Defensive Dominators for Bowl Season

Evaluating The Stats And College Football Defensive Dominators

In seasons past I’ve written many articles on college football using statistical indicators and profiles to assist you in college football handicapping. That includes the powerful and balanced elite offenses, and you should update your numbers weekly while evaluating a teams play, injuries and motivational factors later in the season. Public bettors love to bet on high-octane offensive teams, and that’s especially true at bowl season when investing in totals often means betting ‘over’ the total at the leading sportsbooks.

But as the Bowl season continues post-Christmas, you may want to take a closer look at the stronger defensive teams and make adjustments to team’s tendencies and public perception. That includes when investing in totals, as they are often marked up a bit at the sportsbooks as the linemaker knows public bettors tendencies and preferences to bet on more scoring.

I’ve put together a chart and list of teams that were defensive dominators this season to assist you further as you evaluate the stats and profiles in the biggest bowl games. With extra time to prepare for their bowl opponent, strong defenses and their ability to create pressure and turnovers is a real strength. This is something to focus on in your match-up analysis. A team with a strong defense is better positioned with time to prepare, especially against an opponent that is not balanced on offense or more one-dimensional. And with some teams having new coaches and coordinators calling the shots during the bowl season, it can be a tougher transition with schemes, style and changes. That was the case with SMU getting shut down and blasted 52-10 by Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl as new coach Sonny Dykes turned over the play-calling to a graduate assistant trying to adjust and change the offense. And did you see Appalachian State’s quality defense shutout Toledo’s high-scoring offense 34-0 in the Dollar General Bowl? Toledo was top-15 in the country in scoring (36) and yards-per-game (480) this season.

It’s no coincidence that many of these top defensive teams are ranked highly in the year-end college football polls, as teams with defensive dominators are ones you can count on and among the very best in the county. While you must still dig deeper in evaluating stats, game flow, strength of schedule, opponents, style of offenses faced, and injury impacts during the course of the season, know that these teams with dominant defenses will make it tougher on their bowl opponents. That includes games with some of these defensive dominators paired against each other including in the national semifinal match-up between Alabama and Clemson in the Sugar Bowl.

Each season we adjust our numbers and profiles based on specific parameters with scoring and yardage increases, and we sort through the more meaningful stats and understand the strengths and weaknesses of teams and opponents. As you evaluate teams, stats and dig deeper, note how some teams stat profile got worse later in the season as players wore down and some suffered injuries to key players. A freshening for the bowl game and additional preparation often helps defenses return to stronger or earlier season level of play.

Here is this year’s list of defensive dominators for the full season heading into the bowls with remaining games post-Christmas. Teams must meet the following selected criteria for our list of defensive dominators.

Allow 370 or less yards per game (YPG)

Allow 150 or less rushing YPG

Allow 23 or less points per game (PPG)

Allow 5.0 or less yards per play (YPPL)

PPG – Points-Per-Game     YPG – Yards-Per-Game

YPPL – Yards-Per-Play –    YPR – Yards-Per-Rush

Alabama 12.5 268 4.0 94 – 2.8 Sugar
Wisconsin 13.2 253 4.0 93 – 3.0 Orange
Georgia 13.2 273 4.3 120 – 3.6 Rose
Clemson 13.6 283 4.1 109 – 3.2 Sugar
Virginia Tech 14.7 313 4.8 120 – 3.4 Camping World
Washington 15.2 289 4.2 99 – 2.8 Fiesta
Penn State 15.5 329 4.5 119 – 3.4 Fiesta
Auburn 17.9 323 4.5 137 – 3.6 Peach
Michigan 18.2 268 4.2 126 – 3.6 Outback
TCU 19.1 350 4.9 106 – 3.2 Alamo
Purdue 19.3 370 5.0 133 – 3.6 Foster Farms
LSU 19.5 318 4.9 131 – 3.9 Citrus
Northwestern 19.8 359 4.8 111 – 3.3 Music City
Iowa 19.9 356 4.9 143 – 4.2 Pinstripe
Ohio State 19.9 292 4.2 109 – 3.0 Cotton
Michigan State 20.2 297 4.7 101 – 3.4 Holiday
Miami, FL 20.5 362 4.5 149 – 3.5 Orange
Texas 21.7 363 4.9 105 – 3.0 Texas
Notre Dame 21.8 365 4.9 150 – 3.9 Citrus
Florida State 22.9 350 4.7 147 – 3.9 Independence

Best wishes as you shoot for more Birdies and Green during the Bowls, and utilize the defensive stats to guide you towards more side and total winners. Also, reference this list later as you prepare for the start of next season and evaluate teams returning starters, schedule and personnel and coaching changes.

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Author: FairwayJay

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay