Defense Wins Championships? Let’s Hope Not
Saturday's showdown between Nebraska and Michigan will pit what has been the Big Ten's best offensive team against one of the nation's better defensive squads. The Huskers are scoring an average of 42 points per game while allowing 28. The Wolverines are scoring 31 and allowing 16. NU has turned the ball over more but Michigan is still 80th in the country in turnover margin themselves. In the end, this may simply come down to the classic matchup of a strong offense versus a strong defense. Which is better? The irresistable force, or the immovable object?
Defense Wins Championships?
We've all heard that one before. Of course, that wouldn't explain the great run that Oregon's had in the Pac-10/12 in recent years or Wisconsin's conference championship a year ago. Nebraska took the field against Texas in 2009 and Oklahoma in 2010 with a better scoring defense, but walked away on the wrong end each time. Despite some pretty bad defensive outings by the Huskers this season, NU has opened as a slight favorite against the Wolverines.
The tale of Nebraska's win at Northwestern was the two touchdown drives engineered in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. The defense nearly permitted a game-winning field goal by the Wildcats. As well as the Blackshirts played on the day, it was the offense that delivered the victory. They needed 20 points in less than 2 quarters to beat the Badgers. Even for Michigan to eke out a victory in a defensive struggle in East Lansing, it was their offense that produced the game-winning field goal drive. It's hard to find fault with the Wolverines' defense against Notre Dame, it was the offense that let them down. You've got to get points on the board to get victories. NU's shown that they do it well.
It Takes Two
It may be strength on strength when the NU offense faces the UM defense. But it may be the Husker defense on Wolverine offense that's most pivotal. Nebraska could win a game in which they allow four touchdowns, like against Northwestern. But it's got to stop there. The Big Red can bend, but if they break even the red-hot offense may not be able to save the day. Hopefully, fans create an environment where that won't happen.