The dozen best defenses in SEC history
The SEC is a conference known for its dominant defenses through the years, so to crack our list of the dozen best defenses in the conference’s history can be considered one helluva accomplishment.
But you already knew that, so we won’t waste anymore time hyping up this list. Instead, we’ll dive right in with our top 12 defenses in SEC history:
12. Georgia (1983): Many forget that the year after Herschel Walker departed from Athens, the Bulldogs still maintained a sterling defense that led UGA to a 8-1-1 regular season record. The Dawgs may have allowed more yards per game than other defenses on this list, but the most important number relevant to this defense is points allowed. The Bulldogs only allowed two regular season opponents to reach 20 points, and it held seven opponents to fewer than 14 points on the season to compensate for losing perhaps the SEC’s greatest offensive weapon of all-time.
11. Ole Miss (2014): Last year’s Ole Miss Landshark defense will be immortalized in the program’s history alongside Johnny Vaught and Archie and Eli Manning. The Rebels led the nation in scoring defense, allowing opponents to score only 16 points per game on the year, and that was after allowing 42 points in an embarrassing bowl loss to TCU that almost kept Ole Miss off this list. However, prior to that game the Rebels closed the regular season with a 9-3 record, and they only allowed 13.8 points per game during a regular season that featured defensive-led victories over 12-win Alabama, 10-win Mississippi State, 10-win Boise State (on a neutral site) and 10-win Memphis, all of which won a conference title with the exception of MSU.
10. Florida (2009): Although this Florida team lost an undefeated season and a chance to defend its 2008 BCS title with a loss to Alabama in the SEC title game, the Gators defense in 2009 was still pretty darn impressive. The Gators utilized a five-man secondary in which all five starting defensive backs would go on to enjoy NFL careers, and we haven’t even mentioned current NFL superstars Brandon Spikes and Carlos Dunlap from the front seven. The Gators forced 10 fumbles that year and intercepted 20 passes, allowing only one opponent to touch 20 points before that year’s SEC title game.
9. LSU (2003): Now overshadowed by Nick Saban’s immaculate defenses at Alabama, his LSU defense in 2003, the year he won his first BCS championship, was one of his best ever. That year the Tigers not only held all but one opponent to below 20 points, but they held 12 of 14 opponents to 14 points or fewer on the year. This defense hung its hat on run-stopping, as the Bayou Bengals held opponents to only 67 yards per game on the ground in 2003, using that dominance up front to force teams into obvious passing situations. The Tigers took advantage of those situations, with nine players intercepting 21 passes on the year.
8. Alabama (1992): Not only did the Crimson Tide close the ’92 season with an unblemished 14-0 record and a national championship under head coach Gene Stallings, but it did so on the backs of one of the great Alabama defenses of all-time. The Tide only allowed two opponents to cross the 20-point threshold, and both opponents were held to 21 points on those occasions. In Alabama’s other 12 games, no team managed more than 13 points and five failed to ever reach double figures. Alabama logged 20 interceptions that season, and allowed only 128 yards per game through the air and fewer than 200 yards of total offense per contest.
7. Arkansas (1964): Widely considered the greatest Arkansas team ever, the 1964 Razorbacks boasted a menacing defense that tore apart the Southwestern Conference en route to the program’s only national title in history. Arkansas held all but three opponents to below 10 points, and posted a streak of five straight shutouts to close the regular season before winning the Cotton Bowl by allowing only seven points to No. 7 Nebraska. Arkansas allowed fewer than 180 yards of offense per game that season, cementing a legendary season in Fayetteville.
6. Vanderbilt (1922): Led by College Football Hall of Famer Lynn Bomar, the 1922 Commodores posted one of their best seasons ever in 1922, led by the team’s dominant defense. Vandy closed the year with an 8-0-1 record, and it held seven of nine opponents scoreless (it allowed 16 points in two games against Texas and Tennessee). There aren’t many numbers preserved from this season, but to even score a point on this Vandy defense was such an accomplishment this unit couldn’t be kept off the list.
t-5. Alabama (2011): Alabama’s 2011 defense was one of two all-time great defenses from that season, along with LSU, with whom it split two meetings on the year. The Tide dropped the regular season meeting 9-6 in one of the greatest defensive battles in college football history, then shut out LSU in a 21-0 romp in that season’s BCS championship game. That season Alabama held opponents to just a hair more than seven points per contest, boasting 14 future NFL players on its three-deep on defense. The Tide held opponents to only 183 yards per game of total offense, and even as spread offenses began to emerge throughout college football Alabama limited opponents to only 111 yards per game through the air that season.
t-5. LSU (2011): Although LSU lost a rematch against Alabama in the national title game, it still boasted one of the greatest defenses in college football history in 2011. It held Alabama to only one touchdown in two games (LSU also allowed seven field goals in those two games), and held nine opponents to 10 points or fewer on the year. What’s more incredible is LSU averaged more than two takeaways per game for the entire season, including five players with multiple interceptions, eight with at least one pick and 10 more with at least one forced fumble on the year.
3. Alabama (1979): Alabama completed an undefeated 12-0 season under head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, winning the coach’s second straight national title and the last of his six career championships. Not only did the Tide hold 10 of its 12 opponents to single figures in scoring, but it held nine of 12 opponents to seven points or fewer on the year and never let a team reach 20 points the entire season. Alabama limited opposing offenses to fewer than 72 yards per game through the air, and logged 22 interceptions on the year. What’s more impressive is those 22 picks were recorded by 14 different players.
2. Auburn (1914): In 1914, albeit a very different era in college football history than the era we’re in now, Auburn’s defense went an entire season without allowing a single point. This wouldn’t be the last time a team achieved a comparable feat, but that doesn’t in any way cheapen such an incredible season-long accomplishment. There aren’t many recorded statistics from those days, but the list of zeroes on Auburn’s schedule speaks for itself, don’t you think?
1. Tennessee (1938-39): Surely you’re wondering why this Tennessee is defense spans two years. We’ll explain: Tennessee closed the 1938 season with five consecutive shutouts, then went the entire 10-game 1939 regular season without allowing a single point, bringing its two-year streak to 15 straight shutouts. The streak was snapped in a 14-0 bowl loss to Oklahoma to close the 1939 season, but the 15 straight shutouts remain an NCAA record that will likely never be broken. And if you venture back a few games before the start of the streak, Tennessee actually shutout 18 of 19 opponents between those two seasons.