Face Off: Will football be an offensive or defensive team this season?

By Brian Thomas

Brian Thomas: After an historic 2011 campaign, NIU football kicks off its much anticipated season this Saturday against Iowa in the Soldier Field game. Last season the Huskies captured a MAC championship as well as a win in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. But this is a new year and a lot has happened since then, leaving numerous questions for the 2012 Huskie squad. The biggest question, though, is which side of the ball will be the strength of the team: offense or defense?

Matt Hopkinson: I think, taking into account the amount of unknown on the offensive side of the ball, you would have to go with the known commodity. The defensive side of the ball is returning nine of the 11 starters from last year, including the return of former starter Tyrone Clark at linebacker. While the defense wasn’t exactly lights out, there is something to be said for experience and continuity.

BT: Most people would probably agree with you based on the defenses experience alone. But I believe this offense could surprise a lot of people this season. First-year starter Jordan Lynch has some big shoes to fill, but he has shown us he is up to the challenge. He put the Huskies ahead in the GoDaddy.com Bowl game with a career long 41 yard touchdown pass. He has shown poise and that he can run this offense.

MH: I think that no matter the skill positions, the team will live and die with their line. The defense will be put in a tough spot because their offense was able to outscore their opponents on the year 536 to 424. A good indication of what the defense is capable of, however, is that they only gave up 104 points in their last five games of the season, including their MAC championship and bowl victory.

BT: A key for the offense will be the play of their returning wide receivers. Senior Martel Moore is a big playmaker who improves year by year. He is coming off a season in which he had seven receiving touchdowns. Another experienced receiver who Lynch will rely on is Perez Ashford. Ashford stepped up big at wide receiver, posting a career high 47 receptions. Tight end Jason Schepler also makes his return to the team after missing 2011 with an injury.

MH: I think for the defense to be completely effective, it will need to be adept at turning the ball over and creating extra possessions for the offense. I know it’s not possible to control that, but last season their defense outplayed their opponents in many defensive categories, including interceptions, tackle for losses and sacks.

BT: These are all very valid points both defensively and offensively. We will have to wait and see on Friday which side of the ball steps and makes more plays. That should give us an idea of whether the Huskies will be known as a offensive or defensive team this upcoming season.