2023 College Football Stop Rate Rankings: Michigan's Defense Sets an Impressive Benchmark


2023 College Football Stop Rate Rankings: Michigan’s Defense Sets an Impressive Benchmark

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In this week’s stop rate rankings, the Michigan Wolverines have claimed the top spot as the No. 1 defense. But what exactly is stop rate? It’s a fundamental measure of success, representing the percentage of drives a defense terminates with punts, turnovers, or turnovers on downs. In today’s fast-paced college football landscape, this straightforward metric provides a more accurate assessment of a defense’s effectiveness than traditional statistics like yards per game or points per game. This marks the seventh year of tracking this statistic, and we’ve included the final standings for the previous six seasons (2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017) alongside each defense’s average points per drive.

Michigan’s rise to the top follows a dominant 45-7 victory against Nebraska, a game where they came close to delivering the Huskers their first home shutout since 1968. Nebraska’s solitary score materialized in the late fourth quarter on a 74-yard run. Throughout five games this season, Michigan’s defense has only conceded two additional touchdown drives: one against UNLV and the other in the opening drive against Rutgers.

Here’s an astonishing stat: No opponent has managed to execute a play within Michigan’s 10-yard line all season. The Huskers came closest during the third quarter with a third-and-2 play on their own 11-yard line, but a false start dashed their hopes. Subsequently, Michigan’s defense secured 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. Even in the rare instances when an opponent has sustained a drive of 10 or more plays, it often culminates in fourth-down stops or field goal attempts.

Given their upcoming schedule, it’s highly likely that Michigan will maintain its No. 1 ranking for the foreseeable future, with matchups against Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan State on the horizon. The question remains: Who will devise the right strategy to challenge this defense, put points on the board, and make things interesting?

This week’s schedule features a particularly intriguing game—the Red River Rivalry in Dallas. Oklahoma (ranked No. 8) and Texas (ranked No. 14) boast the Big 12’s top defenses in terms of stop rate this season. Still, no one would be surprised if they engage in another high-scoring showdown reminiscent of their 2021 clash, which ended 55-48. The Sooners managed a shutout in the second half of their 50-20 victory over Iowa State last week, while Texas held Kansas to 14 points and a 0-for-8 mark on third downs.

As we highlighted last week, LSU has plummeted to No. 125 nationally in stop rate (42.9 percent), placing them at the bottom among all Power 5 defenses. LSU is allowing an average of 6.7 yards per play against FBS opponents. Notably, Pro Football Focus has tallied 59 missed tackles so far this season, tied for the most in the SEC. The Tigers have a lot to address, particularly in their inexperienced secondary, which sorely misses safety Greg Brooks Jr. Additionally, they need better performance up front, prompting the hiring of legendary consultant Pete Jenkins to address this issue.

For a comprehensive look at how other defenses are faring in terms of stopping opponents and preventing points, here are the complete FBS-only stop rate standings entering Week 6. It’s important to note that we’ve excluded end-of-half drives where the opposing offense simply ran out the clock or wasn’t attempting to score for a more accurate evaluation of defensive performance.



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