What's more important, offense or defense? It's an age-old question that gets asked during every season of every sport, every single year.
Speaking purely from what I believe is the popular consensus, defense is normally the answer that gets the most respect. The saying, "defense creates offense," certainly rings true, but even if defense creates it, offense has to finish it.
Therefore, a bad offense can create defense just as quickly, and when your college football team is playing in the Big 12 conference, a bad offense can ultimately mean no victories. With the high-powered offenses that control the league, at some point, a team's offense has to step up in order to not get run out of the building.
The Oklahoma Sooners are one of those high-powered offenses. Finishing fifth in the country in total offense last season, the Sooners averaged 512 yards of offense per game. That's an ungodly statistic that opposing defenses should fear, but yet the Sooners only finished third in their conference in terms of yards per game.
Coming in second was Oklahoma State, averaging just under 550 yards per game en route to winning the conference title. Finishing first were the Baylor Bears, averaging 587 yards per game behind Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Let's compound these stats by looking at the league's best defense: the Texas Longhorns. The Longhorns were 11th in the country in total defense, only giving up 306 yards per game.
In last season's Red River Rivalry, Sooners quarterback Landry Jones threw for 367 yards. After the Sooners tacked on another 86 rushing yards, they brought their yardage total up to 453 for the game. While this is 60 yards under their season average for yards, it's still 150 yards above the Longhorns average for total defense.
I guess the point that I'm trying to make is even one of the best defenses in the country is going to give up yards to a high-powered offense. The Sooners, who finished as the 55th best defense in the country, won the game by a score of 55-17.
In the Big 12, offense trumps defense—it's just a fact that the league has adopted over the past few seasons. Even though the conference is losing two other high-powered offenses in Texas A&M and Missouri, the addition of West Virginia and TCU will help even out the playing field once again.
Now, I haven't exactly answered the question, "Should the offense or defense step up more next season?" and that's because, in the Sooners' case, it's loaded with "ifs" for next season's production.
Certainly, the answer for last season would have been the defense—namely the secondary. However, with defensive coordinator Mike Stoops back on the sidelines and a year of experience under the belts of some of the younger defensive backs, the defense should see a rise in production this year.
The offense, which is always one of the best in the country, may need some work. While the Sooners are absolutely loaded with talent at the skill positions, they are lacking experience. Junior wide receiver Kenny Stills is the only receiver on the roster who has caught a pass in D-1 football, for example.
Due to this, the running game should be featured more this season, especially if Dominique Whaley can return to full speed after recovering from his ankle injury.
Despite having a "down year" defensively, the Sooners still were in every single game thanks to their offense (well, except the Bedlam game). They lost both the Baylor and Texas Tech games due to a poor showing on defense.
This comes full circle back to what I was saying earlier, though—there's only so much defenses can do against these high-powered offenses in the Big 12. The Sooners wouldn't have had a chance against Baylor or Texas Tech unless their offenses weren't so great.
All in all, I'd like to cop out and say both the offense and the defense need to step up this season in order for the Sooners to win, at least in the Big 12. However, in order to win a national championship, history shows us that good defenses usually come out on top.
This was highlighted by two SEC teams—LSU and Alabama—playing for the national championship last season. Alabama was No. 31 in total offense last season, whereas LSU was No. 86. Not very impressive, right?
Are you all aware who finished No. 1 and No. 2 in defense, though? Alabama and LSU. The SEC, known for their stacked defenses, have won the last six national championships, two of which have been over Big 12 offenses.
Only history will tell if the momentum is going to shift back in favor of the offense, but the Sooners won't even have a chance to make it through the Big 12 to a national championship game without their offense clicking on all cylinders.
In order for the Sooners to win their next championship, they have to do a good job of both defending and outscoring opposing Big 12 offenses—but regardless, points are going to be put up in that league.
Therefore, I'm going to throw a curveball and say that it is in fact the offense that needs to do the majority of "stepping up" for the Sooners in 2012. It may sound crazy, but once you break down the rationality of the league that they play in, it starts to make sense.
Defense may win championships, but offense will win the Big 12.