Best defense in the ACC?

It seems some ACC fans took exception to my statement in yesterday's video that North Carolina has the best defense in the conference. That statement was in reaction to the fact that the Tar Heels placed four players on the ACC's first-team all-conference defense.

So who did have the best defense in the ACC this year? Well, it's definitely debatable. Clemson and Virginia Tech are also worthy of the consideration. They've all got their strengths, and are ranked among the nation's best, but I'm sticking with my pick of North Carolina because no other defense has made more memorable game-changing plays this year. UNC entered its regular-season finale against NC State leading the league with seven non-offensive touchdowns.

Here's just a sample of how UNC's defense has helped determine the outcome of a game:

  • Against Miami, cornerback Kendric Burney had a 77-yard interception return for a touchdown and Melvin Williams had 44-yard interception return for a touchdown. It was two of four interceptions in that game.

  • Against Duke, the Tar Heels put relentless pressure on quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. They had 14 quarterback pressures (six by Robert Quinn). UNC limited the Blue Devils to 113 yards passing, more than 212 yards below Duke’s season average entering the game (Duke was averaging 325.1 yards passing).

  • The Tar Heels scored on a 20-yard fumble return by defensive lineman Cam Thomas and a 29-yard interception return by Burney at Boston College.

  • In the shocking win over Virginia Tech, the most memorable play of the game was when Tydreke Powell forced the fourth-quarter fumble and Deunta Williams recovered it to lead to the game-winning field goal.

Had it not been for Carolina's D, the Tar Heels might not be in a bowl game. They didn't just make the stops, they changed some of these games. They scored, and that's hard to beat.