NCAA Football

Power Ranking College Football’s Top 10 Defenses Heading Into Week 8

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Top 10 Defenses in College Football

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After seven weeks of football, it’s starting to become pretty clear which top defenses are legitimate contenders for the title of best unit in the nation. The days of padding stats against cupcakes are over, as teams move into their grueling conference schedules.

It seems more and more teams are loading up offensively with tons of talent and fast-paced schemes that often stretch defenses to their limits. And there are some truly mind-boggling offensive statistics out there this season.

But even in this seemingly ever-modernized era of college football, it’s not all razzle-dazzle. There are still some hard-nosed teams with gritty defenses that strike fear into opposing offenses.

Last week, a couple of the top-10 defenses really had to earn it, taking on some high-powered offenses. But like great defensive units usually do, they rose to the challenge and put forth solid efforts.

The Florida Gators, despite losing, held LSU’s powerful offense to well below its season average. Meanwhile, Michigan State allowed 28 points, which was by far the highest total yielded by the Spartans this season. However, that total matched the lowest offensive output to date by Indiana, so there’s nothing to worry about in East Lansing.

Here’s a look at how the best defenses in college football stack up heading into Week 8.

Related: Power Ranking College Football’s Top 10 Offenses Heading into Week 8

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10. Oklahoma Sooners

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Total Defense: 308.8 YPG (13th)

Scoring: 16.8 PPG (T-12th)

Passing: 172 YPG (12th)

Rushing: 136.8 YPG (33rd)

Though the Sooners lost 36-20 to Texas last week, the defense was only responsible for 22 of those points, as the Longhorns scored touchdowns on defense and special teams. Despite giving up nearly 40 points, Oklahoma is still just outside the top 10 in scoring defense. Expect the Sooners’ defensive numbers to improve across the board this week against lowly Kansas, which ranks 113th in scoring offense, 105th in passing and 103rd in rushing.

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9. Iowa Hawkeyes

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Total Defense: 290 YPG (9th)

Scoring: 16.8 PPG (T-12th)

Passing: 201.5 YPG (28th)

Rushing: 88.5 YPG (8th)

The Hawkeyes didn’t play last week, but it’s hard not to include them on the list based on their body of work this season. Since giving up 30 points to Northern Illinois in Week 1, Iowa has only yielded more than 14 points twice. With an offense that has constantly struggled to score, the Hawkeyes' D is the primary reason this team is 4-2. They have a huge opportunity to move up this week with a good performance against high-powered No. 4 Ohio State.

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8. Cincinnati Bearcats

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Total Defense: 271.8 YPG (6th)

Scoring: 17.8 PPG (17th)

Passing: 160.2 YPG (4th)

Rushing: 111.7 YPG (16th)

Cincinnati’s numbers have declined slightly over the last two weeks, but the Bearcats still have easily one of the best defenses in the country. Those two games represent the only times Cincinnati has given up 20 points this season. Still, their numbers are solid across the board and will only get better this week against Connecticut’s 118th-ranked offense.

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7. Louisville Cardinals

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Total Defense: 229.5 YPG (2nd)

Scoring: 7.3 PPG (1st)

Passing: 161.2 YPG (5th)

Rushing: 68.3 YPG (2nd)

Many people think of Louisville as an offense-first team; however, the Cardinals are actually better statistically on defense. Louisville has only yielded double-digit points twice this year and the most they’ve given up is 13, which is pretty impressive. No team has scored more than one touchdown on this unit all season. The Cardinals will get one of their toughest defensive tests of the season in Central Florida.

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6. Wisconsin Badgers

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Total Defense: 267.3 YPG (5th)

Scoring: 13.2 PPG (5th)

Passing: 177.2 YPG (14th)

Rushing: 90.2 YPG (10th)

The Badgers improved their defensive reputation tremendously last week, holding Northwestern to 241 yards, 10 first downs and six points. The Wildcats had been averaging well over 35 points before being suffocated by Wisconsin. The Badgers have now kept their opponent out of the end zone three times this season. This week brings an interesting test in Illinois’ up-and-down offense.

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5. Virginia Tech Hokies

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Total Defense: 256 YPG (4th)

Scoring: 15 PPG (7th)

Passing: 165 YPG (7th)

Rushing: 91 YPG (11th)

The Hokies are flat out dominant on the defensive side of the ball. Since yielding 35 points to Alabama – 14 of which came on special teams – Virginia Tech has not allowed more than 21 points in a game. Bud Foster’s unit is absolutely rolling halfway through the season, and there’s no reason to think they can’t shut down Duke this week.

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4. Florida State Seminoles

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Total Defense: 276.8 YPG (7th)

Scoring: 12 PPG (3rd)

Passing: 149 YPG (2nd)

Rushing: 127.8 YPG (27th)

With much of the attention focused on Jameis Winston and the Seminoles’ offense, FSU’s defense has quietly, yet effectively, gone about its business of completely shutting down four of five opponents. Other than the 34 points Boston College put up in Week 5, Florida State has given up a total of 26 points in its other three games. The Noles will have their hands full this weekend, however, against Clemson.

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3. Alabama Crimson Tide

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Total Defense: 278.2 YPG (8th)

Scoring: 11.3 PPG (2nd)

Passing: 191 YPG (20th)

Rushing: 87.2 YPG (7th)

Take away the 628 yards and 42 points Texas A&M dropped on the Crimson Tide and this unit would easily be tops in both statistical categories. But, the Aggies did score those points. However, that’s more a testament to just how good they are offensively as opposed to defensive struggles by Alabama. In its other five games, Alabama has only given up 26 points. The Tide also posted three-straight games without allowing a touchdown. And there’s a pretty good chance they won’t allow one this week against Arkansas.

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2. Michigan State Spartans

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Total Defense: 228.5 YPG (1st)

Scoring: 15.8 PPG (8th)

Passing: 170.3 YPG (11th)

Rushing: 58.2 YPG (1st)

As mentioned, the 28 points scored by Indiana was the highest total allowed by the Spartans this season. The Hoosiers were held well below their season averages in points (41.7) and gained 173 yards (351) less than the 524.3 they average. Also, the performance certainly didn’t hurt Michigan State’s season averages defensively, and for that reason this unit remains anchored near the top of the power rankings. The Spartans’ defensive numbers should only get better this week, as Purdue’s 121st-ranked offense rolls into town.

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1. Florida Gators

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Total Defense: 235.3 YPG (3rd)

Scoring: 13 PPG (4th)

Passing: 152 YPG (3rd)

Rushing: 83.3 YPG (4th)

Despite giving up a season highs in rushing yards and points last week, the Gators held LSU’s prolific offense well below its previous averages in yards and points. Florida made the Tigers look human on offense, when prior to this game, many wondered if they could even be slowed down, much less stopped. The Gators still have the best defensive numbers across the board and deserve to be at the top of the power rankings. It’s going to be interesting this week to see this defense take on a powerful Missouri offense that is missing its best player, QB James Franklin.