Conference USA football fielding an array of defenses in 2019. Which were the best at getting off the field by stop rate and three-and-out rate?
Recently published by The Athletic, stop rate is a useful tool for measuring college football defenses. Max Olson, who compiled the sat, defines stop rate as:
The percentage of a defense’s drives that end in punts, turnovers or a turnover on downs. Every defense in college football has the same goal on every drive: Get a stop and get off the field. It’s the most basic measurement of whether a defense is successful. And the successful ones win a lot of games.
So what does that mean for Conference USA football? The league as a whole had four teams ranked inside the top 25 in stop rate nationally, including conference champion FAU. The Owls also ranked No. 1 in C-USA in three-and-out rate. The distribution from that point onward gets wide, quickly. Here’s a breakdown of each squad.
Two outliers stand out. Rice football finished 3-9, but boasted the seventh-best stop rate in C-USA and the fifth-best three-and-out rate. Every other team to finish in the top half of the conference in both metrics went bowling this past season. Defensive coordinator Brian Smith has made a tremendous impact at South Main so far, and the Owls have room to grow. They return almost every member of their two-deep on defense in 2020.
The second outlier is Charlotte. The 49ers gave up a lot of points last season — 32.4 per game to be exact — but found a way to get to a bowl game in their first year under Will Healy. Replacing defensive end Alex Highsmith will be a challenge next year, as will backfilling the running back spot behind Benny Lemay. There are some questions, bu things are headed in the right direction.