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COLLEGE FOOTBALL THOR+ RATINGS SINCE 2000: DEFENSE

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More charts and tables, only this time we get to look at something a bit less frustrating for Iowa fans during the Kirk Ferentz era: Defense!

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

This week I come bearing a much more pleasurable chart. This week, I bring you defense!

College Football Defense+ Ratings Since 2000

As I'm sure you already know, hovering over each team's ring will give you a summary of that team. Also, clicking on a team's ring will highlight every season from 2000-2013 to give you an idea of which way that unit is trending. Finally, defense is measured the same way that offense was measured in the last post. The only real difference is the category that measures tackles for loss per play is labeled "Pressure" rather than "Blocking."

With that short primer in mind, here's Iowa:

Rank Team Year Season Rank Passing Rushing Turnovers Pressure Defense Defense+
1 Iowa 2008 3 140 125 141 92 158 159
2 Iowa 2003 4 115 136 93 N/A 146 156
3 Iowa 2009 8 156 112 135 99 149 151
4 Iowa 2004 12 127 129 147 N/A 133 142
5 Iowa 2005 15 88 120 62 94 129 141
6 Iowa 2010 13 123 119 115 89 138 140
7 Iowa 2007 12 113 118 97 91 139 137
8 Iowa 2013 15 121 117 93 101 128 132
9 Iowa 2002 30 110 135 107 N/A 121 126
10 Iowa 2001 29 101 119 83 N/A 117 124
11 Iowa 2012 35 89 110 117 79 116 120
12 Iowa 2011 36 94 113 77 76 115 118
13 Iowa 2006 37 104 111 79 85 111 117
14 Iowa 2000 48 72 83 68 N/A 97 110

Does anybody really disagree with a top four of 2008, 2003, 2009, and 2004? I mean, we can definitely quibble about the order of the top four, but I think we can all probably agree that those were, hands down, the best Iowa defenses of this era.

If we are looking for patterns with the Iowa defense under Kirk Ferentz, I think the most blatantly obvious one would be that his teams simply do not surrender a lot of points. The 2000 defense was the only one that was below average in points per play allowed before the opponent adjustment. Of course, after the opponent adjustment, that defense rated out at 10% above average. This should not surprise many people, due to the fact that Iowa rarely gets blown out of football games. They do this by holding their opponents to a greater number of field goal attempts relative to the number of touchdowns they give up. To give a better look at this, here's another chart:

Defensive Touchdowns Allowed vs. Opponent Field Goal Attempts

As you can see, besides the 2000 season, the Iowa defenses have been better than most FBS teams at forcing their opponents to settle for field goal attempts more often than they have allowed them to end a drive by scoring six. To reference ahead in the post a little, I also highlighted Indiana to contrast with Iowa's bend, but don't break defense. The Hoosiers' bend, the stick snaps, you get a splinter in your eye and go blind defense for the past 14 seasons hasn't worked out quite so well for them and their carousel of coaches.

The second pattern we can see is that Iowa always shuts down the run, first and foremost. Outside of the 2000 season, the Hawkeyes' lowest rushing rating on defense was 110 by the 2012 defense, and that number would be higher once adjusted for strength of schedule. The coaching staff preaches technique and fundamentals, and it seems to really shine through when it comes to stopping the run. They rarely allow their opponent to gash them to death on the ground.

The third real constant we can observe, is that Iowa is not historically a pressure team under Kirk Ferentz. I say historically, because that may be slightly changing. With Norm Parker at defensive coordinator, Iowa was perfectly fine rushing the front four and dropping seven guys back into zone coverage on most every play. In order to have a high pressure rating with that strategy, you would need some great defensive linemen. Iowa has had quite a few of those over the past decade and change - 2003 and 2004 unfortunately do not have pressure ratings - but with the spread offense becoming so prevalent, it's gotten harder and harder to get to the quarterback before he gets the ball out. Hence, this explains why Iowa has not had particularly high pressure ratings over the years.

Last year, however, under the direction of Phil Parker, the Hawkeyes had a 101 pressure rating before adjusting upward for strength of opponent. That was the best mark since 2005, which is as far back as that metric goes. Now, is last year's higher pressure rating a sign of things changing? Was it just a sign that Iowa had three hell demons at linebacker? Or was it a sign of both? I think it was probably both. There's no doubt that the trio of Hitchens, Morris, and Kirksey was one of the best linebacking cores we've ever seen don the black and gold. Thus, it's going to be difficult to replicate their instincts and ability to rush the passer. However, in two seasons, Phil Parker has demonstrated that he's not afraid to change things up a bit. He seems to mix coverages, he's gotten creative by adding the Raider package into the fold, and he's also shown that he's not afraid send the blitz. I doubt Iowa is ever going to be a crazy high pressure team under Kirk Ferentz, but it's not all that unreasonable to think that sending more than four guys more often might lead to higher pressure ratings, on average, in the future.

But what we see here, overall, is that as long as Kirk Ferentz is coaching, Iowa defenses are always more than likely going to shut down the run and make teams work extra hard to get the ball across the goal line. They may allow the opposing team to move the ball through the air a bit some years, but they are usually very good at bending, rather than breaking.

Per usual, let's look at the best defenses from the Big Ten during this time period:

Rank Team Year Coach Season Rank Passing Rushing Turnovers Pressure Defense Defense+
1 Ohio State 2002 Jim Tressel 1 116 133 109 N/A 154 163
2 Ohio State 2005 Jim Tressel 3 115 132 56 118 139 159
3 Michigan 2001 Lloyd Carr 3 116 135 79 N/A 144 159
4 Michigan State 2012 Mark Dantonio 2 136 120 84 114 155 159
5 Iowa 2008 Kirk Ferentz 3 140 125 141 92 158 159
6 Penn State 2004 Joe Paterno 4 142 119 119 N/A 155 158
7 Iowa 2003 Kirk Ferentz 4 115 136 93 N/A 146 156
8 Ohio State 2007 Jim Tressel 1 142 125 81 126 154 156
9 Penn State 2006 Joe Paterno 5 128 114 100 104 148 155
10 Penn State 2009 Joe Paterno 5 130 121 101 133 154 154
11 Purdue 2003 Joe Tiller 5 116 131 115 N/A 143 153
12 Penn State 2005 Joe Paterno 7 132 130 105 111 139 153
13 Michigan State 2013 Mark Dantonio 2 144 127 116 118 150 151
14 Ohio State 2009 Jim Tressel 7 155 123 151 109 149 151
15 Iowa 2009 Kirk Ferentz 8 156 112 135 99 149 151

Ohio State under Jim Tressel and Penn State under Joe Paterno both show up in the top 15 four times. Iowa holds its own, however, as we see the 2008 team at #5, the 2003 team at #7, and the 2009 team at #15. Really, though, there isn't a whole lot of variety here, seeing as those three teams make up 73% of the top 15.

So what about the bottom 15?

Rank Team Year Coach Season Rank Passing Rushing Turnovers Pressure Defense Defense+
1 Illinois 2005 Ron Zook 116 37 66 41 87 37 41
2 Indiana 2006 Terry Hoeppner 114 54 93 101 87 44 46
3 Indiana 2002 Gerry DiNardo 111 85 62 72 N/A 48 50
4 Northwestern 2002 Randy Walker 109 46 61 84 N/A 50 53
5 Indiana 2000 Cam Cameron 105 53 76 61 N/A 50 53
6 Minnesota 2010 Tim Brewster 110 63 86 89 94 48 57
7 Indiana 2010 Bill Lynch 108 57 86 58 88 62 58
8 Northwestern 2007 Pat Fitzgerald 104 73 97 65 85 66 62
9 Indiana 2011 Kevin Wilson 108 55 79 73 83 65 67
10 Indiana 2003 Gerry DiNardo 98 57 84 88 N/A 66 68
11 Indiana 2008 Bill Lynch 97 70 98 101 95 74 70
12 Minnesota 2007 Tim Brewster 98 52 72 59 78 67 70
13 Indiana 2013 Kevin Wilson 102 63 80 76 85 62 71
14 Illinois 2012 Tim Beckman 101 77 96 91 97 65 72
15 Illinois 2013 Tim Beckman 106 54 79 52 89 64 73

Well, this list doesn't have a whole lot of variety either. Indiana somehow manages to have nine separate defenses that show up in the bottom 15 since 2000. I mean, I understand that the Hoosier's have been a punchline on defense since before I was born, but wow. That takes... something. I want to say "talent", but that almost seems like an insult to the use of the word. But really, it's tough to be that bad on a consistent basis.

Finally, I'll end this with the top 15 FBS defenses since 2000:

Rank Team Year Coach Conference Season Rank Passing Rushing Turnovers Pressure Defense Defense+
1 Florida State 2000 Bobby Bowden ACC 1 137 140 132 N/A 161 177
2 Miami (Florida) 2001 Larry Coker Big East 1 178 120 208 N/A 162 175
3 Florida State 2003 Bobby Bowden ACC 1 120 116 131 N/A 152 175
4 Alabama 2011 Nick Saban SEC 1 164 133 108 157 170 173
5 Florida State 2004 Bobby Bowden ACC 1 123 140 134 N/A 161 172
6 LSU 2011 Les Miles SEC 2 148 124 130 139 165 169
7 USC 2004 Pete Carroll Pac-10 2 136 134 164 N/A 151 168
8 Boston College 2005 Tom O'Brien ACC 1 116 130 78 118 155 168
9 Nebraska 2009 Bo Pelini Big 12 1 153 119 121 112 167 168
10 USC 2006 Pete Carroll Pac-10 1 114 115 85 111 143 166
11 Florida 2006 Urban Meyer SEC 2 142 117 121 107 147 164
12 USC 2008 Pete Carroll Pac-10 1 165 125 120 126 161 164
13 Notre Dame 2012 Brian Kelly Independent 1 133 109 104 107 160 163
14 Ohio State 2002 Jim Tressel Big Ten 1 116 133 109 N/A 154 163
15 LSU 2003 Nick Saban SEC 2 138 140 137 N/A 152 163

In case you were curious, the 2008 Iowa defense ranks #28 since 2000.

And the bottom 15 FBS defenses since 2000:

Rank Team Year Coach Conference Season Rank Passing Rushing Turnovers Pressure Defense Defense+
1 Eastern Michigan 2010 Ron English MAC 120 21 67 63 81 1 -18
2 North Texas 2008 Todd Dodge Sun Belt 120 36 73 67 81 0 -12
3 UTEP 2013 Sean Kugler CUSA 124 26 68 60 76 22 0
4 New Mexico 2013 Bob Davie MWC 123 36 65 53 78 17 1
5 Eastern Michigan 2002 Jeff Woodruff MAC 117 23 43 43 N/A 2 2
6 Eastern Michigan 2013 Ron English MAC 125 47 60 58 81 18 2
7 UAB 2013 Garrick McGee CUSA 122 39 78 72 86 22 9
8 Western Kentucky 2009 David Elson Sun Belt 120 33 76 80 72 28 10
9 Louisiana Tech 2006 Jack Bicknell WAC 119 32 72 116 61 13 12
10 Eastern Michigan 2009 Ron English MAC 119 94 56 117 101 28 12
11 Temple 2006 Al Golden Independent 118 64 61 77 85 13 13
12 Idaho 2008 Robb Akey WAC 119 57 75 83 77 28 13
13 Eastern Michigan 2008 Jeff Genyk MAC 118 48 79 76 89 32 14
14 Rice 2007 David Bailiff CUSA 119 50 89 107 92 36 16
15 Toledo 2007 Tom Amstutz MAC 118 55 87 107 68 33 16

Yes, you are reading #1 and #2 correctly. The 2010 Eastern Michigan and the 2008 North Texas defenses were so atrocious, they broke my scale once I adjusted for strength of opponent. Thus, the -118 Defense+ rating for the former means they were 118% worse than the average 2010 FBS defense. Meanwhile, the -112 Defense+ rating means the latter was 112% worse than the average 2008 FBS defense.

So rejoice, Indiana fans. While you may think you've had it bad, at least you haven't experienced 2010 Eastern Michigan bad.