Top 10 defenses of 2012

Why Florida is No. 1 in our ranking of college football's best defenses

Updated: December 18, 2012, 11:33 AM ET
By Rod Gilmore | ESPN Insider
Elam & Tuitt & Thomas USA Today SportsFlorida, Notre Dame and Stanford had three of the country's top defenses this season.

The old saying that "offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships" once again rang true this season, even if halfway through we were more hung up on the offensive wizardry of teams such as Oregon and West Virginia and the so-called era of the spread offense. For the second consecutive season, we've seen two defense-oriented teams make the Discover BCS National Championship (Alabama and Notre Dame), and for the first time in a long time we saw a defensive player make a serious run at the Heisman Trophy.

Are we seeing a resurgence of great defense in college football? It's a fair question to ask, with teams led by great defenses dominating the BCS bowls and the top of the standings.

Let's take a look at the top 10 defenses in college football this season.

1. Florida Gators

The Gators came up one win shy of the SEC title game, but don't blame the defense for that. That one loss came against Georgia in a game during which the defense allowed only 17 points even though the offense turned the ball over six times. Had Florida's offense simply not self-destructed in that game, Florida would have made it to the SEC championship game as an undefeated team, with a chance to beat Alabama and play for the national title -- and it would have been largely because of the Gators' D. For that reason, Florida ranks as my top defense for the 2012-13 season.

Rod Gilmore

College Football analyst
Rod Gilmore serves as an ESPN studio analyst on SportsCenter and College Football Live, and provides commentary on ESPN's Friday night game telecasts. He writes regularly for ESPN Insider.