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The No. 1 defense in the stop rate standings has not changed for a few weeks, but below the top spot, there’s been an awful lot of movement over the past month. This seems like a good time to dig into who’s getting better and who’s getting worse.

Michigan’s defense strengthened its hold on the top spot with a dominant night in a 29-7 rout of Michigan State. The Spartans couldn’t run the ball and couldn’t stay on the field against this crew. They picked up just 11 first downs over 10 drives, and not one of their second-half possessions even lasted two minutes. The Wolverines continue to set the standard for consistent excellence on defense this season and improved their stop rate to 83.5 percent.

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.

Several more defenses like Illinois, Ohio State, Iowa State and San Jose State have managed to stay in the national top 10 in stop rate throughout the past few weeks. As we get deeper into conference play, though, it’s always interesting to see which defenses get a lot better in October and which ones that succeed early begin to slide once the schedule gets tougher and depth gets tested.

Which defenses have improved their stop rate ranking the most since the end of September? Here’s your answer.

Most improved, P5

Defense September Current Change

69th (64.6%)

33rd (69.7%)

+36

61st (67.5%)

26th (70.9%)

+35

47th (69.8%)

13th (73.9%)

+34

57th (68.1%)

29th (70.7%)

+28

52nd (69.2%)

25th (71.1%)

+27

Clemson fans were understandably nervous a month ago after watching their defense struggle to survive a 51-45 shootout in double overtime against Wake Forest. First-year defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin took some heat early on and certainly had a lot to live up to as the successor to Brent Venables. But his Tigers have responded really well since then. They were a top-10 defense in stop rate in the month of October and No. 8 nationally in passing yards per attempt (5.61).

Texas and Kansas State pulling off shutout wins against Oklahoma (49-0) and Oklahoma State (48-0), respectively, helped them climb up the stop rate standings in October. They’ll face off in Manhattan on Saturday in a battle with big-time implications for the Big 12 championship race.

Most improved, G5

Defense September Current Change

84th (61.1%)

19th (72.5%)

+65

72nd (63.9%)

20th (71.8%)

+52

126th (44%)

80th (61.9%)

+46

90th (58.8%)

48th (66.3%)

+42

79th (62.2%)

38th (68.7%)

+41

Amazingly, the defense with the third-best stop rate in the country in the month of October was UConn. No, seriously, it’s true.

UConn got stops on 80.9 percent of its drives in four October games, allowing just 0.96 points per drive and winning three of the four games. The Huskies shut down Zay Flowers and grabbed five takeaways in a 13-3 win over Boston College on Saturday. This defense hasn’t given up a passing touchdown since Sept. 24 and is giving UConn a chance to get bowl eligible in Jim Mora’s debut season. It’s an especially remarkable development when you remember UConn is not far removed from having one of the worst defenses in the history of college football in 2018.

Which teams slid the most in the stop rate standings in October? The list of defenses that declined in the past month is led by UNLV (down 55 spots in the standings), Washington (-48), Ole Miss (-47), BYU (-45), LSU (-44), Michigan State (-44), UCLA (-44) and West Virginia (-44). The Mountaineers had the worst stop rate defense in the country in October, getting stops on just 39.1 percent of drives and allowing 3.63 points per drive.

How are the rest of the defenses across the country currently performing in stop rate? Here are the full FBS-only stop rate standings through Week 9.

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

Rk

Defense

G

Drives

Stop Rate

Pts/Drive

1

8

91

83.5%

0.93

2

7

88

81.8%

0.81

3

6

72

79.2%

1.28

4

8

101

78.2%

1.20

5

8

110

77.3%

1.21

6

6

94

76.6%

1.38

7

7

81

76.5%

1.04

8

7

88

76.1%

1.26

9

7

84

75%

1.46

10

8

106

74.5%

1.56

11

7

81

74.1%

1.51

12

7

73

74%

1.44

13

7

92

73.9%

1.52

14

6

88

73.9%

1.40

15

7

83

73.5%

1.70

16

7

93

73.1%

1.48

17

7

85

72.9%

1.55

18

7

84

72.6%

1.38

19

7

91

72.5%

1.62

20

7

85

71.8%

1.49

21

7

81

71.6%

1.68

22

7

91

71.4%

1.65

22

7

84

71.4%

1.63

24

7

94

71.3%

1.78

25

7

90

71.1%

1.53

26

7

86

70.9%

1.57

27

7

89

70.8%

1.97

28

7

82

70.7%

1.85

29

8

99

70.7%

1.72

30

7

84

70.2%

1.56

31

8

100

70%

1.62

32

7

83

69.9%

1.69

33

8

99

69.7%

1.71

34

7

91

69.2%

1.62

35

7

94

69.1%

1.71

36

7

97

69.1%

1.82

37

7

80

68.7%

1.77

38

8

99

68.7%

1.74

39

7

70

68.6%

1.67

40

8

108

68.5%

1.75

41

7

82

68.3%

1.91

42

7

85

68.2%

1.80

43

7

88

68.2%

1.99

44

7

81

67.9%

1.89

45

8

99

67.7%

1.85

46

7

83

67.5%

1.77

47

8

99

66.7%

1.95

48

8

101

66.3%

2.04

49

8

95

66.3%

1.94

50

7

83

66.3%

1.90

51

8

106

66%

2.02

52

7

100

66%

2.02

53

7

79

65.8%

2.10

54

9

108

65.7%

2.09

55

8

93

65.6%

2.05

56

7

78

65.4%

1.90

56

7

78

65.4%

1.95

58

7

86

65.1%

2.17

59

8

106

65.1%

2.17

60

7

94

64.9%

1.98

60

7

94

64.9%

1.99

62

7

88

64.8%

2.10

63

8

102

64.7%

2.21

64

7

93

64.5%

1.90

65

7

87

64.4%

2.05

66

8

84

64.3%

2.29

67

7

97

63.9%

2.30

68

8

105

63.8%

2.24

69

8

91

63.7%

2.11

69

7

91

63.7%

2.09

71

8

99

63.6%

2.17

72

7

93

63.4%

2.28

73

7

87

63.2%

2.18

74

8

103

63.1%

2.30

75

7

92

63%

2.18

76

7

94

62.8%

2.19

77

7

80

62.5%

2.10

78

7

77

62.3%

2.25

79

7

106

62.3%

2.28

80

8

97

61.9%

2.24

81

7

88

61.4%

2.40

81

7

88

61.4%

2.20

83

7

93

61.3%

2.42

84

8

100

61%

2.32

85

7

87

60.9%

2.32

86

7

84

60.7%

2.17

86

7

84

60.7%

2.37

88

7

94

60.6%

2.35

89

7

81

60.5%

2.27

90

7

88

60.2%

2.52

91

7

93

60.2%

2.34

92

7

82

59.8%

2.27

93

7

91

59.3%

2.44

94

7

93

59.1%

2.18

95

7

88

59.1%

2.45

95

7

88

59.1%

2.58

97

7

78

59%

2.64

98

8

97

58.8%

2.76

99

7

92

58.7%

2.58

99

8

92

58.7%

2.36

101

7

87

58.6%

2.52

102

7

89

58.4%

2.34

103

6

67

58.2%

2.54

104

7

86

58.1%

2.42

105

8

97

57.7%

2.42

106

8

91

57.1%

2.37

107

7

79

57%

2.47

108

7

90

56.7%

2.62

109

8

92

55.4%

2.51

110

7

83

55.4%

2.65

111

7

85

55.3%

2.60

111

7

85

55.3%

2.52

113

8

98

55.1%

2.88

114

7

80

55%

2.80

115

9

100

54%

2.71

116

7

78

53.8%

2.86

117

7

77

53.2%

2.68

118

7

80

52.5%

2.94

119

7

86

52.3%

2.97

120

8

92

52.2%

2.91

121

7

85

51.8%

3.11

122

8

97

51.5%

3.08

123

7

82

51.2%

3.07

124

7

84

51.2%

2.89

125

7

73

50.7%

2.95

126

7

91

50.5%

3.07

127

7

83

49.4%

3.24

128

7

79

49.4%

2.78

129

5

54

48.1%

3.31

129

7

81

48.1%

3.17

131

8

94

46.8%

3.28

(Photo: Eakin Howard / Getty Images)



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