College football stop rate rankings: Michigan-Ohio State is a #1 versus #2 defensive fight

The game is finally here. Who’s ready to see what two of college football’s best defenses bring to a three-plus-hour, all-stakes brawl?

Michigan remains #1 in this week’s updated stop rate rankings. And Ohio State is still No. 2. In a week that has seen key offensive players on both sides of this rivalry struggle with injuries, we’re in for the best defensive duel of the 2022 season on Saturday afternoon.

What is stop rate? It’s a basic measure of success: the percentage of a defense’s drives that result in punts, turnovers, or turnovers on downs. This simple metric can more accurately reflect a defense’s effectiveness in today’s faster game than yards per game or points per game. We’ve tracked this for each of the last five seasons (here are the final standings for 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018 and 2017) along with each defense’s average points per drive.

The Wolverines have led the nation in stop rate under new defensive coordinator Jesse Minter for more than a month, being stopped on 83.3 percent of their drives in 11 games. Their college football playoff team had a top-10 defense a year ago (75.3 percent, good for eighth place) and lost some big talent to the NFL, but only got more efficient at getting stops and cut their points per drive average from 1.43 to 0.91.

Jim Knowles had the No. 4 defense in Oklahoma State for stop rate last season (79.1 percent). His Ohio State defense stops at exactly the same rate, giving up fewer points per drive (1.19). Sure, Knowles inherited a ton of blue-chip talent with this crew. But his ability to get them to play with more cohesion, consistency and confidence was impressive. They must prove themselves against the brutality of Michigan’s O-line-and-run game.

Which defense comes out on top in this showdown? Both are among the FBS leaders when it comes to forcing three-and-offs. How many are we actually going to see on Saturday? Michigan’s offense was actually a little more effective at ending drives, scoring on 58 percent of his possession (No. 3 on the FBS). Ohio State’s offense was better at reaching the end zone (TDs on 47 percent of drives, also No. 3) and scoring more points per drive.

Last season at Ann Arbor, the Buckeyes’ defense collapsed in the second half, giving up touchdowns on all four drives. This year? They only allowed 73 points over 71 drives in the second half. Michigan was even better: 62 drives in the second half, 62 points. Buckle up for four punchy quarters of physical and tactical excellence from these units.

How does the rest of the defenses across the country fare on stop rate? Here’s the full FBS stop rate ranking through week 12.

Note: All data courtesy of TruMedia and Focus on professional football.

rank

defense

G

D

stop rate

Points/D

1

11

126

83.3%

0.91

2

11

143

79%

1.19

3

9

127

78.7%

1.16

4

10

122

77%

1.14

5

10

125

76.8%

1.37

6

10

112

76.8%

1.04

7

11

145

76.6%

1.28

8th

10

124

75.8%

1.16

9

10

123

75.6%

1.32

10

10

106

75.5%

1.26

11

10

129

75.2%

1.45

12

10

135

74.8%

1.40

13

11

142

74.6%

1.52

14

10

113

74.3%

1.45

fifteen

9

107

73.8%

1.59

16

10

129

73.6%

1.57

16

9

129

73.6%

1.50

18

10

98

73.5%

1.42

19

11

135

73.3%

1.60

20

10

133

72.9%

1.56

21

10

124

72.6%

1.79

22

10

127

72.4%

1.70

23

10

119

71.4%

1.63

24

10

118

71.2%

1.66

25

10

120

70.8%

1.60

26

10

112

70.5%

1.62

27

11

135

70.4%

1.68

28

10

120

70%

1.73

29

11

143

69.9%

1.68

30

10

119

69.7%

1.81

31

10

122

69.7%

1.64

31

10

122

69.7%

1.72

33

10

115

69.6%

1.66

34

10

133

69.2%

1.71

35

10

113

69%

1.88

36

9

118

68.6%

1.89

37

10

117

68.4%

1.77

38

10

124

67.7%

1.93

39

10

133

67.7%

1.89

40

10

123

67.5%

1.89

41

10

122

67.2%

1.93

42

11

136

66.9%

1.83

43

10

132

66.7%

2.08

43

10

114

66.7%

1.78

43

10

120

66.7%

1.94

43

10

129

66.7%

1.98

43

10

117

66.7%

2.11

43

9

114

66.7%

1.76

49

11

149

66.4%

2.04

50

10

128

66.4%

2.11

51

11

130

66.2%

2.02

52

10

124

66.1%

1.99

53

10

132

65.9%

1.94

54

10

123

65.9%

2.10

54

10

123

65.9%

2.04

56

10

134

65.7%

2.09

57

10

136

65.4%

2.14

58

10

127

65.4%

2.13

59

10

121

65.3%

2.07

60

10

132

65.2%

1.83

61

10

109

65.1%

1.88

62

10

152

65.1%

2.11

63

10

123

65%

2.05

64

11

142

64.8%

2.18

65

10

127

64.6%

2.06

66

10

129

64.3%

2.19

67

11

143

64.3%

1.98

68

10

117

64.1%

2.11

69

11

150

64%

2.14

70

10

130

63.8%

2.12

71

10

124

63.7%

2.25

72

11

122

63.1%

2.37

73

9

103

63.1%

2.33

74

10

119

63%

2.21

74

10

119

63%

2.25

76

10

116

62.9%

2.18

76

10

116

62.9%

2.19

78

11

132

62.9%

2.17

78

11

132

62.9%

2.20

80

11

137

62.8%

2.06

81

10

144

62.5%

2.32

81

11

128

62.5%

2.23

81

10

128

62.5%

2.20

84

10

117

62.4%

2.29

85

10

109

62.4%

2.39

86

11

140

62.1%

2.33

87

10

124

62.1%

2.26

87

10

124

62.1%

2.32

89

10

129

62%

2.08

90

10

121

62%

2.21

91

10

115

61.7%

2.11

92

10

132

61.4%

2.36

93

10

119

61.3%

2.24

94

10

121

61.2%

2.16

95

10

128

60.9%

2.27

96

10

122

60.7%

2.54

97

10

127

60.6%

2.23

98

10

114

60.5%

2.20

99

10

134

60.4%

2.30

100

9

103

60.2%

2.28

101

10

124

59.7%

2.56

101

10

124

59.7%

2.34

103

10

123

59.3%

2.36

104

10

118

59.3%

2.53

105

10

109

58.7%

2.53

106

8th

87

58.6%

2.52

107

10

124

58.1%

2.48

108

10

116

57.8%

2.44

109

10

129

57.4%

2.43

110

10

109

56.9%

2.41

111

10

113

56.6%

2.58

112

10

127

55.1%

2.62

113

10

129

55%

2.80

114

9

100

55%

2.54

115

11

131

55%

2.68

115

10

131

55%

2.80

117

10

119

54.6%

2.74

118

9

110

54.5%

2.87

118

10

110

54.5%

2.72

120

10

121

53.7%

2.98

121

10

116

53.4%

2.81

122

10

116

52.6%

2.91

123

10

119

52.1%

2.84

124

10

118

51.7%

2.94

125

11

129

51.2%

2.86

126

10

114

50.9%

2.89

127

10

126

50%

3.02

128

11

127

49.6%

3.13

129

10

115

49.6%

3.03

130

11

133

47.4%

3.41

131

10

120

44.2%

3.43

(Photo: Rick Osentoski / USA Today)

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