The SEC has established its dominance over the college football world largely on the strength of its defenses.
The speed necessary to compete in the conference has helped SEC teams rake in national championships and stay in the national picture and the College Football Playoff picture.
It was that way in 2015 when Alabama rolled its way to the national championship once again, and the SEC is poised for another big year defensively, according to ESPN.
ESPN’s predicted defensive efficiencies for the 2016 season project the SEC to have the top three defenses in the nation and four of the top 10. Alabama, LSU and Florida make up the top three and Texas A&M falls in the top 10.
ESPN explains the projections are for Expected Points Added (EPA), a statistic calculated by measuring how teams limit ball movement, force turnovers and keep opponents out of the end zone. The projections are made based on returning starters and the importance of those starters.
The Crimson Tide’s defense is expected to add 14 points per game to any scoring margin in their favor, despite returning only five starters on defense. This is big considering the team finished first in defensive efficiency last year.
Nick Saban has always been able to replace talent. He is a defensive-minded coach, so even with the losses on that end — both on the field and the sideline — there is no reason to believe the Crimson Tide’s defense will slow down at all in 2016.
The Tigers and Gators are expected to take fairly large jumps defensively. LSU had an underwhelming defensive season by its standards in finishing 21st in defensive efficiency last year, according to ESPN. The Tigers return nine starters and are expected to return to strong form. The Gators, too, are expected to take a step up defensively with a good amount of incoming and returning talent.
The last SEC team projected to finish top 10 in defensive efficiency is Texas A&M. The Aggies are projected to end the season seventh in defensive efficiency. Meanwhile, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Georgia are in the next 10.