Best Pac-12 Defenses in the Past 30 Years

We take a trip down memory lane to evaluate the best defenses in the conference from 1991-2020.

Photo: Mark Harrison/The Seattle Times)


Article by WestCoastCFB


1. Washington (1991)


The Huskies in 1991 had a defense that was fast, aggressive and played with a ton of swagger. They allowed just 9.6 points per game and it could have been fewer if they hadn't put backups in during blowout wins every week. Offenses simply looked shell shocked trying to combat the speed and strength of the Husky defense led by Steve Emtman who was the #1 pick in the 1992 NFL Draft. UW never allowed more than 21 points all season and held 7 teams to 7 points or fewer.


2. USC (2008)


Pete Carroll defenses are always fun to watch and the talent on his Trojan teams were remarkable. The USC defensive dominance was on full display when Ohio State traveled to LA to face USC on September 13th. The Buckeyes entered the contest 5th in the country and yet stood no chance against the Trojans as USC rolled 38-3. By the end of the season, USC had allowed just 9 points per game. We may never see a Pac-12 defense this dominant again.


3. Arizona (1992)


People may forget that Arizona was once known as a tough defensive program. Under Dick Tomey, the Wildcats were a force to be reckoned with. The Desert Swarm defense was tenacious and the highlight of the season was when they took down #1 UW's high powered offense in a 16-3 win.



4. WSU (1994)


WSU is another program that you may not think of as a traditional defensive power but the Palouse Posse was one of the most fun defenses to watch in conference history. The Cougs had the #1 defense in the nation allowing just 11.3 PPG and held 8 opponents to 10 points or fewer, including a 23-6 win over #18 UW.


5. USC (2004)


USC rode a powerful and athletic defense to a 13-0 season and a National Title. The Trojans allowed just 13 points per game and dominated Oklahoma in the BCS Championship 55-19. Lofa Tatupu was one of the main stars on defense and went on to have a great career with the Seattle Seahawks.


6. Washington (2016)


Pete Kwiatkowski came to Washington with Chris Petersen and quickly made UW one of the most ferocious defenses in the country. The Huskies featured an elite secondary with Budda Baker, Sidney Jones, Taylor Rapp and Kevin King and UW's ability to create turnovers was their calling card as they led the Pac-12 with 33. In the following 3 drafts, 12 Husky defensive players would end up getting selected.


7. Arizona (1993)


Arizona was one of the best teams in the country in 1993, as they would finish 10-2. They capped off their season with a 29-0 win over #10 Miami to prove just how dominant their defense was. The Wildcats completed the season allowing just 13.4 PPG.



8. Stanford (2014)


The Stanford offense was largely inept in 2014 which caused many to not realize just how good this defense was. 11 opponents were held to 21 points or fewer and the Cardinal defense finished 2nd in the country while surrendering 16.4 points per game and a remarkable 4.21 yards per play.


9. USC (2006)


Under Pete Carroll, you could always count on the defense being elite and 2006 was no different. #19 Nebraska found this out when they traveled to the Coliseum and couldn't get anything going as they fell 28-10 to USC.


10. Washington (2017)


Vita Vea was the leader of the Husky defense in 2017 and was one of the best defensive lineman in conference history. The massive DT commanded a double team on nearly every play and still managed to wreak havoc up the middle. UW kept 9 teams to 16 points or fewer and dominated WSU 41-14 to earn a Fiesta Bowl bid.


11. USC (2007)


Another Pete Carroll defense makes the list. The Trojans only allowed 1 team to score more than 24 points and easily handled Illinois in the Rose Bowl. 13 defensive players from USC were selected in the next 2 drafts. It's almost remarkable that the Trojans weren't more dominant defensively as they allowed 16 points per game with one of the most talented defensive teams ever and that is likely an indictment on Nick Holt's play calling.


12. Oregon (2019)


Utah and Oregon both featured elite defenses in 2019 and for most of the season it seemed that the Utes were the premier defense in the country. That narrative changed once the two teams met in the Pac-12 title and the Ducks stomped Utah 37-15. The Ducks had a 5 game stretch during the season where they allowed just 25 total points.


13. Utah (2019)


If not for two disastrous defensive performances to end the season, the Utes would have likely been on the top 5 of this list. The Utes held 10 of their opponents to 17 points or fewer and even kept 6 opponents to 7 points or fewer. Unfortunately, the defense didn't hold up in big games while allowing 30 points to USC, 37 to Oregon and 38 to Texas.


14. Washington (2018)


The Husky defense was elite once again in 2018 as the Huskies would win the Pac-12 Championship 10-3 over Utah and reach the Rose Bowl. The UW defense finished 5th in the country at 16.4 points per game allowed and 5 Husky defensive players were selected in the 2019 NFL Draft.


15. Cal (2004)


If not for a 23-17 loss to USC, The Golden Bears would have been undefeated and on their way to play for a National Title. 8 opponents were kept to 16 points or fewer and the defense led by Bob Gregory finished 8th in the country at 16 points per game allowed.