Note: Story originally published 10/16/2009 at Pac10Rivalry.com
It wasn’t long ago when the nation said the Pac-10 is soft because they didn’t play defense well. Many said the conference was an offensive oriented one—and on most accounts they were right. But things appear to be changing.
To start week seven of the college football season the Pac-10 has five teams ranked 21 or higher in total defense. Let’s take a glance at those five teams (defense rank in parenthesis):
Arizona State (No. 3) – The Sun Devils are killing it in the run defense department as they’re currently ranked second in the nation. They’re also fifth in tackles for loss and tied for 12th in sacks. They get after it up front, no doubt.
Watch for this group to get better next season as studs like Lawrence Guy and Brandon Magee are only sophomores.
Both Mike Nixon and Jarrell Holman are tied for 10th in the nation in interceptions.
Southern Cal (No. 6) – As is the norm with USC this team is pretty consistent all around. The Trojan defense currently leads the nation in sacks thanks in part to red shirt freshman Nick Perry (tied fifth), junior Everson Griffen (tied 27th) and junior Michael Morgan (tied 58th). They are also second in tackles for a loss. Their scoring defense ranks fourth while there rushing defense ranks fifth.
The scary part of it all…this team is just starting to get healthy all the way around.
The aforementioned Nick Perry leads the Pac-10 with six sacks even though he went down in the Trojans’ fourth game. He’s expected to return this week against Notre Dame.
Several other defensive starter have been banged up over the first six weeks, but they keeping plugging in top shelf talent where needed. One of those has been banged up is Taylor Mays. But he’s getting healthy—and at the right time.
Oregon (No. 16) – The high flying Ducks are usually thought of for the offense first. For many years fans were calling for defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti’s head. They said his defenses allowed too many points. Kept the high scoring Ducks’ games close. Had that bend-but-don’t-break attitude rather than a killer instinct.
This year is completely different.
Several of the Ducks’ wins can be directly attributed to their defense and special teams. The talk of the town has not been the offense, rather, it’s been the defense. Overall the defense has been consistent, which it netting them a No. 16 rank in total defense. They’re tied for 12th in sacks, 9th in Pass Efficiency Defense and 28th in tackles for loss.
Despite being banged up quite a bit in the secondary, this Ducks defense still gets the job done. Free safety T.J. Ward went down in the first game and hasn’t been back since. Stud corner back Walter Thurmond III went down with a knee injury in the fourth game of the season and will miss the remainder of the season. Corner back Willie Glasper will also miss the remainder of the season after going down during practice while preparing for UCLA.
Arizona (No. 17) – This Wild Cats unit doesn’t do any one thing great, but they’re doing a lot of the little things really good. They’re good at stopping the run and are forcing teams to pass. Doing so has helped sophomore Trevin Wade swallow for pass for interceptions–tied for third in the nation.
As this team gets in to stiffer competition (Stanford, Oregon, USC all remain), it will be interesting to see how the defense stands up.
UCLA (No. 21) – Despite losing talented corner back Aaron Hester with a fractured fibula (he may return for the Oct. 24 game), the Bruins’ secondary still remains lethal. Free Safety Rahim Moore leads the nation with five interceptions. He did suffer a concussion in their game against Stanford, but as he shakes out more cob webs each week I expect him to get back to form.
UCLA’s defense has been keeping their team in most games, but the offense just didn’t up their end of the bargain in both Pac-10 losses so far.
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