Contenders with defensive issues

Texas A&M among top teams whose D could cost them league or BCS title shot

Updated: October 18, 2013, 10:39 AM ET
By Kevin Carter | ESPN Insider

T.J. YeldonMatthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsTexas A&M's defense, which gave up 49 points to Alabama, has struggled this season.

During my 14 years in the NFL from 1995 to 2008, I served on the NFL Players Association executive committee through two collective bargaining agreement extensions. What most people don't know is that during this time, the NFL was also fighting close to $1 billion in lawsuits involving concussions and continuing health care for its ailing, aging former players.

The NFL desperately needed to change the way the game was played. In essence, the "lockout" was more about player safety and future medical bills than the task of splitting up a $9.5 billion revenue pie. The end result? New rules that theoretically make the game safer for players in the NFL and, subsequently, in college.

As a result of these efforts, horse-collar tackles and helmet-to-helmet hits draw flags. Gone are the days when wide receivers would hesitate to go across the middle. Now, long runs are made longer because of how defenses are -- and aren't -- allowed to attack the ball carrier. With this knowledge, offenses have gone full-speed ahead with ramping up the play calling to include more slant and crossing routes. The "defenseless player" is protected now more than ever, and scoring has reached an all-time high. There were four 70-plus-point games in the entire 2009 season; there already have been 11 such games through Week 7 of this year.

For all of the offensive benefits the player-safety initiatives have provided, defenses throughout college football face mounting challenges as the game shifts to a more refined, skill-focused era. However, defenses still need to find ways to adapt. Having a high-powered offense can only carry a team so far if its defense lags behind.

Here's a look at four contenders whose offenses have flourished while their defenses have struggled and, as a result, could cost them a conference or BCS title shot. 

• College football analyst for ESPN
• 14-year NFL defensive end; No. 6 overall pick in 1995 draft
• All-American at University of Florida