The best BYU defense ever?

The Brigham Young Cougars 2012 defense is good. How good? Really, really good. The best ever in Provo? That requires a closer look.

Others have been asking this question for a couple of weeks already, but it seemed inappropriate to ask this question without more games being played and without an official shutout on the record. With the 47-0 shutout of Hawaii and the season nearly half over, the 2012 BYU defense has been very impressive, and worthy of being in the discussion of the best BYU defense ever.

Through five games, the BYU defense has allowed:
  • 226.6 yards total offense per game;
  • 163.4 passing yards per game;
  • 63.2 rushing yards per game;
  • 10.0 points per game*;
  • 26% third down conversions;
  • 3 red zone scores on 8 attempts (37.5%).
* Technically, the BYU defense has only allowed 7.2 points per game. BYU opponents have scored two touchdowns off of turnovers by the BYU offense.

The BYU defense is ranked in the top 7 nationally in all these categories, except passing yards. The national rankings are as follows:
  • 5th Total Offense;
  • 11th Passing Yards;
  • 2nd Rushing Yards (only 0.7 yards behind no. 1 Rutgers);
  • 4th Points Per Game**;
  • 6th Third Down Conversions;
  • 1st Red Zone Scores;
  • 1st Red Zone Scoring Percentage;
  • 7th (tied) Red Zone Attempts.
** BYU would be ranked second in points per game (7.2) if the two touchdowns off of turnovers had not happened. No. 1 Alabama is allowing 7.0 points.

The BYU defense is also tied for sixth nationally with 17 sacks.

If these per game averages stand for the entire season, the 2012 BYU defense would set school records for lowest average total yards allowed and fewest rushing yards. The current records are 244.5 yards per game, set in 1958, and 874 rushing yards, set in the 10 game 1967 season. Opponents are on pace to gain 822 yards rushing this season.

Since 1972, the fewest points allowed per game is 11.4 (1979), rushing yards allowed was 88.8 (1986), and total yards 261.6 (1974). The 2012 Cougar defense is better in all these categories.

The fewest passing yards allowed since 1980 is 157.8 (1982). That is only 5.6 yards less than this season.

Using the four major statistical categories (total yards, rush yards, pass yards, points per game), the 1986 and 1998 Cougar defenses are the two best defenses in BYU’s modern era (1972-Present). The table below compares 1986, 1998, and 2012 in these four categories, with national rankings in parenthesis.

The 2012 defense is clearly outperforming both 1986 and 1998.

The month of October will determine whether the 2012 defense can maintain its lead in these statistical categories. Utah State gashed BYU for nearly 300 yards rushing last year. Georgia Tech runs the ball almost every play. Notre Dame and Oregon State are both ranked in the top 15. If the defense can come out of October unscathed, then the chances are high that at the end of the season the 2012 defense will be, statistically, the best defense in BYU history.

With the physicality, talent, and depth on this defensive unit, it would be hard to argue against the stats.

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