Alabama scored 45 points in the national championship game — and needed every one of them to hold off Clemson.

So, yes, offense matters.

But the Tide rode its defense to its fourth championship in seven years, and that defense will carry the burden again in 2016.

With that, we predict the best defenses in the SEC West in 2016.

1. Alabama

2015 points per game allowed: 15.1, first in SEC.

Better or worse in 2016? Better.

Why? The secondary, a preseason concern a year ago, will enter the fall as a collective, proven nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. That’s the biggest difference between 2016 and 2015. There isn’t a weak spot to challenge.

Alabama’s front seven dominated 2015, but the reality was the Tide went two-deep and then some. Da’Shawn Hand and Reuben Foster will become breakout stars in 2016 for new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who won’t dare reinvent the wheel.

Alabama’s 2011 championship team allowed a ridiculous 8.2 points per game. This defense won’t challenge that mark, but the SEC West, with so many new faces at quarterback, will give the 2016 Tide team a shot of holding teams below 15.

2. LSU

2015 points per game allowed: 24.3, 10th in SEC.

Better or worse in 2016? Better.

Why? LSU’s best draft-eligible juniors decided to return, which was Les Miles’ second-biggest win of the year and an unexpected bonus for new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.

LSU allowed its most points per game since 2008, when it gave up 24.2.

The most disconcerting aspect of last season was the Tigers’ inability to shut down anybody. They allowed 20 or more points in 10 of their final 11 games. Texas A&M was the only opponent all season that didn’t reach double digits. Even South Carolina and Florida (without Will Grier) scored 24 or more.

Keeping corner Tre’Davious White, linebacker Kendell Beckwith and lineman Lewis Neal gives the Tigers a veteran playmaker at every level of a defense that includes several younger All-SEC caliber talents, most notably Arden Key.

A switch to a 3-4 will put more athletes, more speed on the field, and that’s always to LSU’s advantage.

3. Texas A&M

2015 points per game allowed: 22.0, seventh in SEC.

Better or worse in 2016? Better.

Why? Myles Garrett said he had an off-year in 2015. So any questions about whether would glide through 2016, saving himself for the NFL Draft, can be put to rest.

The Aggies’ best player — the SEC’s best pass rusher — will be in attack mode.

Daeshon Hall, Armani Watts and Donovan Wilson are back as well. Watts is the SEC’s leading returning tackler (126 last season), and Wilson picked off five passes as a sophomore.

4. Auburn

2015 points per game allowed: 26.0, 11th in SEC.

Better or worse in 2016? Better.

Why? Auburn hasn’t held opponents under 20 points per game since 2008. That’s the goal in 2016, and the return of Carl Lawson is a critical step in reaching it.

Kevin Steele, who came over from LSU, will share defensive responsibilities with Wesley McGriff, who arrived from the NFL.

McGriff is renowned for his recruiting acumen, but Gus Malzahn told he is excited to see how he develops Auburn’s defensive backs, led by Carlton Davis.

The critical stat from 2015? Auburn allowed opponents to convert on 45 percent of its third down tries. No defense can survive, much less thrive, at that rate.

5. Ole Miss

2015 points per game allowed: 22.6, eighth in SEC.

Better or worse in 2016? Worse.

Why? Ole Miss is banking on its farm system to replace six starters, including several proven stars. It might work, but Ole Miss’ system isn’t as stacked as Alabama’s. Hence, chances are the replacements won’t be as dominant as Robert Nkemdiche, Trae Elston and Mike Hilton.

Tony Conner and Tony Bridges have to play at an All-SEC level or a repeat of 2011 — league-worst 32.1 points allowed — is possible.

6. Mississippi State

2015 points per game allowed: 23.2, ninth in SEC.

Better or worse in 2016? Worse.

Why? Mississippi State finished last in the league in time of possession in 2015. One reason, of course, was Dak Prescott and the offense led the SEC in pass attempts. They might lead the SEC in 2016 for another reason: The offense won’t be nearly as prolific as last year.

Mississippi State averaged just 4.2 punts per game last season — only three SEC teams averaged fewer. Fewer points, more punts equates to more stress on a defense that lost Beniquez Brown and didn’t feature a player on the All-SEC first or second team.

7. Arkansas

2015 points per game allowed: 27.4, 13th in SEC.

Better or worse in 2016? Worse.

Why? Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw are standout linebackers, but beyond them, the questions outnumber the answers.

Arkansas finished next-to-last in scoring defense last season despite having an offense that kept the ball more than 34 minutes per game — best in the SEC.

It’s unlikely, with the turnover at quarterback and running back, that these Razorbacks be ball Hogs again. Which means, the defense that allowed a league-worst 275 passing yards per game will be exposed to even more potential damage this season.