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Ranking Big East’s Team Defenses

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  • 8. Syracuse

    2011 PPG: 28.50 (73rd in FBS)

    Returning Starters: 6

    The Orange defense wasn’t very good last season, ranking 98th nationally in overall D and 73rd in scoring defense. This fall, it also will lose its starting defensive ends so it will have to rely on linebackers Dyshawn Davis, Marquis Spruill (pictured) and Dan Vaughan.

    The true star of the defense, however, is safety Shamarko Thomas. Let’s see if this group can improve upon the 10 interceptions its snagged in 2011. It may be hard to do so with a lack of pass rush.


    Photo: Jason O. Watson/US Presswire

  • 7. Pitt

    2011 PPG: 22.85 (38th in FBS)

    Returning Starters: 5

    This defense was good last season, but it returns just five starters in 2012. That turnover is especially evident in the front seven. The one bright spot, defensive tackle Aaron Donald (pictured), brings a presence but will have to learn a new role as the Panthers switch to a 4-3 set-up.

    It will be a true year of transition at Pitt, where the offensive-minded Paul Chryst takes over as a head coach after just one year of Todd Graham. Let’s see if a new scheme and a turnover of personnel is noticeable.

    Photo: Charles LeClaire/US Presswire

  • 6. Temple

    2011 PPG: 13.92 (3rd in FBS)

    Returning Starters: 5

    The Owls’ defense will have a lot of new faces in 2012, as five starters return to a group that was third in the nation in scoring defense last season. It fits perfectly with Temple’s ground-and-pound offensive philosophy.

    In 2012, though, the Owls will have an inexperienced defensive line. That means that linebackers Ahkeem Smith (pictured) and Nate D. Smith will have to step up. Add in a third Smith, safety Nate Smith, and Temple hopes that that group can hold down the fort in a season of defensive change.


    Photo: Howard Smith/US Presswire

  • 5. Connecticut

    2011 PPG: 24.33 (50th in FBS)

    Returning Starters: 9

    Let’s say this about UConn: Defense usually isn’t the problem. While they have a good running game, the Huskies haven’t been able to muster up a good enough pass attack to give teams any problems. The other side of the ball? It should be just fine in 2012.

    UConn was 50th in the FBS is scoring defense last year - in the top half of the draw, so to speak - and will return nine starters to the unit. LB Sio Moore (pictured), who has been underrated during his career, should blossom - at least in terms of notoriety this season - as the Huskies stay in game with defense and the running game.

    Photo: Danny Wild/US Presswire

  • 4. Cincinnati

    2011 PPG: 20.31 (20th in FBS)

    Returning Starters: 6

    The Bearcats were 20th in the FBS last season thanks in part to a tough defensive front that included defensive tackle Derek Wolfe, nose tackle John Hughes and middle linebacker JK Schaffer. All those guys will be gone in 2012, meaning that we can’t rank Cincy any higher than this.

    However, don’t sound the alarm yet. The Bearcats still have a good pass rush led by DE Walter Stewart and safety Drew Frey (pictured) remains in the secondary. They will be able to create turnovers this fall, and that’s always a mark of a good defense.

    Photo: David Butler II/US Presswire

  • 3. USF

    2011 PPG: 22.67 (37th in FBS)

    Returning Starters: 8

    South Florida’s 2012 defense certainly will pin its ears back and rush the passer behind DEs Ryne Giddins and Julius Forte. Both could have NFL futures. The Bulls also return their top three leading tacklers in LBs DeDe Lattimore (pictured), Michael Lanaris and Sam Barrington. That should help offset some turnover in the secondary.

    USF was 37th in the nation in scoring defense but, with the return of eight starters, we think that the Bulls will be even better than that this fall.

    Photo: Matt Cashore/US Presswire

  • 2. Louisville

    2011 PPG: 20.08 (17th in FBS)

    Returning Starters: 7

    Everything about Charlie Strong has been good for the Cardinals - not the least of which is the development of a strong, hard-hitting defense. L’Ville was 17th in the nation in scoring defense and figures to be just as strong in 2012, when it is expected to compete for a Big East championship.

    Strong safety Hakeem Smith (pictured) leads a secondary with huge expectations. The only downside for this defense? Living up to the bar set by preseason prognostications.

    Photo: Mark Zerof/US Presswire

  • 1. Rutgers

    2011 PPG: 18.31 (8th in FBS)

    Returning Starters: 8

    Rutgers loses just three starters from one of the best defenses in the Big East last fall and, statistically, one of the best scoring defenses in the nation. The Scarlet Knights allowed just over 18 points per game last year and that figure could get better in 2012 as none of the departing starters from last fall were top performers.

    Star LB Khaseem Greene (pictured) will be an all-around star for the Scarlet Knights this fall. As for the defense itself, it is well-rounded and talented. Watch out, Big East offenses.

    Related: Ranking Pac-12 Team Defenses

    Related: Ranking Big Ten Team Defenses

    Related: Ranking SEC Team Defenses

    Related: Ranking ACC Team Defenses

    Related: Ranking Big 12 Team Defenses


    Photo: Jim O’Connor/US Presswire

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