2023 College Football Stop Rate Rankings: Michigan's Defense Establishes Impressive Early Standard


2023 College Football Stop Rate Rankings: Michigan’s Defense Establishes Impressive Early Standard

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In the latest stop rate standings for Week 6, there’s a new leader in the defensive ranks: the Michigan Wolverines.

But what exactly is stop rate? It’s a fundamental metric that measures the success of a defense by calculating the percentage of their opponent’s drives that result in punts, turnovers, or turnovers on downs. In the context of today’s fast-paced college football, stop rate provides a more accurate reflection of a defense’s effectiveness than traditional stats like yards per game or points per game. We’ve been tracking this statistic for seven years now, and you can find the final standings for the past six seasons here, along with each defense’s points per drive average.

Michigan’s rise to the top comes on the heels of a dominant 45-7 victory over Nebraska, nearly delivering the Huskers their first home shutout since 1968. The only blemish on Michigan’s defensive record in five games was a late 74-yard touchdown run by Nebraska in the fourth quarter. Apart from that, they’ve only allowed two other touchdown drives: the last drive against UNLV and the opening drive against Rutgers.

Here’s a remarkable stat: No opponent has managed to run a single play inside Michigan’s 10-yard line all season. The closest anyone got was Nebraska with a third-and-2 play at their own 11 in the third quarter during the recent game, but a false start derailed their chances. Subsequently, Michigan’s defense notched a sack, and Nebraska missed a 40-yard field goal attempt. Their ability to force three-and-outs on 45 percent of their drives is a significant factor in their success. Even on those rare occasions when an opponent sustains a drive of 10 or more plays, it often ends in fourth-down stops or field goal attempts.

Considering Michigan’s upcoming schedule, it wouldn’t be surprising if they maintain their top spot for a while. They are set to face Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan State next. The question remains: Who will devise the right strategy to challenge this formidable defense, put points on the board, and make things interesting?

This week, one of the most intriguing matchups on the schedule is the Red River Rivalry in Dallas. Oklahoma (No. 8) and Texas (No. 14) boast the Big 12’s best defenses in terms of stop rate this season. Still, it wouldn’t be a shock if they engage in another high-scoring showdown, akin to their 55-48 thriller in 2021. Oklahoma shut out Iowa State in the second half of their 50-20 win last week, while Texas held Kansas to just 14 points and an 0-for-8 performance on third downs.

As we highlighted last week, LSU has fallen to No. 125 nationally in stop rate (42.9 percent), ranking them at the bottom among all Power 5 defenses. Against FBS competition, LSU is allowing an average of 6.7 yards per play. Notably, Pro Football Focus has tallied 59 missed tackles for the team so far this season, tying them for the most in the SEC. There’s much work to be done, particularly in shoring up an inexperienced secondary that misses safety Greg Brooks Jr. Additionally, LSU needs improved performance upfront, and they’re bringing in the renowned Pete Jenkins as a consultant to address these issues.

Curious about how other defenses are faring in terms of getting stops and preventing points? Below are the full FBS-only stop rate standings as we head into Week 6. One important note about these standings: We’ve filtered out end-of-half drives where the opposing offense was taking a knee, running out the clock, or not actively trying to score.



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