Is Defensive Performance More Important Than Winning?
Bowl games can set the tone for an offseason. The practices leading up to the bowl game serve as almost an additional spring training camp. A win can be savored for the nine long months before the next outing. A loss can hurt about that long as well. Fans often look for clues as to what the team will look like in the coming year. Given the strong offensive performances in 2012 and the return of most key personnel on that side of the ball for 2013, the defense seems like the major question mark for next year. Does that make the team's defensive performance more important than the overall team performance on Tuesday?
A win over Georgia by any score would feel good. Even if it was a 49-48 type outing like the New Mexico Bowl, seeing Bo Pelini finally win eleven games would be pretty nice. Allowing 48 points would leave fans questioning the defense for nine long months though.
By contrast, what if NU ended up on the wrong side of 7-6 game? Especially one where most of the defensive plays were made by returning players. Sure, fans would hate to see the Huskers lose and would be sick of another four-loss season. But it would be hard to ignore the progress the team made defensively after such a horrible outing against Wisconsin. A single bad outing wouldn't doom the offense either.
In 2013, the schedule lines up for some pretty special things. There are eight home games. The road games are at Purdue, at Minnesota, at Michigan, and at Penn State. NU might only be an underdog in Ann Arbor and you wouldn't write off that game after winning by two touchdowns in Lincoln in 2012. The offense will score points. If we see a strong defensive outing on Monday (regardless of who wins and loses), you have to have some optimism for Nebraska to put together their best season yet under Pelini. Eleven or twelve wins is on the table.
The defense we saw by NU in the Big Ten championship game would prevent that. You'd feel a lot better about avoiding blowouts next year if the Blackshirts show well against an outstanding Georgia offense.