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Beyond the BCS: Best and Worst Run Defenses

   by Ben Burns - 10/27/2009

Pop quiz: Out the 19 worst rush defenses in the nation, only one comes from a BCS conference. Who is it?

We could be really annoying and make you grind through the rest of the story before giving you the answer. No one wants that, so …

Washington State, which, by the way, has covered in four of its last five, ranks 114th in the nation in rush defense. The Cougs allow just a smidge over 215 rushing yards per game. They’re also 119th in total defense.

Ask any coach or analyst, the best teams are capable of stopping the run. Need proof? Look at the other end of the rush defense rankings. The top five are: Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Penn State and Southern California.

As the weather deteriorates in November, rush defense becomes even more important. So let’s take a look at the best and worst rush defenses in the non-BCS conferences.


TCU: The Frogs are the only non-BCSer in the top 10 of rush defenses. They are surrendering just 85 yards on the ground.

There is probably better value on this list than the Frogs, who raised a lot of eyebrows by manhandling BYU Saturday. TCU will be a monster favorite in four of its five remaining games. We will take a look at Nov. 14 home game against Utah.

This week: UNLV at TCU (-34)

Central Florida: George O’Leary has produced good run defenses the past two seasons at CFU. The Knights rank 12th, allowing 108 yards per game on the ground. The problem has been the offense, which has struggled to run or pass.

But CFU (5-1 ATS) has made up for it was excellent special teams play, especially in the return game. Their offensive numbers have been reduced because of their great average starting field position. They’re third in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 28.4 yards and 15th in punt returns, averaging 15.25 yards.

This week: Marshall at Central Florida (-3.5), Sunday

Arkansas State: The Wolves (2-4, 2-3 ATS) are better than their record suggests, which should produce some value down the stretch. They allow less than 100 yards rushing per game, tops in the Sun Belt. The Red Wolves’ offense, while not explosive, has been balanced.

This week: Arkansas State at Louisville (-4)


Eastern Michigan: The Eagles are dead last against the run. They’re also 0-7 and 2-5 ATS. Coincidence? We think not.

Ironically, EMU leads the nation in pass defense, most likely because teams know they can run at will against head coach Ron English’s defense. The Eagles are surrendering an amazing 275 yards on the ground per game. Ouch.

The Eagles lost their senior starting quarterback Andy Schmitt a couple of weeks ago and the offense has fizzled ever since. EMU ranks 119th in total offense.

They’ve performed well against BCS competition, including losing 27-24 at Northwestern and hanging with Michigan into the third quarter. But Arkansas can name the score in Saturday’s game.

This week: Eastern Michigan at Arkansas (-37.5)

Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers have taken a step backward in their second season in Division I. Their porous run defense hasn’t helped. WKU ranks just behind Eastern Michigan at No. 119 and surrenders 266 yards on the ground.

This week: Western Kentucky at North Texas (-11)

San Jose State: Not only have Dick Tomey’s Spartans (1-5, 2-4) been butchered by the run this year, but they’ve also failed to move the ball on the ground. The Spartans are No. 118 in rush defense and No. 113 in rushing offense.

Oddsmakers appear to have figured out just how bad this team is. The Spartans are getting 35 at Boise State on Saturday. They were getting only 33.5 at USC to open the season.

This week: San Jose State at Boise State (-35)

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