Fiesta Bowl Preview: Connecticut vs. Oklahoma

2011 BCS Bowl Previews: BCS National Championship | Fiesta Bowl | Rose Bowl | Orange Bowl | Sugar Bowl

Date: Saturday, January 1 2011
Time: 8:30PM ET

Why Watch: Because it’s Bob Stoops and Oklahoma – anything could happen. This is definitely the biggest mismatch of the five BCS bowl games, but Stoops has a five-game losing streak in BCS bowl games, which includes the Sooners’ shocking loss to Boise State in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. The Huskies are also sixth in the nation in kickoff returns and Oklahoma has allowed three kickoff returns for touchdowns this season, including one in each of their losses. UCONN running back Jordan Todman finished second in the nation in rushing, averaging 143 yards per game. Considering Oklahoma allowed 151 rushing yards per contest in the regular season, maybe the Huskies can play keep away from Landry Jones and the Sooner offense. Just when everyone thinks a blowout is inevitable, the opposite happens so don’t give up on this one.

Game Facts: This will be the Huskies’ fourth-straight bowl appearance under head coach Randy Edsall. They pulled off an upset against South Carolina in last season’s Bowl in which they held the Gamecocks to only a touchdown in a 20-7 win. That victory improved UCONN’s all-time bowl record to 3-1. The Sooners are 25-17-1 all-time in bowls, but have lost in their last three appearances in the Fiesta Bowl. They’re also 5-6 overall in bowls under Stoops, who has his team playing in a BCS Bowl for the eighth time in 12 seasons.

Key Player: Zach Frazer, Connecticut
If Connecticut has any chance at pulling off an upset, Frazer better play at another level. None of this “playing within himself” or “not making mistakes” nonsense – he’s going to have to play the best game of his life. Oklahoma is going to stack the box to take away Jordan Todman, which is exactly what a defense should do against a starting quarterback who has a 102.1 rating and has thrown for only five touchdowns all season. He needs to prove that Oklahoma even needs to use defensive backs in this game. Otherwise, we’re in for the snoozer that we all expect.

Odds: Oklahoma -17
You might be able to find Oklahoma at -16.5 if you shop around, but the point spread is -17 at most books. This line represents the biggest point spread of the five BCS bowl games by a long shot. Oddsmakers clearly aren’t giving UCONN much of a chance, although you never know how the line will move closer to kickoff. The over/under is currently 55 after opening at 56. The Huskies finished the regular season with an 8-4 record and covered in eight of their 12 games. The under hit in seven of the Huskies’ 12 games and in seven of the Sooners’ 13 contests. Oklahoma finished 11-2 straight up and 7-6 against the number.

How Connecticut can win: If Oklahoma doesn’t show up. No, seriously. It wouldn’t be the first time a Bob Stoops-coached team came into a BCS bowl unprepared. If that happens, the Huskies have to jump on the Sooners early and exploit the situation, because it could have a snowball effect. Remember, Oklahoma was at its worst against its weakest opponents this season, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that it could play down to its competition once again.

Why Oklahoma will win: Because while everyone has been talking about the possibility of a blowout, they’ve also thrown in the “Bob Stoops-coached teams don’t show up sometimes,” caveat. The Sooners know they’re heavily favored. They know that a loss here would be a stain on the program and their coach’s legacy. They’re going to show up for this game, and they’re going to take it to an overmatched Connecticut team early and often. The Huskies simply don’t have the athletes to deal with a Ryan Broyles or a DeMarco Murray, and their first BCS appearance will be a forgettable one.

Prediction: Oklahoma 41, Connecticut 13

Contributors: Anthony Stalter & Paul Costanzo

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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