They say defense wins championships. Well, creating negative plays typically makes for a winning defense.
We're defining negative plays as tackles for a loss, sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles (we went with forced fumbles instead of fumble recoveries). We're tallying how many of each that Pac-12 defenses produced in 2013 and -- more important -- how many of those negative plays were created by returning players.
We move on to the North Division. You can see the South here.
(Number in parentheses is number of negative plays made by returning players).
Tackles for a loss: 76 (43)
Sacks: 18 (13.5)
Interceptions: 5 (3)
Forced fumbles: 9 (4)
Key returner: Jalen Jefferson (6.5 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks, INT)
Key loss: DL Deandre Coleman (9 TFL, 2.5 sacks)
Breakdown: The Bears’ 2013 defense, perhaps the worst unit in team history, was hit so hard by injuries, these numbers aren't of much consequence. The big questions are if players such as DE Brennan Scarlett, DT Mustafa Jalil, S Avery Sebastian can put up numbers this fall after returning from injuries.
Tackles for a loss: 70 (40.5)
Sacks: 28 (18.5)
Interceptions: 17 (8)
Forced fumbles: 17 (12)
Breakdown: Mitchell's decision to enter the draft a year early hurts -- just as Ekpre-Olomu's decision to return was a pleasant surprise -- but the Ducks have plenty of numbers coming back. Washington led the 2013 defense in TFL, sacks and forced fumbles, and Ekpre-Olomu was a consensus All-American.
Tackles for a loss: 75 (43.5)
Sacks: 25 (11.5)
Interceptions: 19 (13)
Forced fumbles: 13 (7)
Breakdown: Crichton led the Beavers in TFL, sacks and forced fumbles. His playmaking won't be easy to replace, though having a healthy D.J. Alexander and Michael Doctor at LB should help the front seven's numbers. Nelson and Reynolds tied for the Pac-12 lead in interceptions.
Tackles for a loss: 109 (44.5)
Sacks: 44 (13)
Interceptions: 13 (10)
Forced fumbles: 15 (7)
Breakdown: Murphy was among the most productive defensive players in the nation, Skov was the defense's leader, and guys like D-linemen Josh Mauro and Ben Gardner shouldn't be overlooked, so the Cardinal defense loses a lot of numbers. The biggest question is how well Anderson replaces Murphy.
Tackles for a loss: 74 (58)
Sacks: 41 (36.5)
Interceptions: 16 (8)
Forced fumbles: 11 (6)
Key loss: S Sean Parker (3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 4 INTs)
Breakdown: These numbers reflect that the Huskies are in great shape with their front seven but the secondary is rebuilding. The Huskies should be plenty capable of putting pressure on opposing QBs, and that should help a secondary that will be young.
Tackles for a loss: 75 (52)
Sacks: 21 (18)
Interceptions: 16 (3)
Forced fumbles: 17 (9)
Breakdown: Like their friends from Seattle, the Cougars return a lot of production from their front seven but they are rebuilding their secondary. In fact, Bucannon, a four-year starter, leaves some of the biggest shoes to fill in the Pac-12.