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Top Total and Scoring Defenses 1989-2011

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The 2011 Alabama defense has been recognized as one of the most dominant in college football in recent memory. It was so strong it raises the question of how far back to we have to go to find another that punches in it's weight class.

According to ESPN's Brad Edwards, the 1986 Oklahoma Sooners are not only the only the team to finish first in rushing, passing & scoring defense, they are the only other one to do it since the NCAA started keeping records in 1937. That tidbit was interesting enough it set me off looking for those numbers to do some comparisons and was quickly disappointed.

It turns out that the NCAA statistics available online only go back to 2000. There is also an archive of statistics from 1989-1999 but these are only in PDF format and do not include bowl contests. I assume there are hard copies of these somewhere but until someone is kind enough to make them available we're stuck with what we've got.

So, to start, I went back and looked up the defensive numbers of the 1986 Oklahoma team and, sure enough, they exceed the 2011Alabama squad. Those Sooners allowed 6.75 points per game that season and 175.5 yards per game. That's likely the gold standard of the modern era.

To get a year-by-year comparison using the NCAA numbers that are available I went back and looked up all the bowl numbers for the top five teams in each category for every available season, recalculated the average and came up with the season leader in these two categories. The charts and graphs that follow are the result.

Total Defenses 1989-2011
Fbshcfbtotaldefense_medium

Top Total Defenses
Year YPGA Team
2011 183.62 Alabama
1992 200.15 Alabama
1997 207.27 UNC
2008 217.77 TCU
1990 219.32 Clemson
2006 219.46 Virginia Tech
2004 221.36 NC State
1989 221.38 Miami
1994 222.50 Washington State
1996 223.46 West Virginia
1991 227.20 Texas A&M
1998 228.40 Florida State
2010 228.46 TCU
1993 231.50 Arizona
2007 233.00 Ohio State
2001 236.17 Texas
1999 236.54 Mississippi State
2009 239.69 TCU
2002 240.25 TCU
2000 245.00 TCU
2005 247.62 Virginia Tech
2003 252.00 LSU
1995 254.98 Kansas State

Scoring Defenses 1989-2011
Fbshcfbscoringdefense_medium

The numbers available over at College Football Data Warehouse indicate that in 1987 Oklahoma allowed only 8.5 points per game and in 1988 Auburn permitted just 7.67 points per game. The folks over at War Eagle Reader have a very well done breakdown on these two teams in comparison with the 2011 Crimson Tide defense.

Top Scoring Defenses
Year PPGA Team
2011 8.15 Alabama
1991 8.34 Miami
2008 9.00 USC
1990 9.08 Clemson
2001 9.40 Miami
1992 9.40 Alabama
1997 9.49 Michigan
2000 9.60 TCU
1993 9.91 Florida State
1996 10.25 UNC
2009 10.43 Nebraska
1999 10.57 Marshall
1989 10.61 Miami
2005 10.7 Alabama
2006 11.00 Va. Tech
2003 11.00 LSU
2004 11.30 Auburn
1994 11.34 Washington State
2002 11.80 Kansas St.
1998 11.93 Wisconsin
2010 12.00 TCU
2007 12.80 Ohio State
1995 13.76 Virginia Tech