7 best defensive players B1G teams will face in bowls
Clemson’s offensive stars get a lot of headlines and they deserve them. But the Ohio State Buckeyes will have a lot to worry about when their own offensive stars are on the field during their College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
That’s because the Tigers have 3 members on our list of the 7 best defensive players that Big Ten teams will line up against during bowl season.
The defenses that B1G teams are facing run the gamut from Clemson, ranked 6th in the nation in total defense at 298.5 yards allowed per game, to the nation’s worst total defense at Mississippi, which is allowing 535.7 yards a game against a brutal SEC-only schedule. In between reside Auburn (60th) and Wake Forest (107th).
News broke Sunday that Iowa’s scheduled Music City Bowl appearance was canceled after opponent Missouri reported positive COVID-19 tests.
A reminder of the B1G’s now 4-game bowl schedule:
- Wisconsin vs. Wake Forest, Duke’s Mayo Bowl, Charlotte, N.C., Dec. 30, Noon ET, ESPN
- Northwestern vs. Auburn, Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET. ABC
- Ohio State vs. Clemson, Sugar Bowl (CFP semifinal), New Orleans, Jan. 1, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
- Indiana vs. Mississippi, Outback Bowl, Tampa, Jan. 2, 12:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Now let’s meet the 7 best defensive players that B1G teams will meet in bowl games this postseason.
7. P Mac Brown, Mississippi
Okay, we had to reach for a player from the Ole Miss defense (did we mention that the Rebels were last in the nation in yards allowed per game?) but Brown has done a fine job in tough circumstances. He averaged 46.4 yards per punt this season, 6th in the nation and 2nd in the SEC.
6. DL Big Kat Bryant, Auburn
The big defensive lineman (6 feet 5, 250 pounds) had a disappointing season in 2020, partly because of injuries. Still, he had 3 tackles for loss and 3 sacks on the season as well as an interception against LSU, plus 3 solo tackles against Alabama.
5. S Smoke Monday, Auburn
Monday, a 2nd-team all-SEC selection by Pro Football Focus, is third in the nation in interception return yards with 131, largely thanks to a 100-yard pick-six at a critical time against Tennessee. He had 12 tackles and a sack against Ole Miss as his Tigers got past the Rebels, 35-28.
4. DT Miles Fox, Wake Forest
Fox, who missed the 2019 season after tearing his Achilles, was named a 1st-team all-ACC pick by the Associated Press. The graduate student had 10 tackles for loss this season, tied for 10th in the conference, and had 3.5 sacks including one each against Clemson and North Carolina.
3. DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson
Bresee was named to the ACC 1st team by a combined media and coaches’ vote, and earned the same honor from the Associated Press. He was also named the ACC Defensive Newcomer of the Year for a season in which he had 3 sacks, a safety, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal.
2. CB Derion Kendrick, Clemson
Kendrick allowed only 8 completions in 8 games this season and forced 6 incompletions, according to Pro Football Focus, which named him first-team all-ACC. So did a combined vote of the league’s coaches and media covering the ACC. Not bad for a converted wide receiver.
1. S Nolan Turner, Clemson
We mentioned that Iowa caught a break because the Hawkeyes won’t face Nick Bolton. Ohio State, then, catches half a break because Turner was ejected for targeting in the ACC Championship Game against Notre Dame and will miss the first half of the Sugar Bowl. Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said the team “will definitely miss” Turner, a USA Today second-team All-American and consensus All-ACC first-team pick.