EA Sports rankings: College football's top defenses in 2024

The next step in Rankings Week finds EA Sports slotting college football's best overall defenses ahead of the release of CFB 25 this summer.
EA Sports presents its rankings for the best overall defensive units in college football this season.
EA Sports presents its rankings for the best overall defensive units in college football this season. / Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA

The next major reveal of Rankings Week brings us a little more controversy as fans have taken some issue with the way EA Sports has slotted college football's toughest stadiums and overall offenses, and now the video game maker has unveiled its poll of the game's best defensive teams.

College football fans and gamers have been looking forward to how offenses and defenses will go up against each other ahead of the July 19 release of the College Football 25 video game, especially looking forward to a historic season marked by conference realignment, the transfer portal, and the expanded playoff tournament.

More: EA Sports college football team rankings by tier

More on CFB 25: Trailer | Release Date | Player Rating Predictions | Team Rankings Projections | Deep Dive Video Sights & Sounds

Defense wins championships, and these units are the 10 best in the game, according to EA Sports.

EA Sports Rankings for College Football's Best Defenses

10. Utah

Utah Utes linebacker Lander Barton before a play during a college football game in the Big 12.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

An expected contender in the expanded Big 12 rounds out the top 10 with the Utes set to bring back one of college football's more aggressive units, returning eight starters in particular special strength along the front line. Jonah Elliss is gone after racking up a dozen sacks, but Utah doesn't lack for quality replacements to throw at opposing quarterbacks.

9. Penn State

Penn State edge rusher Abdul Carter celebrates a play on defense during a college football game in the Big Ten.
Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Among the Nittany Lions' returning star players, several come back to a defense that was a team strength a year ago, ranking third nationally by holding opponents to just over 11 points per game, and surrendering the fewest total yards and yards per play last fall. Defensive tackle is a robust position for the team, and Abdul Carter is moving to edge rusher.

8. Texas

Texas Longhorns defensive players celebrate a play during a college football game in the SEC.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Losing the triplet of stars who helped the Longhorns to a No. 3 ranking against the rush a year ago is something to watch moving into the SEC, a league that always plays tough around the line defensively, but second-leading tackler Anthony Hill is back at linebacker, and notable transfer gains include safety Andrew Mukuba from Clemson and especially edge rusher Trey Moore, who had 14 sacks for UTSA a year ago.

7. Michigan

Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Kenneth Grant celebrates a victory in a college football game in the Big Ten.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Caught up in Michigan's enormous program turnover was the defensive coordinator position, and Wink Martindale steps in after 21 years in the NFL to help preserve the defending national champion's No. 1 ranking on that side of the ball. Kenneth Grant and Mason Graham are pivotal building blocks on the line, and cornerback Will Johnson is a key returning presence on the back end.

6. Notre Dame

Notre Dame Fighting Irish players celebrate a play on defense during a college football game.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Al Golden's defense finished top-10 nationally a year ago in total output, scoring, and yards allowed per play, and he returns plenty of experience to keep this unit on par with last season's production. Pass defense should be a strength with Xavier Watts in at safety and Benjamin Morrison at corner. Replacements need to be made at linebacker and on the edge, but interior line play is an asset heading into 2024.

5. Clemson

Clemson Tigers linebacker Barrett Carter goes airborne on a defensive play during a college football game in the ACC.
Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

Always a strength of Clemson's teams dating back several years, linebacker Barrett Carter sits in the middle of a powerful rotation that was top-10 in total production and against the pass while ranking No. 1 with 28 forced turnovers in coordinator Wes Goodwin's debut. Though the Tigers make their usual NFL-induced replacements, Peter Woods and T.J. Parker are top-flight linemen and freshman Sammy Brown is a name to watch.

4. Alabama

Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Jihaad Campbell scores a turnover on defense during a college football game in the SEC.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Saban oversaw some of college football's most suffocating defenses during his 17-year reign as the GOAT, but Kane Wommack steps in under new coach Kalen DeBoer, bringing his 4-2-5 alignment to the Crimson Tide. Two mega pass rushers are gone, as are key secondary pieces, but Bama gets linebackers like Jihaad Campbell and Deontae Lawson working what should be another strong front seven.

3. Oregon

Oregon Ducks linebacker Jeffrey Bassa lines up on defense before a play during a college football game.
Craig Strobeck-USA TODAY Sports

Jeffrey Bassa and Jestin Jacobs form one of the nation's top linebacker pairings, two points of continuity on a defense loaded with blue-chip transfers. Kam Alexander and Jabbar Muhammad boost a key cornerback group while Jordan Burch and Jamaree Caldwell highlight a strong edge rushing capacity for the Big Ten-bound Ducks.

2. Georgia

Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Nazir Stackhouse celebrates a turnover on defense in a college football game in the SEC.

Mykel Williams figures to be the center of another strong Bulldog defense, moving towards a linebacker role, one of several integral pieces on the interior of the rotation, behind linemen like Warren Brinson and Nazir Stackhouse. Georgia's secondary is younger, but watch for elite prospects like Ellis Robinson and KJ Bolden to make an early impact.

1. Ohio State

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive players celebrate a turnover during a college football game in the Big Ten.
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA

Jim Knowles returns valuable experience just about everywhere on this defense, including star edge rushers like Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau and interior lineman Tyleik Williams. An elite secondary includes ex-Alabama safety Caleb Downs, coming off an All-American season. Linebacker is an area of relatively less experience, but plenty of potential.

Rounding out EA Sports' Top 25 Rankings

11. Florida State
12. Oklahoma
13. Iowa
14. Virginia Tech
15. Wisconsin

16. USC
17. Auburn
18. LSU
19. Texas A&M
20. Colorado

21. Oklahoma State
22. Louisville
23. North Carolina
24. Kansas State
25. Florida


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James Parks


James Parks is the founder and publisher of College Football HQ. He previously covered football for 247Sports and CBS Interactive. College Football HQ joined the Sports Illustrated Fannation Network in 2022.