Brian Earle: We learned a number of things about football from its season-opening victory over Iowa. The offense seems to have picked up right where it left off, despite missing a few key players from last season. Quarterback Jordan Lynch looks better throwing the football than he did last season and had a good rhythm with his wide receivers. On the defensive side, it is a much different looking group than last season, missing seven starters from a year ago. The defense played a bend but didn’t break style and showed it can make a big play when it needs. The question becomes, in order for the Huskies to have a magical season like last year, which side of the ball is more important: offense of defense?
Frank Gogola: I have to go with the offense for the simple reason that it is returning eight starters from last season’s team, compared to only four starters on the defensive side of the ball. Not only is the offense more experienced than the defense, but they are much more explosive with the likes of Lynch, junior wide receiver Tommylee Lewis, redshirt junior tight end Luke Eakes and redshirt junior running back Cameron Stingily. Add in the fact that the entire offensive line returns from last season and senior running back Akeem Daniels should be back soon, and the offense molds into a well-balanced force that will light up the scoreboard on a consistent basis.
BE: Clearly Lynch and the offense will garner all the attention and be in the spotlight. But I’m going with the saying “Defense wins championships.” In the Huskies’ game against the Hawkeyes, they proved they can bend but they won’t break. Sure, they gave up two touchdowns, but when it mattered most and their backs were against the wall, they were able to get stops and hold Iowa to field goals. They did a good job of limiting the big plays and for the most part keeping the Hawkeyes out of the end zone. It says a lot to only allow a Big Ten team like Iowa to only reach the end zone twice.
FG: I’ll never understate the importance of a defense, but let’s get one thing straight: Offense rules football these days. After posting only 17 points against the Hawkeyes at a neutral site last season, the Huskies displayed their offensive abilities in the opener, posting 30 points against a Big Ten team on the road. The creation of more and more rules these days that help protect and ensure the safety of those very offensive players tells of their importance to the game of football, which is won by finishing the game with more points. And defenses these days are designed to try and limit the number of points they surrender, with forcing turnovers taking a back seat.
BE: Another reason I think the defense will be more important is the turnover battle. Last season the defense recorded 27 turnovers compared to the offense turning the ball over just 20 times. With the defense creating turnover opportunities, it puts the offense in a great position to put points up on the board. They showed this in the Iowa game as safety Jimmie Ward picked off a pass to set up a game-winning field goal. The Huskies defense comes up with big plays when they have to, so look for them to get after it and create a lot of turnovers this season.
FG: Yes, the defense did force three turnovers against Iowa, but it was the offense that capitalized by turning each turnover into points. The defense can continue to generate turnovers, but if the offense is not able to make those turnovers appear on the scoreboard, then it doesn’t matter if they force three or zero. So, if the Huskies want to enjoy the same success they had last season, the offense will need to find innovative ways to reach the endzone on a consistent basis.