Pac-12 getting defensive?

June, 13, 2012
6/13/12
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In 2011, Alabama and LSU ranked Nos. 1 & 2 in both scoring and total defense. And they played for the national title.

While there is a strong and perfectly reasonable movement afoot to make it legal to slap anyone who parrots the hackneyed football dogma of "Defense wins championships!" well, there you go.

[+] EnlargeStar Lotulelei
Russ Isabella/US PresswireWith Star Lotulelei, Utah is likely to have one of the toughest defenses in the Pac-12.
In 2011, California ranked 25th in total defense. Utah ranked 19th in scoring defense. And they led the Pac-12 in those stats.

We can debate chicken and egg -- great Pac-12 QBs and offenses make it difficult to post great defensive numbers -- but it's fair to say that 2011 wasn't a great year for Pac-12 defenses.

That not only might change in 2012, it might be fair to say that defenses will win championships in the conference this fall -- conference and perhaps national.

Ouch! And thanks.

This occurred to me as Kevin and I have done our "Strongest Position Group" feature. It seemed notable that both Oregon and Stanford, offensive superpowers the past few seasons, are strongest on defense, and a number of other conference teams are the same way.

In fact, it would not be surprising if Oregon, Stanford, USC, California and Utah each produce a top-25 defense. Each unit also is notably strong up front, which isn't typically where Pac-12 defenses are best.

Further, there's plenty of star power across the board. Utah DT Star Lotulelei, USC safety T.J. McDonald and Stanford OLB Chase Thomas each look like first-team preseason All-Americans. Don't be surprised if Oregon OLB Dion Jordan, Ducks safety John Boyett and Oregon State CB Jordan Poyer join them after the season. And the list of rising stars is long: Arizona DB Tra'Mayne Bondurant, California DEs Mustafa Jalil and Deandre Coleman, Oregon LB Kiko Alonso, Stanford LB James Vaughters, Washington DT Danny Shelton and all three of USC's sophomore LBs.

Among others (please assume that the guy I indefensibly left out from your team is 100 percent covered by this category).

To go even further, you can almost draw a line between the projected top six teams in the conference and the projected bottom six teams based on defense. I'd include UCLA in this group because the Bruins have solid talent on D and figure to get competent coordination this year from new coach Jim Mora and coordinator Lou Spanos. So that's USC, Oregon, Stanford, Utah, California and UCLA, in that order.

The only team that's left out of that projected top group, based on defense, is Washington, which could get preseason top-25 consideration based on the return of QB Keith Price. The Huskies should be better on defense this fall simply due to the arrival of coordinator Justin Wilcox as well as the quasi-comforting fact that it would be difficult to be much worse.

As for the bottom-half teams, there figures to be a preseason consensus on five of them: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon State and Washington State. Each has significant questions on defense.

That doesn't mean any of those five can't be surprisingly effective on defense or that it can't win games by relying on a high-scoring offense. We're obviously dealing only in the murkiness of preseason prognostication here.

Still, it certainly wouldn't be surprising if at the end of the season we find ourselves whispering, "Wow, defense won this championship."

Ouch. And thanks.

Ted Miller | email

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