less than 25 points per game in each year as well.

    Losing only two starters in the front seven, expect Penn State to be stifling up front. Junior linebacker Mike Hull will look to emerge as a leader on this up-and-coming defense.

    As Franklin proved once before, he can do more with less.

    This will be his ultimate test.

19. Maryland

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    Maryland's D is on the rise.
    Maryland's D is on the rise.Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    Returning Starters: Nine

    Key Losses: DB Isaac Goins, LB Marcus Whitfield

     

    The Skinny

    Injuries slowed down the progress that the Terrapins seemed to be making at the beginning of the 2013 season.

    That potential especially was evident on defense.

    Don’t be fooled by Maryland’s No. 44 ranking in total defense (375.2 yards per game) or No. 54 ranking in scoring defense (25.3 points per game). This defense was solid, ranking No. 29 in yards/play allowed (5.1).

    With only two starters leaving, the returning experience could push this unit to its full potential.

    Sophomore defensive back Sean Davis—who had 103 tackles and two interceptions—will be a player to look out for. Junior defensive lineman Andre Monroe—who had 17.0 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks—will also be another player who should emerge.

    If the Terrapins can avoid the injury bug, this could be a very good unit.

18. Kansas State

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    Mueller should continue disrupting the backfield next season.
    Mueller should continue disrupting the backfield next season.Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Returning Starters: Seven

    Key Losses: LB Blake Slaughter, DB Ty Zimmerman

     

    The Skinny

    With only 10 of 22 starters returning, it was no surprise that the Wildcats took a step back in 2013.

    But as the season went on, the team seemed to find its footing. That was evident by Kansas State’s 6-1 record over its final seven games.

    A lot of that credit belongs to a defense that ranked No. 26 in total defense (358.8 yards per game) and No. 31 in scoring (22.9 points per game).

    The return of defensive lineman Ryan Mueller is huge for the Wildcats. The junior finished with 62 tackles (18.5 for loss), 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.

    Furthermore, sophomore defensive back Dante Barnett returns to help lead a secondary that recorded 17 interceptions last season.

    All in all, look for Kansas State to take another step in the right direction on defense.

17. TCU

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    Expect the Horned Frogs to step it up on D next season.
    Expect the Horned Frogs to step it up on D next season.Brett Deering/Getty Images

    Returning Starters: Eight

    Key Losses: DE Jon Koontz, S Elisha Olabode

     

    The Skinny

    The Horned Frogs are no strangers to ranking among the nation’s top defenses. In fact, from 2008-2010, the team ranked No. 1 in total defense each year.

    Look for TCU to return to some of that glory in 2014.

    Last season, the defense ranked No. 25 in total defense (356.4 yards per game) and No. 54 in scoring (25.3 points per game). More impressively, the Horned Frogs ranked No. 13 in yards per play allowed (4.83).

    The team will return eight of its nine leading tacklers next season, including junior linebacker Paul Dawson, who had 91 tackles (10.0 for loss) and one interception. TCU will also be aided in the secondary by bringing back Sam Carter, Kevin White and and Chris Hackett, who combined for 11 interceptions.

    This is a defense that will be looking to right the ship in 2014.

    Watch out.

16. Mississippi State

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    Don't sleep on the Bulldogs.
    Don't sleep on the Bulldogs.John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

    Returning Starters: Eight

    Key Losses: LB Deontae Skinner, DB Nickoe Whitley

     

    The Skinny

    The Bulldogs had an up-and-down season last year. However, the potential for a dominating defense was certainly there.

    In 13 games, Mississippi State ranked No. 18 in total defense (349.3 yards per game) and No. 33 in scoring defense (23.0 points per game).

    Eight starters return—including all four starters in the secondary—giving the Bulldogs defense the experience it needs. In fact, 10 of the team’s top 12 tacklers will be returning, led by sophomore linebacker Benardrick McKinney.

    This unit could surprise a lot of people in 2014.

15. Louisville

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    Mauldin is ready to emerge on defense.
    Mauldin is ready to emerge on defense.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Returning Starters: Seven

    Key Losses: S Calvin Pryor, LB Preston Brown, DL Marcus Smith

     

    The Skinny

    The Cardinals were one of the most underrated defensive units in college football last season.

    In 13 games, the team ranked No. 2 in scoring defense (12.2 points per game), No. 1 in total defense (251.5 yards per game), No. 1 against the run (80.7 yards per game) and No. 5 against the pass (170.8 yards per game). Led by Marcus Smith, Louisville also ranked No. 2 in sacks with 43.0.

    Along with Smith, the team is set to lose two of its top-four leading players in sacks. However, junior defensive lineman Lorenzo Mauldin seems to be more than up for the challenge.

    Although losing safety Calvin Pryor to the NFL hurts, the Cardinals will return both Charles Gaines and Terell Floyd in the secondary—the duo combined for nine interceptions and two touchdowns. They should help Louisville maintain its top-notch pass defense.

    In its first season in the ACC, this defense will make some noise.

14. Clemson

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    Beasley's return could be just the spark the Tigers D needs next season.
    Beasley's return could be just the spark the Tigers D needs next season.Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Returning Starters: Seven

    Key Losses: DB Bashaud Breeland, LB Spencer Shuey, DB Darius Robinson

     

    The Skinny

    It may have come down to the wire, but Tigers fans breathed a sigh of relief when defensive end Vic Beasley announced that he would return to school next season.

    In 13 games, the Adairsville, Ga., native recorded 41 tackles (23.0 for loss) and 13.0 sacks, forced four fumbles and returned his lone fumble recovery 13 yards for a touchdown. That includes a terrific showing in Clemson’s final two games, where he tallied 10 tackles (6.0 for loss), 3.0 sacks and one forced fumble during that span.

    Beasley’s aggressiveness on defense will only increase with another year of experience under his belt. Matched with freshman Shaq Lawson and sophomore D.J. Reader, the Tigers will have quite the defensive line next season.

    The losses hurt, but there’s no doubt Clemson’s defense will answer the challenge in 2014.

13. Ole Miss

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    Nkemdiche (right) will try to live up to his enormous potential.
    Nkemdiche (right) will try to live up to his enormous potential.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Returning Starters: 10

    Key Losses: LB Mike Marry, DE D.T. Shackelford

     

    The Skinny

    The Rebels have a defense that is filled with potential.

    In 13 games, the unit finished No. 38 in total defense (370.5 yards per game) and No. 37 in scoring (23.7 points per game). However, expect those numbers to rise with 10 starters returning in 2014.

    AP All-American safety Cody Prewitt—71 tackles and six interceptions—should emerge as the leader on this unit. Meanwhile, brothers Robert and Denzel Nkemdiche should contribute in the front seven.

    Not to mention, head coach Hugh Freeze has a very solid 2014 recruiting class coming in too. Ole Miss is ranked No. 13.

    With tons of returning experience, this defense should help put Ole Miss into contention in the SEC.

12. Iowa

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    Ferentz should have the Hawkeyes defense just fine in 2014.
    Ferentz should have the Hawkeyes defense just fine in 2014.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Returning Starters: Six

    Key Losses: LB Anthony Hitchens, LB James Morris, LB Christian Kirksey

     

    The Skinny

    After a 4-8 record in 2012, many expected the Hawkeyes to sink even further last season.

    Instead, the team put together an impressive 8-5 record and went 5-3 in the Big Ten. Iowa earned a berth in a bowl and fell just short against LSU in the Outback Bowl.

    The play of the defense was a large part of that.

    After 13 games, the Hawkeyes ranked No. 6 in total defense (303.1 yards per game) and No. 9 in scoring defense (18.9 points per game). Furthermore, the team only surrendered 30 touchdowns on the season.

    Losing all three starting linebackers will put a serious dent in Iowa’s defense next season.

    However, expect head coach Kirk Ferentz to make the necessary adjustments to get the unit back where it needs to be.

11. Ohio State

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    Bosa (right) will be ready to put opposing quarterbacks on the ground constantly.
    Bosa (right) will be ready to put opposing quarterbacks on the ground constantly.Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Returning Starters: Seven

    Key Losses: CB Bradley Roby, LB Ryan Shazier, S C.J. Barnett

     

    The Skinny

    After an impressive start to the season, the Buckeyes defense collapsed down the stretch.

    And even though the unit will be losing linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Bradley Roby to the NFL, Ohio State will come back better defensively.

    If you recall, this was just head coach Urban Meyer’s first season working with a full recruiting class that was entirely his. That 2013 class ranked No. 2 in the nation and included several top defensive prospects.

    Throw in the incoming 2014 class—currently ranked No. 2—and Meyer will have his fair share of talented, young defensive players to mold.

    Look for defensive linemen Noah Spence (7.5 sacks), Joey Bosa (7.5 sacks) and Michael Bennett (7.0 sacks) to help make the loss of Shazier easier for the Buckeyes. In the secondary, Doran Grant and Vonn Bell will look to take over.

    Meyer is known for having teams with stifling defenses. It won’t take long for Ohio State to fit that mold.

10. Georgia

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    What kind of impact will Pruitt have in his first year as defensive coordinator?
    What kind of impact will Pruitt have in his first year as defensive coordinator?Dave Tulis/Associated Press

    Returning Starters: 10

    Key Losses: DT Garrison Smith

     

    The Skinny

    After the team surrendered several big plays—Auburn’s Hail Mary comes to mind—failed to stop the run and exhibited an overall inconsistency on defense, many wouldn’t expect the Bulldogs to even sniff this list.

    In fact, the team’s rankings in total defense (No. 45) and scoring defense (No. 79) aren’t anything to brag about.

    However, one should keep in mind that Georgia suffered through a rash of key injuries. Not to mention, the team is returning 10 starters on defense and will be welcoming in Jeremy Pruitt as defensive coordinator.

    This will be a more experienced defense led by linebacker tandem Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera—who combined for 245 tackles (16.0 for loss), 4.5 sacks, one interception and one fumble forced in 2013.

    Believe it or not, but the experience and tutelage of Pruitt will make this unit one of the most feared defenses in the nation.

9. Virginia Tech

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    The Hokies defense will only get better in 2014.
    The Hokies defense will only get better in 2014.Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Returning Starters: Six

    Key Losses: LB Jack Tyler, DL J.R. Collins, LB Tariq Edwards

     

    The Skinny

    The Hokies defense saved the team from a complete meltdown in 2013.

    In 13 games, the unit ranked No. 4 in total defense (283.2 yards per game) and No. 11 in scoring defense (19.3 points per game). Furthermore, Virginia Tech only conceded 31 touchdowns on the season.

    Losing leading tackler Jack Tyler will hurt. However, look for Kyshoen Jarrett to step in and fill that role.

    One of the surprises of this defense was the tremendous play of freshmen defensive backs Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson. The two stepped up immediately, ranking first and second, respectively, on the team in interceptions.

    With another year of experience under their belts, expect some of the returning underclassmen to grow into their element in 2014.

    Now, if only the offense could lend a hand.

8. Florida State

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    The Seminoles defense has made life tough for opponents.
    The Seminoles defense has made life tough for opponents.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Returning Starters: Five

    Key Losses: DT Timmy Jernigan, LB Telvin Smith, DB Lamarcus Joyner

     

    The Skinny

    While most of the focus was on quarterback Jameis Winston, the Seminoles wouldn’t have won the BCS title if it weren’t for a stout defense.

    In 14 games, the unit ranked No. 1 in scoring (12.1 points per game), No. 3 in total defense (281.4 yards per game), No. 1 against the pass (156.6 yards per game) and No. 18 against the run (124.8 yards per game). Furthermore, Florida State only conceded 14 passing touchdowns and just seven rushing touchdowns.

    Although the unit only returns five starters from 2013, expect the Seminoles defense to be stifling once again.

    Led by linebacker Terrance Smith and defensive backs Nate Andrews and P.J. Williams, the team’s defense will be filled with second- and third-year players. Not to mention, Florida State is currently in possession of the No. 4 overall recruiting class for 2014.

    The inexperience could cause a few bumps in the road early on, but expect this unit to be one of the nation’s best by season’s end.

7. Alabama

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    Robinson will make life tough for opposing quarterbacks.
    Robinson will make life tough for opposing quarterbacks.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Returning Starters: Five

    Key Losses: LB C.J. Mosley, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, LB Adrian Hubbard

     

    The Skinny

    Year in and year out, it’s almost a sure thing to see the Crimson Tide defense ranked among the nation’s best.

    That trend continued in 2013, as the defense ranked in the top 10 in nearly every major defensive category. Alabama conceded just 13.9 points per game while surrendering only 23 touchdowns all season.

    Although the team will lose several key contributors, the Tide make up for that by currently boasting the No. 1-ranked recruiting class for 2014. That class includes 5-star cornerback Tony Brown, among other highly touted defensive recruits.

    Furthermore, expect freshman defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson (5.5 sacks) to grow into a game-changer next season.

    All in all, this will be another year when Alabama’s defense will be a unit to fear.

6. UCF

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    Plummer (center) came up big for the Knights in the Fiesta Bowl.
    Plummer (center) came up big for the Knights in the Fiesta Bowl.Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    Returning Starters: 10

    Key Losses: DT E.J. Dunston, LB Sean Maag

     

    The Skinny

    The focus during the offseason will most likely be on how the Knights will survive with both quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson heading to the NFL.

    The answer: with a hard-nosed defense.

    UCF returns a whopping 10 starters from a unit that ranked No. 29 in total defense (362.0 yards per game) and No. 17 in scoring defense (21.3 points per game). The team also thrived at stopping the run, holding opponents to just 122.5 yards per game on 3.98 yards per carry.

    The Knights’ top two leading tacklers return in Terrance Plummer and Clayton Geathers. Furthermore, the development of sophomore Thomas Niles and freshman Blake Keller will be interesting to follow on the defensive line.

    All in all, this will be a defense that will keep UCF in ball games.

5. LSU

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    Look for the Tigers D to make some noise in 2014.
    Look for the Tigers D to make some noise in 2014.John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

    Returning Starters: Six

    Key Losses: DT Anthony Johnson, LB Lamin Barrow

     

    The Skinny

    After some early bumps in the road, the Tigers defense seemed to step up in the second half of the season.

    In 13 games, the unit finished No. 15 in total defense (340.7 yards per game) and No. 21 in scoring (22.0 points per game). Furthermore, LSU only conceded 32 touchdowns on the season.

    Look for linebacker D.J. Welter to emerge as a leader on this unit—he has 80 tackles (4.0 for loss) and 2.0 sacks last season. Sophomore defensive back Jalen Mills will also try and improve the secondary.

    With the addition of 5-star prospects Clifton Garrett and Jamal Adams among other highly touted 4-star recruits, the Tigers should more than make up for their losses next season.

    It might be another slow start, but by season’s end, this will be a defense you wouldn’t want to face in November.

4. USC

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    Cravens will be a name to look out for on the defensive side of things.
    Cravens will be a name to look out for on the defensive side of things.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Returning Starters: Eight

    Key Losses: DL George Uko, S Dion Bailey

     

    The Skinny

    The Trojans are easily one of the up-and-coming defenses in college football.

    Even with all the ups and downs of the 2013 season, the defensive unit played pretty well. USC ranked No. 13 in total defense (334.9 yards per game) and No. 16 in scoring defense (21.2 points per game).

    Those numbers should only look to increase with eight starters returning.

    The return of leading tackler Hayes Pullard will be huge for the Trojans. Look for freshman safety Su’a Cravens to also make an impact.

    Throw in some highly touted 4-star prospects from the 2014 class, and USC is poised to make some noise in head coach Steve Sarkisian’s first year in charge.

3. Michigan State

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    Look for Calhoun (left) to come up big in 2014.
    Look for Calhoun (left) to come up big in 2014.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Returning Starters: Five

    Key Losses: LB Max Bullough, LB Denicos Allen

     

    The Skinny

    Replacing two-time All-Big Ten selection Max Bullough will be no easy task.

    But as the Spartans proved during their impressive Rose Bowl victory over Stanford, 24-20, they’ll be just fine.

    Relying on fifth-year senior Kyler Elsworth, who earned defensive MVP honors, and sophomore Darien Harris, the team showcased its depth—something that will be needed next season with just five starters returning.

    However, Michigan State has high hopes that one of its two redshirt freshmen, Shane Jones or Jon Reschke, will be able to step up and fill the void.

    Defensive end Shilique Calhoun should also prove to be a huge factor on defense. The sophomore proved disruptive all year, recording 37 tackles (14.0 for loss), collecting 7.5 sacks, forcing two fumbles and returning both fumble recoveries back for a touchdown.

    Don’t expect the Spartans defense to be as dominant as it was in 2013, but it should still be very good.

2. Oklahoma

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    The Sooners defense will be fun to watch in 2014.
    The Sooners defense will be fun to watch in 2014.Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

    Returning Starters: Nine

    Key Losses: CB Aaron Colvin, S Gabe Lynn

     

    The Skinny

    The Sooners defense slipped under the radar for the majority of 2013. 

    However, the unit played some very solid football. Oklahoma ranked No. 20 in total defense (350.2 yards per game) and No. 22 in scoring defense (22.1 points per game).

    But the unit really made a statement against Alabama, recording 7.0 sacks, picking off two passes and even scoring a defensive touchdown.

    With nine defensive starters returning—including the whole front seven—the Sooners expect to continue to cause havoc in the backfield for opposing quarterbacks.

    Losing Aaron Colvin and Gabe Lynn will put Oklahoma’s secondary in trouble. However, freshman Zack Sanchez—46 tackles, 13 passes broken up and two interceptions—will emerge as a big-time playmaker next season.

    Keep an eye on the Sooners in 2014.

1. Florida

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    Hargreaves (No. 1) will be a key contributor to a defense playing with a chip on its shoulder.
    Hargreaves (No. 1) will be a key contributor to a defense playing with a chip on its shoulder.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Returning Starters: Eight

    Key Losses: CB Loucheiz Purifoy, LB Ronald Powell

     

    The Skinny

    Even in a season when injuries completely ravaged the team, the Gators defense was able to remain dominant.

    The fact that the unit finished ranked No. 8 in total defense (314.3 yards per game) is high praise, especially when you consider that Florida lost a whopping eight games last season.

    Losing cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and linebacker Ronald Powell will be a setback, but the Gators have another season with cornerback Vernon Hargreaves to look forward to. Not to mention, the additions of 5-star prospects Jalen Tabor and Gerald Willis are huge.

    This is a pretty young defense that had a solid season during a rough stretch for the Florida football program.

    Look for 2014 to only continue that success.

     

    All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBStats.com. All recruiting information and rankings are courtesy of 247Sports.com.

    For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Facebook, on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.