College Football 2023 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 efficiently 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. 

college football defensive stats 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 scoring and productive teams - USC, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington. 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 21. Teams on the list meet the following criteria: 

- Allow 22 or less points per game (PPG)
- Allow 350 or less yards per game (YPG)
- Allow 4.9 or less yards per play (YPPL)
- Allow 140 or less rushing (YPG)
- Allow 4.0 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
Air Force 14.5 235 4.0 63 2.5
Alabama 16.5 306 4.4 109 3.1
Clemson 21.2 310 4.5 119 3.6
Duke 15.0 333 4.6 138 4.0
Georgia 15.2 263 4.3 85 3.3
Iowa 14.5 314 4.1 124 3.4
James Madison 21.9 345 4.5 32 1.1
Miami 21.2 338 5.0 87 3.0
Michigan  5.9 228 4.0 87 2.9
Nebraska 19.3 314 4.4 77 2.6
Notre Dame 18.3 300 4.4 135 3.0
Ohio U 14.4 268 4.6 87 3.3
Ohio State 10.5 264 3.8 101 3.0
Penn State 10.2 231 3.5 69 2.1
Oregon 18.7 331 4.8 86 3.1
Rutgers 17.6 302 4.3 126 3.7
SMU 17.0 307 4.3 116 3.2
South Alabama 19.8 296 4.6 123 3.4
Tennessee 20.5 306 4.4 115 3.1
Texas 17.4 333 4.9 98 3.2
Texas A&M 19.9 278 4.4 105 3.0
Troy 15.3 288 4.4 99 2.9
Tulane 21.5 342 4.9 81 2.7
UCLA 16.2 291 4.3 65 2.2
Utah 16.3 323 5.0 81 2.9
Wisconsin 18.3 333 4.7 136 4.0

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

Jacksonville State, Kentucky, Miami Ohio, Oklahoma

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: 

South Carolina, LSU, Texas, Mississippi, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, Purdue, Texas A&M, California

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

Florida, Michigan, Rutgers, Michigan State, BYU, Maryland, Georgia, Wake Forest, TCU, Ohio State. 

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.  

Defensive college football teams 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 aproven sports handicapper and loves college football. He's been handicapping andbetting college football for more than two decades 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 X (Twitter) @FairwayJay for more sports and betting insights.

Sign-up for the OSGA Newsletter!

Every week get news and updates, exclusive offers and betting tips delivered right to you email inbox.