College football stop rate rankings: Big Ten defenses lead FBS ahead of big tests

Three of the best defenses in college football this season reside in the Big Ten. And all three could get tested this weekend.

Michigan remains No. 1 in this week’s stop rate standings and Illinois is still No. 3 after their idle weeks. Ohio State has risen to No. 4 by knocking Iowa out of that spot. They’re the top three Power 5 defenses in the country right now when it comes to that critical task of getting stops and getting off the field.

What is stop rate? It’s a basic measurement of success: the percentage of a defense’s drives that end in punts, turnovers or a turnover on downs. This simple metric can offer a more accurate reflection of a defense’s effectiveness in today’s faster-tempo game than yards per game or points per game. We’ve been tracking this for each of the past five seasons (here are the final standings for 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018 and 2017) along with every defense’s points per drive average.

Minnesota was No. 1 in this statistic two weeks ago but has slid down to No. 29 nationally after losing to Illinois and Penn State. How long can the Wolverines hold on to the top spot? They’re hosting rival Michigan State on Saturday. The Spartans are averaging just 18.5 points and 61 rushing yards per game during a 1-3 start to Big Ten play but did manage to score 34 on Wisconsin.

Illinois travels to Lincoln to take on a Nebraska offense that has proven it can be explosive with Trey Palmer, the Big Ten’s leading receiver. Ohio State will find out how much progress it has made under first-year defensive coordinator Jim Knowles when it travels to No. 13 Penn State. It’s easy to say these Big Ten defenses rank higher than the rest because they don’t face good offenses – and that was absolutely true for the Buckeyes last week – but Week 9 should tell us a lot about just how good these units can be.

If you look at stop rate on a conference-by-conference basis, the Big Ten does rank No. 1 right now with six of its defenses in the top 25 and nine total in the top 50. No conference has been better in terms of average stop rate (70.3 percent) and average points per drive (1.73) against FBS opponents.

The ACC and SEC – in that order – aren’t too far behind by those measures, and the Sun Belt has been quite impressive. Their expanded conference has four defenses (James Madison, Marshall, Troy and Louisiana) in the top 25 this week and three more in the top 50. It’s been a tough year so far for Pac-12 defenses. Four of its teams are among the bottom top 25 nationally in stop rate (including Oregon) and its highest-ranked defense is currently USC at No. 38.

Conf

Avg

Median

Top 25

Top 50

Pts / Drive

Big Ten

70.3%

69%

6

9

1.73

ACC

67.1%

67.5%

3

8

1.91

SEC

66%

67%

2

7

1.96

Sun Belt

65.1%

66.9%

4

7

2.09

Mountain West

65%

65.4%

3

5

2.03

Big 12

63.5%

63.8%

1

2

2.14

AAC

63.3%

61.4%

2

3

2.15

C-USA

60.7%

59.6%

2

3

2.39

Pac-12

59.7%

59.5%

0

4

2.43

MOTHER

59.6%

58.3%

1

1

2.44

How are the rest of the defenses across the country performing in stop rate? Here are the full FBS-only stop rate standings through Week 8.

Note: All data is courtesy of TruMedia and Pro Football Focus.

Rk

Defense

G.

Drives

Stop Rate

Pts / Drive

1

7

81

82.7%

0.96

2

5

61

82%

1.05

3

6

75

81.3%

0.83

4

7

88

80.7%

1.02

5

6

67

77.6%

0.96

6

8

110

77.3%

1.21

7

6

70

77.1%

1.37

8

6

94

76.6%

1.38

9

6

75

74.7%

1.35

9

5

75

74.7%

1.32

11

6

71

74.6%

1.65

12

7

81

74.1%

1.51

13

7

92

73.9%

1.52

14

6

72

73.6%

1.68

15

7

87

73.6%

1.44

16

7

90

73.3%

1.60

17

7

93

73.1%

1.48

18

7

85

72.9%

1.55

19

7

91

72.5%

1.62

twenty

6

69

72.5%

1.54

21

6

76

72.4%

1.88

22

6

75

72%

1.37

22

6

75

72%

1.60

24

7

96

71.9%

1.55

25

6

81

71.6%

1.78

26

6

69

71%

1.67

27

6

72

70.8%

1.53

28

7

84

70.2%

1.74

29

6

63

69.8%

1.67

thirty

6

66

69.7%

1.58

thirty

8

99

69.7%

1.71

32

6

79

69.6%

1.71

33

6

75

69.3%

1.67

34

6

68

69.1%

1.79

35

7

97

69.1%

1.82

36

6

74

68.9%

1.91

37

7

70

68.6%

1.67

38

7

73

68.5%

2.12

39

7

82

68.3%

1.91

40

7

88

68.2%

1.99

41

6

69

68.1%

1.75

42

6

72

68.1%

1.82

43

8

99

67.7%

1.85

44

6

77

67.5%

1.81

45

7

83

67.5%

1.80

45

7

83

67.5%

1.77

47

6

70

67.1%

1.77

48

6

73

67.1%

1.99

49

8

99

66.7%

1.95

49

7

93

66.7%

1.97

49

6

81

66.7%

1.78

52

7

89

66.3%

2.09

53

6

77

66.2%

1.79

53

6

77

66.2%

2.10

55

7

100

66%

2.02

56

7

85

65.9%

1.92

57

6

76

65.8%

2.18

58

8

96

65.6%

2.10

59

6

93

65.6%

2.09

60

7

81

65.4%

2.01

61

6

78

65.4%

1.96

61

7

78

65.4%

1.95

61

6

78

65.4%

2.00

64

6

69

65.2%

2.16

65

8

102

64.7%

2.21

66

7

82

64.6%

2.05

67

7

87

64.4%

2.05

68

6

78

64.1%

2.05

69

7

97

63.9%

2.30

70

6

69

63.8%

2.04

71

6

80

63.7%

2.13

71

6

80

63.7%

1.94

73

6

74

63.5%

2.07

74

7

93

63.4%

2.33

74

7

93

63.4%

2.27

76

7

86

62.8%

2.21

77

7

82

62.2%

2.29

77

6

82

62.2%

2.43

79

7

87

62.1%

2.28

80

7

91

61.5%

2.42

81

7

88

61.4%

2.40

82

6

75

61.3%

2.33

83

7

93

61.3%

2.42

84

6

80

61.2%

2.25

85

6

69

60.9%

2.20

86

6

76

60.5%

2.57

87

6

81

60.5%

2.41

87

6

81

60.5%

2.04

89

6

80

60%

2.41

89

6

65

60%

2.46

91

7

89

59.6%

2.46

92

6

74

59.5%

2.50

93

6

71

59.2%

2.23

94

6

78

59%

2.41

94

7

78

59%

2.64

96

6

68

58.8%

2.47

97

7

89

58.4%

2.34

98

6

67

58.2%

2.54

99

7

86

58.1%

2.42

100

6

76

57.9%

2.67

101

6

71

57.7%

2.38

102

6

78

57.7%

2.74

103

6

73

57.5%

2.49

104

7

87

57.5%

2.39

105

7

84

57.1%

2.55

106

7

79

57%

2.47

107

6

67

56.7%

2.55

108

7

90

56.7%

2.62

109

7

83

56.6%

2.88

110

7

85

55.3%

2.60

110

7

85

55.3%

2.52

112

7

80

55%

2.55

113

8

90

54.4%

2.71

114

7

78

53.8%

2.60

114

7

78

53.8%

2.86

116

6

73

53.4%

3.00

117

7

85

52.9%

3.08

118

7

80

52.5%

2.94

119

7

86

52.3%

2.97

120

6

78

51.3%

3.04

121

7

80

51.2%

3.01

122

7

82

51.2%

3.07

123

7

84

51.2%

2.89

124

6

65

50.8%

2.80

125

6

71

50.7%

3.04

126

7

83

50.6%

3.10

127

6

72

50%

3.15

128

6

59

49.2%

2.93

129

5

54

48.1%

3.31

130

6

67

47.8%

2.88

131

7

81

43.2%

3.52

(Photo: Michael Hickey / Getty Images)

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