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Taking A Belichickian View Of SEC Defenses

Bill Belichick knows a thing or two about defense.  (Which means he’s probably pretty sick over his New England team this season.)  As a head coach he’s won three Super Bowls (and lost in the last two minutes of two others).  He won another pair of titles as a defensive coordinator for Bill Parcells.  His defensive gameplan from the New York Giants’ win over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV is on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

And, oh yeah, he once employed a defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns named Nick Saban, too.

In an interesting piece exploring the idea of a “blueprint” for winning Super Bowls, Belichick’s views on defense were shared by former New England Patriot Damien Woody:


“Coach Belichick always used to say, ‘I don’t give a s— about our defense giving up yards; all I care about is scoring defense, turnovers and the red zone.’  That’s really the key to football.  A lot of coaches pound their chest and say, “I’ve got the #1 defense.  That number doesn’t mean anything.”


Scoring defense, takeaways and red zone defense.  That’s what Belichick worries about in the pros.  You can bet Saban and all of his proteges (and rivals) across the SEC take a similar view when it comes to the college game.  So which SEC defenses are the best in those three areas?

To find out, we looked only at the results from SEC versus SEC games.  In terms of scoring defense, we simply looked at the number of points surrendered per SEC contest.  For red zone defense, we looked at the number of red zone touchdowns allowed per game (figuring that most coaches would be happy to allow field goals rather than touchdowns).  We could have weighted that category, but that would be getting deeper into this little exercise than is necessary.  Finally, for takeaways we looked at the number of turnovers forced/gained by each team’s defense on a per-game basis.

Then, we added up where each defense ranked in those three categories (the lower number the better), and provided you with a final number and rank in the far right column of the chart below.

The results:


  School   Scoring D   School   Red Zone D   School   Takeaways   Overall Rank
  Alabama (1)   8.8   Alabama (1)   0.8   Alabama (1)   3.2   1. Alabama (3 pts)
  Florida (2)   12.6   Florida (2)   1.1   LSU (2)   3.0   2. Florida (9 pts)
  LSU (3)   16.0   Texas A&M (3)   1.4   Ole Miss (3)   2.8   3. LSU (14 pts)
  Texas A&M (4)   20.4   Vanderbilt (3)   1.4   Georgia (4)   2.3   4. Georgia (15 pts)
  S. Carolina (5)   21.3   Georgia (5)   1.8   Florida (5)   2.2   5. Ole Miss (17 pts)
  Georgia (6)   22.5   Miss. State (5)   1.8   Miss. State (6)   2.0   6. Miss. State (18 pts)
  Miss. State (7)   23.3   Ole Miss (5)   1.8   Missouri (6)   2.0   7. Texas A&M (19 pts)
  Vanderbilt (8)   24.8   S. Carolina (8)   1.9   Arkansas (8)   1.4   8. S. Carolina (24 pts)
  Ole Miss (9)   27.5   LSU (9)   2.0   Auburn (9)   1.3   9. Vanderbilt (25 pts)
  Missouri (10)   28.6   Tennessee (10)   2.6   Kentucky (10)   1.2   10. Missouri (30 pts)
  Arkansas (11)   30.8   Arkansas (11)   2.8   S. Carolina (11)   1.1   10. Arkansas (30 pts)
  Auburn (11)   30.8   Auburn (11)   2.8   Texas A&M (12)   1.0   12. Auburn (31 pts)
  Kentucky (13)   35.7   Kentucky (13)   3.1   Tennessee (12)   1.0   13. Kentucky (36 pts)
  Tennessee (14)   42.2   Missouri (14)   3.2   Vanderbilt (14)   0.6   13. Tennessee (36 pts)


Scientific?  Hardly.  Just a different way of looking at the SEC’s defenses.  Obviously, points allowed is the ultimate gauge of a defensive unit, but we’ve given equal weight to red zone defense and takeaways just to see how things would flesh out in a Belichickian breakdown.

The surprises might be that…


*  Georgia’s numbers inside the conference aren’t looking quite so bad after Saturday’s performance against Florida.  The Bulldogs’ turnovers-per-game number got a nice bounce thanks to six Gator turnovers.

*  Ole Miss and Texas A&M — two teams making more noise with their offenses — are actually having pretty good years defensively, so far.

*  Tennessee isn’t dead last in the league by its lonesome.  Again, total points allowed per game should have been weighted more heavily, but just taking a broader approach toward all three stats combined, Kentucky’s defense has been just as disappointing as Tennessee’s in conference play.

*  LSU’s red zone defense — when it comes to allowing touchdowns in SEC play — isn’t quite as good as folks might expect.


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I like these types of comparisons. Though without a full season under our belt, I know things will change for my Aggies. I saw a quote earlier this year in a forum speculating what the final score of the A&M/Bama game would be... "The final score will be whatever Coach Saban wants it to be."  Funny but eerily true.

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