Quick, guess which college football powerhouse has the nation’s top-ranked total defense.
Alabama! Nope, they’re second this year, giving up 244 yards per game.
Georgia, the top-ranked team in the College Football Playoff rankings — wrong again.
It’s not Michigan (third), TCU (seventh), Wisconsin (sixth) or Ohio State (21st). In fact, it’s the Washington Huskies who have given up the fewest yards per game (241) of any team in college football.
NCAA Total Defense YPG
Mississippi St. 289
Sen Diego St. 295
— DieHards (@DieHards) November 6, 2017
“We’re a big believer in, football’s not that complicated. There’s a lot of nuance and detail that goes into what we do, but at the end of the day it’s about striking blocks, getting off blocks, tackling, covering,” UW defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said, per the Associated Press. “We try to keep it that simple with our guys so they can play fast. And then the carry over schematically — we have some change-ups here and there so offenses can’t dial us up. But at the end of the day, it’s fundamental football.”
College football has evolved into an offensive showcase. Oklahoma, the nation’s top-ranked offense, averages 608 yards (!) per game. 66 teams nationwide average 400 or more yards per contest.
Offenses nationwide have become so prolific, Washington head coach Chris Petersen had to jokingly explain to his team what a fullback was in preparation for his team’s matchup against Stanford on Saturday.
“I would like to play (against) something we’ve seen a whole bunch of where you get those carry over reps,” Petersen said, per Business Insider. “There’s a lot of stuff (Stanford does) we haven’t seen anything like that, so we got to be able to get lined up correctly and play a fullback. We explained what a fullback is to our defense today. They were very intrigued.”
To get an idea of just how dominant Washington’s defense is, consider this — only two teams in the entire country, Kent State and UTEP, average fewer yards offensively than the Huskies give up. That means every FBS team Washington has faced this season has been held below its average offensively.
Want to go even more micro than a single game? Washington coughs up just 3.71 yards per play. UTEP’s offense averages 3.83, and that’s the lowest mark of any team in the country.
That may be thanks to Kwiatkowski, whom his players refer to with a term of endearment.
“I think he’s kind of a little bit of an evil genius,” linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven said. “He spends so much time in the film room seeing what they’re doing and every week he comes out with some new scheme we haven’t seen, some little tweak we’re going to do that gives us an edge you’re not going to get from another coach.”
The Huskies are the Pac-12’s most viable CFP contender, and they seem content on letting its defense carry them to a possible championship.