In the era of uptempo, no-huddle offenses, it may seem like "defense wins championships" is an outdated maxim.
Auburn allowed 415 yards nine times, 450 yards seven times and 490 yards four times last season, and it still won the SEC title and came within 20 seconds of beating Florida State for the BCS National Championship. Welcome to 2014!
Still, although it is easy to forget, we are only three seasons removed from the Alabama-LSU national title game. A rematch of the 9-6 LSU win in the regular season, that game featured a Crimson Tide defense that didn't allow its opponent to cross midfield until midway through the fourth quarter. Defense, it seems, won a championship.
Alabama and Notre Dame met for the national title the following season after finishing Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in national scoring defense. And Florida State, the team that beat Auburn for the final BCS National Championship, finished with the No. 1 defense in the country according to Football Outsiders' F/+ ratings.
Defense is still requisite for championships, and the teams on this list could all be proof of that in 2014. This is not a list of the seven best defenses in the country, necessarily, but a list of seven defenses whose teams can realistically hope for a spot in the College Football Playoff. They all have the pedigree and balance to get there.
But the defense will do the heavy lifting.