Run defense and winning championships

Thanks to Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, I'm more convinced than ever that you better be pretty salty when it comes to stopping the run if you want to win a championship.

That's especially true in the SEC.

Shoop pointed out during a recent visit that only one of the last 11 national champions has finished outside the top 15 nationally in rushing defense, and that was Texas in 2005. Not only that, but seven of the last 11 national champions have been ranked in the top five nationally in rushing defense.

During the SEC's streak of seven straight national championships, only twice has the team winning the title finished outside the top 10 nationally against the run. Florida was 15th in 2008, and LSU was 12th in 2007.

Of the last 10 SEC champions, nine have been ranked in the top 15 nationally against the run. The only exception was Georgia in 2005. The Bulldogs were 52nd nationally in rushing defense that season. But they were 14th nationally (and second in the SEC) with 29 forced turnovers.

"I call turnovers the great equalizer," Shoop said. "They can turn a bad defense into a good one, a good one into a great one, and a great one can become a championship one. The top 11 teams in turnover margin in the country last season were a combined 120-32, so there's something there."

Under Shoop, Vanderbilt has finished in the top 20 nationally in total defense each of the last two seasons. Only four other SEC schools can say that -- Alabama, Florida, LSU and South Carolina.

Clearly, the Commodores are in good company, but Shoop would like to see them create more turnovers in 2013. They finished with 18 last season after coming up with 29 in his first season in 2011. However, they got 10 of their 18 turnovers last season in their last three games.

"We didn't create as many takeaways last year," Shoop said. "We played great third-down defense, but I think we got a little of our mojo back in those last three games."

Vanderbilt will be going for a third straight season as a top-20 defense (total defense). Alabama, Florida and LSU are the only three SEC schools to have been ranked in the top 20 in total defense each of the last three seasons. In fact, Alabama and Florida have finished in the top 20 in total defense for five consecutive seasons.

Here's a look at where the last 10 SEC champions finished nationally in rushing defense:

  • 2012 -- Alabama (1st)

  • 2011 -- LSU (5th)

  • 2010 -- Auburn (9th)

  • 2009 -- Alabama (2nd)

  • 2008 -- Florida (15th)

  • 2007 -- LSU (12th)

  • 2006 -- Florida (5th)

  • 2005 -- Georgia (52nd)

  • 2004 -- Auburn (12th)

  • 2003 -- LSU (3rd)