College Football News Preview 2022 preseason unit rankings, looking at the top ten defenses along with each ranking within the conferences.
The defenses now get graded on a bit of a curve considering all the amazing things the offenses are doing.
Of course there are several statistically great defenses, and even then the stats get a bit funky.
Clemson’s defense was second in the nation last year, but even that doesn’t tell how good it was considering there were injury issues and the offense provided no help.
Wisconsin finished first in the nation in total defense and fourth in scoring D, but – for example – statistically it was hit with the 41 points allowed against Notre Dame, even though 24 of them came from pick-sixes, kickoff returns, and/or turnovers that put the Irish in a scoring position.
Georgia’s offense was great, but it was an interception return for a touchdown in the first game of the season, and the last one that sealed the national title.
There are a whole bunch of strong defenses returning again this season, and these appear to be the ten best for 2022, along with the rankings in each conference.
CFN Preview 2022 Preseason College Football Unit Rankings: Defenses
The defense didn’t exactly take the year off, but it was hardly up to the standards of past Alabama brick walls. This one has a starting 11 that should take over games and be the best in America, starting with a deep front three with a good rotation.
The secondary has almost too much talent – helped by bringing in top NFL corner prospect Eli Ricks from LSU – and the linebacking corps around Henry To’o To’o in the middle will be a rock against the run. Oh yeah, and the Tide have the best player in college football in pass rusher extraordinaire Will Anderson on the edge.
The O might have struggled last year, but the D was phenomenal finishing eighth overall in the country, and that’s with a rash of injury issues. You might have noticed the lack of Clemson players selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. That’s because they’re all coming in 2023, and most are from the defensive front.
The line is the best in college football – if everyone stays healthy – and the back seven has parts ready to fill in with a whole lot of talent replacing the experience. The linebacking corps can really, really move.
Poor Georgia. It lost defensive star after star after star – along with defensive coordinator Dan Lanning – and now it has to go through a big rebuild.
The Next Man Up can play, too, with Jalen Carter one of the nation’s top tackles and Nolan Smith a dangerous all-around linebacker who should be in for a national breakout season. Even with the lost parts in the secondary, safety Tykee Smith and corners Kelee Ringo and Christopher Smith lead another great group.
Georgia defense, Georgia defense, Georgia defense … Wisconsin finished 2021 No. 1 in the nation in total D. The scheme and style under coordinator Jim Leonhard will keep on rolling.
The secondary has some work to do – the transfer portal is providing a ton of help – and losing linebackers Leo Chenal and Jack Sanborn hurts, but the corps is going to be great around Nick Herbig and the front three will be among the best in the nation against the run.
5 NC State
The star power is back from the nation’s 14th best scoring defense, and it starts with a linebacking corps that’s LOADED now that it gets back Isaiah Moore from a knee injury. The secondary is full of All-ACC talent, and the front three has a promising rotation with young parts ready to produce in a rotation.
Can the defense come up with the tons of turnovers like the 2021 version did? The secondary has to replace some parts, but it’s a veteran corps and corner Riley Moss is back from a knee injury. The defensive front has to get into the backfield more, but it’s going to be great against the run, and Jack Campbell and the linebackers should be among the best in the Big Ten.
Starting with getting a star defensive coach in Dan Lanning as the new head man, and turn the focus on a linebacking corps that’s full of NFL talent if everyone can stay healthy.
Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe could be the best 1-2 linebacking punch in America, the front four is huge, and the already strong secondary welcomes in corner Christian Gonzalez from Colorado.
It’s Utah. You know what’s coming – no one’s running with ease against this group. The Utes are full of huge, active defensive linemen who’ll get behind the line, the linebackers will make a ton of big plays – getting Mohamoud Diabate from Florida will help. and corner Clark Phillips heads another terrific secondary.
New head coach Marcus Freeman knows defense, and so does new defensive coordinator Al Golden. The Fighting Irish secondary might have lost Kyle Hamilton, but getting safety Brandon Joseph from Northwestern is a huge deal. The pass defense will be great, the line is active and should get behind the line on a regular basis, and the linebackers have the potential to be special.
10 Texas A&M
Based on pure talent, Texas A&M has the defensive parts to be dominant. However, that talent is very, very, very young – how fast can the epic recruiting class step up and shine?
The secondary has the veterans to go along with the great freshman gets, and the linebackers have solid parts in Andrew White and Edgerrin Cooper, but everyone will be watching a front four with amazing prospect after amazing prospect looking for time around McKinnley Jackson on the nose.