College Football 2022 Defensive Dominators

FairwayJay takes a look at the top defensive teams in college football and explains how to use the stats when handicapping.

Isolating and Evaluating the Strongest Defensive Teams in College Football

Earlier this month we took a deep dive into the stats for offensive production and identified the college football teams with the most balanced offenses that are powerful and productive. Now we turn to the defensive side of the ball and isolating college football’s top defensive teams and defensive dominators. Using these statistical indicators and profiles will assist us in our college football handicapping and weekly pursuit of profit the rest of the season. 

While many bettors love to bet on high-octane offensive teams, it’s the defensive dominators that are often your best bets. The high-scoring offensive teams get more headlines and are favored public teams. They are often shaded in the betting lines and totals. The bookmakers and leading online sportsbooks know that and also adjust to those tendencies and public perceptions. 

By using these stats and updating them weekly, you can be better prepared and isolate more match-ups of interest and point spread winners. Especially for strong defensive teams in underdog roles. As teams push towards the finish of the college football season, use these stats and watch the weather as the defensive dominators are teams you can often count on in tougher match-ups. 

With a number of conference games played, we can more realistically analyze the proven teams and performers as the statistical profiles become more clear. But note the match-ups each week as teams face more opponents operating out of spread formations and utilizing more up-tempo or no-huddle attacks like the nation's top offense, Tennessee. Also reviews team's strength of schedule and hidden or meaningful match-up stats in box scores. 

So 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. That’s important to note as some teams that just missed being on the list have played stronger schedules and opponents overall than some teams on the list.

College Football Top Defensive Teams and Defensive Dominators 

Use this as a guide as you evaluate this year’s list of top defensive teams with many defensive dominators through games on Sat., October 22. Teams on the list meet the following criteria: 

- Allow 23 or less points per game (PPG)
- Allow 375 or less yards per game (YPG)
- Allow 5.2 or less yards per play (YPPL)
- Allow 150 or less rushing (YPG)
- Allow 4.4 or less yards per rush (YPR) 

In addition, I’m throwing out stats against FCS opponents, so the stats represent a more level playing field against more quality competition. 

PPG – Points-Per-Game | YPG – Yards-Per-Game | YPPL – Yards-Per-Play | YPR – Yards-Per-Rush 

Team PPG YPG YPPL Rushing Yards YPR
Alabama 16.6 295 4.1 94 2.7
Air Force 16.7 273 5.2 128 4.1
Boise State 21.3 255 4.2 126 3.2
Cincinnati 22.9 314 3.9 116 2.9
Clemson 21.1 328 4.7 86 3.1
Georgia 10.7 267 4.5 94 3.5
Illinois 10.3 239 3.8 80 2.9
Iowa 18.3 304 4.3 116 3.2
Iowa State 16.1 284 4.7 106 3.2
James Madison 22.9 307 4.5 63 2.1
Kentucky 19.2 312 4.9 127 3.9
Louisiana Lafayette 21.1 357 4.9 125 3.6
Michigan 12.1 250 3.8 86 2.9
Minnesota 17.5 311 5.1 128 4.2
Mississippi St. 21.9 365 5.3 138 4.3
NC State 19.2 338 5.3 137 4.4
Notre Dame 21.9 340 4.9 138 3.9
Ohio State 14.9 240 4.1 91 2.9
Penn State 18.9 373 4.9 142 4.2
San Jose State 14.1 276 4.4 128 3.5
South Alabama 21.8 340 5.1 106 3.3
Syracuse 17.7 335 4.9 138 4.1
Texas 21.1 370 4.7 121 3.3
Troy 17.7 325 4.6 107 3.3
Tulane 19.9 343 4.9 139 3.8
Western Kentucky 21.3 363 4.8 130 3.6

Teams with potential of making the top defensive teams list with improvement in the weeks ahead are below.

Teams that are close
Duke 22.4 398 5.5 117 3.6
Kansas State 22.9 392 5.3 147 4.1
LSU 21.7 357 5.4 132 3.9
Mississippi  23.1 384 5.1 165 4.1
Tennessee 22.9 425 5.4 94 3.1
UAB 20.7 339 4.9 160 4.6
UCF 18.3 399 5.6 145 4.5
USC 22.1 383 5.5 150 4.5
Washington St. 21.3 383 5.3 134 3.8

From the Strength of Schedule (SOS) list and mid season rankings from a number of sources, these teams on the Defensive Dominator list have played a top-10 schedule according to Massey Ratings: 

Alabama, Texas, Iowa State and Ohio State. 

Heading into last week's games, these teams had the toughest remaining schedules according to ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI). 

Mississippi State, Northwestern, Iowa, Ole Miss, Auburn, TCU, Georgia Tech, Kansas State, Indiana, LSU. 

Following last week's results, Iowa and Minnesota took big dives by more than 5 points per game in scoring defense. Iowa lost to Ohio State 54-10 and Minnesota lost to Penn State 45-17. Ole Miss fell out of defensive dominator status with a 4 PPG drop to 23.3 per game after losing to LSU 45-20. 

There are currently 49 college football teams averaging at least 30 points per game vs FBS opponents. So with team scoring averaging close to 30 points per game and offenses continuing to be creative and utilize rule changes to their advantage, it becomes even more important for defenses and defensive coordinators to make plays and plans to slow the offenses. 

Top Offensive and Defensive Teams

In reviewing our previous list of teams with strong, balanced offenses that both run and pass for at least 200 yards per game, we note the teams from the updated top balanced offenses list that are also defensive dominators include:

- Alabama
- Georgia
- Illinois
- Kentucky
- Michigan
- Ohio State

and previous 200 Club offenses Minnesota and Penn State.

Top teams to start the season who have not lived up to top defensive profiles include Utah and Texas A&M.

You can strengthen the profiles by evaluating a team’s net yards-per-play differential, between offensive yards-gained and defensive yards allowed, which is often a key statistical indicator for winning and ATS success. 

Supporting strong defensive teams is usually a good starting point in your analysis of a contest and match-up, but I encourage you to dig a little deeper in your own evaluation of teams, schedules and stats and compare current and past betting lines and power ratings. Note injuries, turnovers, motivation and other negative yardage or factors as you analyze the opponent and schedules. Defensive profiles can also assist you in totals betting, which can be even more effective with scoring increases, rising posted totals and more inclement weather ahead. 

As teams push for conference titles, bowl bids and play their biggest rivalry games in November, the intensity will rise and many times the defensive play will follow. Use this information to assist you in your handicapping, betting and evaluations of teams in your pursuit of profit. As the season pushes through the second half, you'll find yourself in the end zone and hitting pay dirt more often than fumbling and turning the (money) ball over to the bookmaker. 

You can bet on it.

FairwayJay is a proven sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. He chips in additional sports betting coverage and reporting on industry news and events. Follow FairwayJay here at and on Twitter @FairwayJay for more sports and betting insights.

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