Big Ten 2009: A trinity of sexy defenses as never seen before

The holy trinity of Big Ten defenses in 2009 (OSU, Iowa, PSU) were not exposed as frauds during bowl season, meaning their tremendous regular season success was even more impressive. Each squad was statistically exceptional (see below), allowing an amazingly low amount of yards. Three teams were in the top 10 nationally in yards allowed per game, the first time that's been done since cfbstats started coloring my life with every statistic ever known to man.

Name G Rush Yards Pass Yards Plays Total Yards Yards/Play Yards/G
1 TCU 13 1043 2073 801 3116 3.9 239.7
2 Alabama 14 1111 2324 842 3435 4.1 245.4
3 Texas 14 1013 2514 918 3527 3.8 251.9
4 Florida 14 1406 2127 844 3533 4.2 252.4
5 Ohio State 13 1180 2230 826 3410 4.1 262.3
6 North Carolina 13 1243 2262 835 3505 4.2 269.6
7 Nebraska 14 1294 2504 955 3798 4.0 271.3
8 Oklahoma 13 1208 2336 866 3544 4.1 272.6
9 Penn State 13 1168 2400 811 3568 4.4 274.5
10 Iowa 13 1607 1988 844 3595 4.3 276.5

In 2004, things looked pretty heavenly as the Big Ten featured three tremendous defenses: Iowa, Wisconsin, PSU, respectively ranked 9th, 10th, and 11th in yards allowed. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of a failing first love-esque college romance at the time, so I remember little about those defenses. However, 2006 brought us the OSU/UM Fall-long lovefest, with Alan Branch and Michigan giving up 50 ypg on the ground and OSU's James Laurinaitis-led D helping the Bucks go undefeated.

So the question remains, was this year's trinity of bone-crushing defenses the best the Big Ten has seen in the 2000's? Ever? There are a couple of points I want to discuss, some obvious, some not so obvious.

No Letdowns. Off the top of my head, I am guessing the most points allowed by PSU/Iowa/OSU was 28, done by Michigan in that thrilling 30-28 game. (Checking, checking)...And I was right. Every time it looked like one of these defenses would be overmatched (bowl games) or overrun (Indiana's early explosion versus Iowa), the zone defenses stiffened and someone made a huge play. Ohio State lost two games because of Pryor, Iowa lost a couple of games because of Stanzi's injury, PSU's offense fell apart against the two latter teams...You're getting the picture. These defenses did not fail.

Different strengths. I have rarely seen a defensive line able to dominate every facet of games like Iowa. They bat down balls (Binns, I believe, specializes)...They out-quicked a huge Wisky line to stuff John Clay...And we won't forget the beatdown put on Penn State's O-Line. Paul Johnson altered his entire offensive approach during the Orange Bowl because Clayborn was murdering anyone in his way. This small, but dynamic line was simply better than any opponent's offensive line that Iowa faced all year.

Penn State's featured three linebackers and yes I know, cliche cliche cliche, Linebacker Uuuuu...but seriously folks. Sean Lee, 2nd team All-Big Ten, 2nd round draft pick in this year's NFL draft...Navarro Bowman, 1st team All-Big Ten, one of the most fluid linebackers you will ever see. Josh Hull, honorable mention All-Big Ten, he of the mustache, inspired comments like this from BSD:

The Hull-stache had another great day with 10 tackles (6 solo), 2.5 TFL, and a sack. It must be the mustache, because this is not the same player we saw Brandon Minor dragging for 8 yard gains last year.

The Bucks featured a bend but don't break defense, but rarely ever broke. Weakened USC, fiery Oregon, untested Penn State, powerful Wisky...all bowed to the Buckeye's fast and cohesive defense.

Bowl dominance. Oregon - 17 points, 260 yards, 12 first downs, 2 turnovers...Georgia Tech - 14 points, 155 yards, 9 first downs, 1 turnover...LSU - 17 points, 243 yards, 9 first downs, 3 turnovers...


(drops microphone, walks off stage)

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