College Football 2011: Ranking the 10 Stingiest Run Defenses in the Nation

Pat MarrujoContributor IApril 15, 2011

College Football 2011: Ranking the 10 Stingiest Run Defenses in the Nation

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    A strong running game is what makes most consistent offenses flow because without a playmaker in the backfield, you become one-dimensional.

    That is why having the ability to stop the run is so important in college football. If you contain the running back, you put a lot of pressure on the quarterback to make big plays. 

    The following 10 teams are the best of the best defensively, and these teams will have the strongest defense against the run in 2011.

10. Iowa Hawkeyes

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    The Iowa Hawkeyes may only return six starters on the defensive side of the ball, but luckily, four of those players are in their front seven.

    Iowa had the best run-defense in the Big Ten last season and the fifth-ranked run-defense in the entire nation.

    The Hawkeyes would be higher on this list, but they need to replace defensive tackle Karl Klug and defensive end Adrian Clayborn next season. The two will be tough to replace, but Iowa seems to find new players to bolster their run-defense every season.

    Last year's 8-5 record at Iowa was a bit of a surprise, and expectations are not very high again in 2011. If they want to match their success from a season ago, it will start with stopping the run.

9. Utah Utes

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    Utah better hope their 11th nationally-ranked defense from a season ago was not just a product of playing inferior talent, because they will need the same dominance in their inaugural Pac-12 season.

    The Utes only return five starters on their defense from a season ago, so this unit could decline. They will rely heavily on linebacker Chaz Walker to be a dominating tackler in 2011.

    They will go up against strong running backs every week in the Pac-12. Superstars like Rodney “Speedy” Stewart of Colorado and USC’s stable of running backs will burn them if they cannot replace some key losses.

8. North Carolina State Wolfpack

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    After a surprising 9-4 record last season, the Wolfpack was led by their exceptional run-defense, which was ranked 14th in the nation.

    The Wolfpack defense didn’t necessarily dominate teams with their stifling defense, but they would not allow them to run wild.

    This was valuable because the rest of their teams were rather inconsistent. This resulted in some disappointing losses against teams such as East Carolina and Clemson, along with some surprising upsets of teams like Florida State and Georgia Tech.

    If NC State wants to have success again in 2011, they must once again rely on their rushing defense.

7. North Carolina Tar Heels

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    The Tar Heels had a strong run-defense last season and return almost the entire unit for 2011 with 10 defensive starters back from a season ago.

    The most notable player is defensive tackle Quinton Coples. He is great at getting off blocks and finds himself making first contact quite often.

    Only four running backs ran for more than 100 yards against North Carolina last season, two of which came in a single game.

6. Arizona State Sun Devils

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    Haven’t jumped on the Arizona State bandwagon yet?

    This is why you should be convinced.

    Arizona State has quietly had one of the best run-defenses in the nation for the past few seasons. Last year, they ranked 16th nationally and were the best in the Pac-10.

    The Sun Devils are led by All-American Vontaze Burfict and possibly the deepest linebacker unit in college football. They are incredibly fast and dangerously hard-hitting.

    Still not convinced?

    Don’t take my word for it, instead believe LaMichael James. He claimed Arizona State’s defense was the best he had ever faced during his career at Oregon.

    “They were fast and strong,” James said. “It felt like they were everywhere.”

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Ohio State always plays some of the best defense in college football. They are only returning four starters from a season ago, but this should not the affect the Buckeyes too much. 

    With just three returning starters from their front seven, Ohio State has stockpiled talent every year. Last season, they had the seventh-best run-stop in the nation. Expect Ohio State to find themselves in the top 15 in this category all year long in 2011.

    If their offense can overcome their early suspensions, their defense could carry them to another BCS berth.

4. Boise State Broncos

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    Like Utah, Boise State’s statistics might be misleading because of the weak opponents they play. Regardless, Boise State had the sixth-best run-defense last season and only gave up 2.9 yards per carry.

    Most of their key run-stoppers are returning for their 2011 campaign. Defensive enforcers like Billy Winn and Bryon Hout are a big reason why the Broncos are thinking BCS Bowl in 2011.

    Their strong offense is good enough to score on any team, but their defense is what will push Boise State over the top against elite opponents.

    Their early season matchup against Georgia will show us a lot about how good this defense really is.

3. TCU Horned Frogs

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    TCU proved that despite being a mid-major school, they can stop any team's running game.

    Against Oregon State, they held Jacquizz Rodgers to just 75 yards, and against San Diego State, they held Ronnie Hillman to just 54 yards.

    The main reason for the success of their run-stop is due to linebackers Tanner Brock and Tank Carder; both are fast and extremely reliable tacklers.

    Last season, the Horned Frogs had the fourth-ranked run-defense in the nation. With the return of Brock and Carder, expect the unit to be just as dominant in 2011.

2. Boston College Eagles

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    The Eagles may have only had a 7-6 record, but they actually had the very best run defense a season ago, giving up only 82.8 yards per game and 2.7 yards per carry. They did not allow a single player run for more than 100 yards last season.

    Boston College flat-out dominates the line of scrimmage, and the main reason is linebacker Luke Kuechly. He is one of the best defensive playmakers in the country because he is always in the right spot and is a reliable tackler.

    As long as Kuechly is at Boston College, the Eagles will have one of the better rushing defenses in college football.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    There is a reason Alabama is an early favorite to be national champions—their defense.

    Their pass-defense and their run-defense could both be the best in the country.

    They return six starters from their dominant 2010 front seven, including linebacker Dont’a Hightower.

    Last season, Alabama had the 10th-best run-defense despite playing in the toughest conference in college football. They held Arkansas’ Knile Davis, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore and Mississippi State’s Vick Ballard all under 100 yards in their meetings.

    The Tide have proven their dominance. Now, it is time to prove it again and win a BCS title in the process.