Defenses dominate season's first month

Potent offenses at USC and Texas dominated in 2005, but it's become clear this season's championship chase is all about great defenses, writes Chris Fowler.

Updated: October 1, 2006, 10:55 AM ET
By Chris Fowler | Special to ESPN.com
It's obvious from watching a month of football that this season's championship chase is all about defense. Check out the top dozen teams in the rankings. With only two exceptions, they are winning mostly with defense, a departure from what we saw the last couple of years, when potent offensive attacks at USC and Texas set the tone.

Ohio State's weakness was supposed to be its new faces on defense. Instead, the Bucks have been carried so far by their D, while the touted offense has been just good enough. Auburn, USC, Texas, LSU, Georgia and Virginia Tech have been more impressive on that side of the ball, too. Make that much more impressive.

Reggie Nelson
Scott A. Miller/US PresswireReggie Nelson and the Gators are ranked No. 8 in the nation in total defense.
Even teams such as Florida and Michigan, which feature veteran quarterbacks, have been lifted by the stout play of their defenses. Florida's bunch has been superb, smothering the run completely. That's good, because the Gators now brace for the most cruel gauntlet I have ever seen: Alabama, LSU, Auburn (on the road) and Georgia. Michigan has unleashed a new, attacking scheme that has been an even bigger story than the arrival of the latest playmaking wideout, Mario Manningham.

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Chris Fowler

College Football
Since 1989, Chris Fowler has been ESPN's primary college football and men's college basketball studio host. He's anchored College GameDay, the network's award-winning Saturday morning college football preview show, since 1990.