GA: Our respective teams are thoroughly unbalanced and diametrically opposed- MSU fields the great defense with a horribawful offense, and Nebraska's offense is high-quality all around with a defense that can't stop anybody. Moreover, this week's opponents for both are pretty similar- Illinois is an offense-dominant team, and Iowa's defense is their strong point (though I actually think Iowa's offense is substantially better than it gets credit for, and seems to improve every week).
The first question, I guess, would be which way would you rather have it? We can't all be balanced, well-constructed powerhouses like Northwestern, after all (JK they're pretty much offense-dominant too). Would you prefer your team be an unstoppable force, or an immovable object, if you could only have one?
Jesse: Which way would I rather have it? From a purely entertainment side, I wouldn't mind being like Oregon in the first Kelly-based iterations. Really fun games every week, pretty unpredictable outcomes, and wins. From a, "we're probably going to win more games this way," I'd like to be more like the immovable object because let's be honest, Alabama's offense can look anemic at times (not always and not probably lately) but their defense gives them enough leeway to press until the other teams break. Sooooo, my answer is maybe defense? But this could be completely jaded by the reality that Nebraska has none and I wish - so surely wish - that I had anything to hope for in a young defense filled with talent, but too in over their heads to do anything with it. This is also a good time to mention that Nebraska may need a new coaching staff this offseason, so that's a thing.
With that said, I'll flip that same question to you. Which do you honestly prefer? Are you enjoying watching a suffocating, ball-hawking defense that makes opponents cower with the ball? Or has your anemic - being nice here - offense pushed you over the edge?
GA: When I think it through carefully, I agree that a truly dominant defense is probably the way to go. Don't get me wrong, watching offenses like Oregon and TAMU is very entertaining, though a lot of the time I find myself thinking they must be cheating somehow to complete so many passes in a row. Still, I find nothing more satisfying than, a few drives into the game, seeing unmistakable fear in an opposing QB's eyes when the camera gets a close-up of him making checks, doing everything he can to not make eye contact with Max Bullough, looking to the sideline, hoping to find something, anything, that won't make him look like an idiot in the play that's about to happen.
MSU's defense isn't quite perfect, but they're about as close as you can be without Bama type talent at all positions. Moreover, it took long enough to install this defense that I remember, very well, what it was like to have a defense that couldn't stop anybody, and it just sucked. That's right, there was a very vocal Fire Narduzzi movement about 4 years ago; it's partly because of how ridiculous that sounds now that I've been pretty patient with MSU's offensive coaching staff over the last season and a third (until my little rant after the most recent ND loss).
So let's look at which situation might be easier to fix for the current head coach, tabling for the moment any talk of whether Bo survives at Nebraska past this season. Both guys are defensive-minded. Dantonio has his preferred side of the ball working, while Pelini has the other side working. Which situation is preferable? Does Bo's personal imprimatur on the defense make you think it'll be easier for him to fix it? Is Dantonio's inability to personally design a solution leading him to rely too much on an underwhelming offensive staff?
Jesse: Fixes are really hard to prescribe, you know? One of the most important aspects of being Head Coach is knowing that you need to surround yourself with people who can sharpen your skills and give you much more insight into what's happening outside of your sphere. When Bo started at Nebraska, he had that in Carl and while Carl wasn't exactly the brainchild of the schemes he was also able to question Bo in ways that a young Papuchis cannot or will not. I have been very skeptical of Papuchis for a while now, but it's looking more and more like he has little to no idea what he is doing which is horrifying and infuriating.
There's no realistic way to look at these results and conclude that our problems are anything but systemic, which makes me pretty pessimistic that there's a quick fix coming over the bye week. At risk of repeating my post-ND doctorate thesis on what's wrong with the MSU offense, I think the core of MSU's offensive problems is the fact that, like with Carl Pelini leaving Nebraska, Dantonio lost a couple of vital assistants in Don Treadwell and Dan Enos, and hasn't really found replacements who can develop players and gameplan like those guys could. Moreover, Dantonio's fierce loyalty has prompted him to give guys like Dan Roushar a lot more leash than their performance probably deserves. It's tempting to blame the players, because they're the ones literally not getting the job done, but it's the coaches' job to understand what the players can and can't do, and to adjust the game plan accordingly, which is a trait this coaching staff has never had. Dantonio's comments about how important it is to stay 'balanced' sound, to me, like he's going to keep right on throwing it about 50% of the time, notwithstanding that the passing game is just terrible right now and has shown no noticeable improvement over the last season and a third.