Ranking the 5 toughest SEC defenses
As the adage goes, defense wins championships.
That statement might not be completely true anymore with offenses scoring at a higher rate in recent seasons. But no team is likely to win a championship without a top-notch defense.
Here are the SEC’s top five defenses through Week 8.
5. Georgia (5-2, 3-2 SEC): It was a tight race between Georgia, Ole Miss and LSU for the fifth spot on the list, but the Bulldogs received the nod with fewer yards and points given up per game than the Rebels and Tigers. Injuries also played a factor with Ole Miss. Georgia is ranked in the top 30 nationwide in total defense, rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed and scoring defense. The Bulldogs are also second-best in the SEC at third-down defense.
Senior ILB Jake Ganus, who transferred from UAB following the elimination of its football program, leads the team with 50 total tackles and two interceptions. Junior OLB Leonard Floyd leads Georgia with 3.0 sacks and also has 6.0 tackles for loss.
4. Vanderbilt (3-4, 1-3 SEC): The improvement at Vanderbilt is due to the dominance of the Commodores defense. Vanderbilt is second in scoring defense and third in rushing yards allowed in the SEC.
The Commodores have only produced seven takeaways in seven games, but their defense gets off the field in other ways. Vanderbilt leads the conference in red-zone defense and third-down defense. The defense stops opposing offenses 77.6 percent of the time on third down, third-best in the nation. Vanderbilt has allowed only eight TDs touchdown on eight their opponents’ 23 red-zone trips.
3. Florida (6-1, 4-1 SEC): Led by DB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida has one of the best defenses in the country again. Hargreaves has three interceptions, which has helped the Gators rank third in the SEC in takeaways.
But the pass rush is Florida’s bread and butter. The Gators made life miserable for Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly, sacking him six times and forcing four turnovers. The Gators average 3.0 sacks per game, ranking third-best in the SEC and No. 15 in the country.
2. Missouri (4-4, 1-4 SEC): Missouri’s terrible offense has overshadowed an impressive defense. Mizzou has allowed more than 20 points just once. The 12.5 points the Tigers allow per game is the best in the SEC and No. 5 in the nation. Mizzou yields only 161.6 passing yards per game, best in the conference.
Sophomore DE Charles Harris (So.) and freshman DE Walter Brady have dominated on the flanks. They each have 6.0 sacks, and Harris leads the SEC with 15.5 tackles for loss.
1. Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC): The Crimson Tide remains the cream of the crop in the SEC when it comes to defense. Alabama ranks in the top 10 in the country in total defense (sixth), rushing yards allowed (fourth), sacks (sixth) and takeaways (tied for ninth). The Tide leads the SEC in all four of those categories.
Alabama’s defense is stocked with playmakers such as junior CB Eddie Jackson, who leads the conference with five interceptions, and junior DE Jonathan Allen, who has six sacks. Alabama is second in the country with four defensive TDs.