It’s no secret that the Huskies have sported one of college football’s finest defenses the last several years. But just how good has it been compared to the other elite defenses in college football? Here are some statistics that suggest that Washington’s defense has not only been strong and, at times, dominant over the last four to five seasons, but has been consistent in a unique and superlative way.
Twenty teams held their opponents to under 20 points per game last year according to cfbstats.com. But only two programs have come in below that mark each of the last five seasons: Alabama and Washington.
During that time, the Huskies ranked in the Top 15 in scoring defense every season, in the Top 10 three times, and cracked the Top 5 twice.
|Year||Points Allowed||National Ranking|
|2015||18.8 ppg||13th in FBS|
|2016||17.7 ppg||8th in FBS|
|2017||16.1 ppg||5th in FBS|
|2018||16.4 ppg||5th in FBS|
|2019||19.4 ppg||15th in FBS|
While the Huskies never ranked higher than 5th in the nation in any given year in scoring defense, the cumulative effect of this level of consistency has the Huskies as the fourth best scoring defense in college football over the last five years.
|School||Games from |
2015 – 2019
|1. Alabama Crimson Tide||72||1,102||15.31|
|2. Clemson Tigers||74||1,185||16.01|
|3. Wisconsin Badgers||68||1,122||16.50|
|4. Washington Huskies||67||1,182||17.64|
|5. Georgia Bulldogs||69||1,223||17.72|
GAMES WITH NO TOUCHDOWNS ALLOWED BY FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE
As strong as Washington’s scoring defense has been over the past five years, it still understates how consistently the Huskies’ defense has kept opponents out of the end zone. After all, touchdowns on short fields, garbage time touchdowns and touchdowns allowed by the offense all count against a team’s scoring defense statistics. The UW has managed only one shutout during this five-year stretch, but a closer analysis shows several close misses and many games where the first-team defense did keep the opponent from scoring a touchdown at any relevant point.
|2015||Sacramento St.||W, 49-0||none|
|2015||at Oregon St.||W, 52-7||UW led 52-0|
|2016||Rutgers||W, 48-13||UW up 48-6 with 6:00 left|
|2016||Idaho||W, 59-14||UW up 42-0 late 3rd qtr|
|2016||Portland St.||W, 41-3||none|
|2016||Stanford||W, 44-6||UW up 30-0 w/ 1:00 left in 3rd|
|2017||Montana||W, 63-7||virtual shutout: TD was pick 6|
|2017||at Oregon St.||W, 42-7||UW up 42-0 with 3:30 left|
|2017||Cal||W, 38-7||virtual shutout: TD was scoop & score|
|2017||Washington St.||W, 41-14||UW up 34-0 with under 10:00 left|
|2018||North Dakota||W, 45-3||none|
|2018||BYU||W, 35-7||UW fumbled up 35-0 with 2:00 left|
|2018||at Cal||L, 10-12||none, Cal TD was a pick 6|
|2018||vs. Utah||W, 10-3||none|
|2019||at Oregon St.||W, 19-7||virtual shutout: TD was a pick 6|
To recap, in the last five years, the Husky defense has had:
- one shutout and three virtual shutouts, where the only points the opponent scored in the entire game were against the UW offense.
- 10 games where the Husky defense didn’t let the opponent score a touchdown at any point.
- 17 games (out of 67! which is over 25%!) where the Huskies’ first-team defense kept the opponent out of the end zone.
GAMES WITH ONE TOUCHDOWN ALLOWED BY FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE
Let’s create the same standard and apply it to games where the UW first-team defense allowed only one touchdown.
|2015||Utah St.||W, 31-17||USU 4th qtr scoop & score TD|
|2015||at USC||W, 17-12||one TD|
|2015||Washington St.||W, 45-10||one TD|
|2016||Oregon St.||W, 41-17||UW up 41-10 with 4:00 left|
|2016||vs. Colorado||W, 41-10||one TD|
|2017||Fresno St.||W, 48-16||one TD|
|2017||at Colorado||W, 37-10||one TD|
|2017||at Arizona St.||L, 7-13||one TD|
|2018||at Utah||W, 21-7||one TD|
|2018||Colorado||W, 27-13||one TD|
|2018||Oregon St.||W, 42-23||one TD allowed by 1st team|
|2019||at BYU||W, 45-19||one TD allowed by 1st team|
|2019||Washington St.||W, 31-13||one TD|
|2019||vs. Boise St.||W, 38-7||one TD|
So additionally, over the last five years, the Husky defense has had:
- 11 more games where the Husky defense only allowed one touchdown at any point.
- 14 more games where the first-team unit allowed only one touchdown.
The conclusions that we can draw out of this are that:
- the Huskies have had four games over the last five years where the defense gave up zero points for the entire game.
- in almost a third of the Huskies’ games over the last five years (21 of 67), Washington’s defense has allowed no more than one touchdown during the game.
- in almost half the Huskies’ games over the last five years (31 of 67!), Washington’s first string D has given up either zero or one touchdown, with the Huskies going 29-2 in those games.
PASSING TOUCHDOWNS ALLOWED
After being one of the worst teams in the nation in passing touchdowns allowed in 2014 (ranking 109th), the Husky secondary has consistently been the best in the nation at keeping opponents from passing into paydirt.
|Year||Games||TDs allowed||Average||National rank|
|2015||13||11||0.846||9th in FBS|
|2016||14||13||0.929||T-11th in FBS|
|2017||13||10||0.769||T-2nd in FBS|
|2018||14||12||0.857||5th in FBS|
|2019||13||13||1.000||T-9th in FBS|
|5-year totals||67||59||0.881||Leads the FBS|
Only 18 programs in college football have limited opponents to 80 touchdown passes or fewer over the last five years. The Huskies are far below that total, leading the nation with only 59 touchdown passes allowed over the last five seasons.
|Passing TDs allowed|
|Passing TDs allowed|
per game average
|4. Appalachian State||66||64||0.970|
|5. Ohio State||68||68||1.000|
|7. Penn State||66||69||1.045|
Every program on this list is consistently competing for divisional and conference championships, if not CFP berths and national championships. Keeping opponents out of the end zone is the name of the game, and as college football continues air the football out more and more, teams that can defend paydirt from the pass are in prime position to compete at an extremely high level.
EXPLOSIVE PLAYS ALLOWED (of 40 yards or more)
Explosive plays are not an explicitly defined term in college football. Some schools count any running play of more than 10-12 yards as an explosive play, while passing plays generally need to be 18-20 yards to be considered explosive.
But for whatever reason, the Huskies have been phenomenal at not allowing the huge chunk plays to occur. Take a look at how Washington has faired with the rest of the nation on allowing plays of 40 yards or more.
|2015||13||9||0.692||20th in FBS|
|2016||14||7||0.500||5th in FBS|
|2017||13||3||0.231||1st in FBS|
|2018||14||1||0.071||1st in FBS|
|2019||13||7||0.538||9th in FBS|
|Last 3 years||40||11||0.275||Leads the FBS|
|Last 4 years||54||18||0.333||Leads the FBS|
|Last 5 years||67||27||0.403||Leads the FBS|
These numbers are staggeringly low compared to the rest of college football. Check out how far the UW sits ahead of the other programs that have limited explosives, particularly over the last three years, which is the Elijah Molden era.
|3. Notre Dame||39||20||0.513|
|8. Michigan State||39||26||0.667|
|10. South Carolina||38||26||0.684|
Granted, this stat is not so much evidence that Washington is a great defense as it is explanatory of how the Huskies have been able to keep teams from scoring. Limiting explosive plays contributes greatly to increasing the odds that you’ll keep the opponent out of the end zone. But for Washington to have given about half as many explosive plays as the 2nd best defense against explosives in the nation is remarkable. By contrast, the worst defense against explosives in the Pac-12 was Oregon State, giving up 53 plays of 40+ yards in 36 games, an average of 1.472 per game. The worst team in the nation was New Mexico, allowing 70 in 36 games for an average of 1.944.
They’ve achieved this partly because the 2017 and 2018 Huskies were so uniquely, extraordinarily elite at not giving up the big play. In fact, of the five individual defenses in college football that were best at limiting explosives over the last decade, two were wearing purple and gold.
|2018 Washington Huskies||14||1||0.071|
|2015 Missouri Tigers||12||2||0.167|
|2017 Washington Huskies||13||3||0.231|
|2019 Alabama Crimson Tide||13||3||0.231|
|2016 Georgia State Panthers||12||3||0.250|
The evidence is overwhelming that Washington has consistently put out one of the best defenses in college football over the last half decade. Now that Jimmy Lake, one of the architects of that defense over the last several years, has taken over as head coach, it’ll be exciting to see if the UW can continue and even exceed its reputation for being elite on that side of the ball.