Try to think of the last Super Bowl and/or National Championship winning team that did not have a very good to an elite front seven. I’m only twenty years old, but I can’t think of any. No matter who the last team was, it is universally agreed upon that the front seven is imperative to winning big games. In 2018, the Aggies and the Cowboys both had a dominate front seven.
The Cowboys were lead by Demarcus Lawerance and Randy Gregory rushing the edges with Tyrone Crawford and Maliek Collins plugging up the inside. At linebacker, rookie sensation Leighton Vander Esch quickly became one of the best linebackers in the game. Third-year outside linebacker Jaylon Smith has been assisting Vander Esch as well, forming one of the deadliest duos in the game.
For the Aggies, Daylon Mack and Justin Madubuike were the big forces in the middle along with Landis Durham and Kingsley Keke on the edge. Otaro Alaka and Tyrel Dodson were the Aggies’ stud linebackers.
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Names aside, both squads were incredible on defense this year. When a team is trying to find it’s identity on the offensive side of the ball, a strong defense helps tremendously. It gives them time to figure things out on the sideline as well as rest up for the next drive.
Then, once the identity is discovered, the team can succeed. Again, this was something we saw happen for the Aggies throughout the season and what happened for the Cowboys overnight.
Dallas ended the regular season ranked seventh in total defense and fifth in rushing defense. The Aggies finished second in country in rushing defense, allowing only 95.2 yards per game, and were one of only three teams to allow less than 100 yard per game. As dominant as those numbers are, both teams could have done better. All they needed was an offense that connected a little better and one other aspect that is next on the list.