2011 Fiesta Bowl: Does Connecticut Stand a Chance Against Oklahoma?

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2011 Fiesta Bowl: Does Connecticut Stand a Chance Against Oklahoma?
Elsa/Getty Images
Nov. 27, 2010: Jordan Todman stiff arms a defender at home. The phenom will try it against Oklahoma.

Analysts, radio hosts and commentators have all been clamoring about this game being one to watch.  It makes one wonder what all of the noise surrounding this matchup is about. 

It is, after all, the Fiesta Bowl—the BCS Fiesta Bowl.  Featuring the storied Oklahoma Sooners and the trying for an upset and upstart University of Connecticut Huskies, this game is high-quality entertainment. 

Prime time on New Year’s Day at 8:30 p.m. at University of Phoenix Stadium, the haters and the hopefuls will witness history.  UConn will play in its first BCS bowl game.  The Huskies could be motivated by the chance to prove the Big East deserves to be a BCS conference. 

A decisive win by Oklahoma could raise eyebrows and speculation against the BCS as a worthy football competitor.  Oklahoma will play in it for the third time in five years. They are the mighty Sooners, but they’ve lost five bowl games in a row. 

Connecticut understands they are the underdog, but they put their pads on just like Oklahoma.  That being said, do they have a chance to pull the upset with a field goal to end the game? Keep reading and ask yourself, otherwise, I’ll tell you.

Oklahoma has perhaps the preeminent program in America.  Again, they find themselves in a situation where losing to a big underdog will bring national mock and scorn.  The Boise State Broncos shocked the Sooners and the BCS world in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. 

Elsa/Getty Images
Nov. 27, 2010: The Huskies celebrate a touchdown in East Hartford. The offense will need to pass against OU.

Three years later, it’ll be the Huskies (8-4, 6-6) rolling their sleeves up and getting after Oklahoma.  Like the Broncos, they’ll be hoping to make a name off the Sooners.    

In their blue and white uniforms, Connecticut gets it in the blue-collar way—ground and pound—running the rock to daylight. 

Who can blame them? Not Sooners coach Bob Stoops.  He wishes he had Connecticut’s running game.  In terms of individual rushing yards per game, they have America’s second leading running back, Jordan Todman. 

As a junior this season, he gained 1,574 yards rushing and scored 14 touchdowns.  DeMarco Murray rushed for 1,121 yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 86 yards per game as Oklahoma’s leading rusher. 

Pass offense, though, is what separates these two programs in this thriller.  Like Oklahoma State, Oklahoma has one of the best passing games in the FBS. 

With one of the weakest passing games among major colleges, Connecticut averages 145 yards per game—about the same as Todman’s rushing yards per game average (143.09). 

Todman trailed only LaMichael James, who averaged 153 yards per game for the Oregon Ducks.

UConn’s quarterbacks had better duck when the Sooners pass rush comes after them.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Dec. 4, 2010: The Huskers secondary stops an OU receiver in Arlington. The Huskies receivers should take heart.

Fiesta Bowl 2010 officials were hoping to sign Stanford, reportedly, but UConn ducked into the game—allegedly.  It is what it is. 

The Huskies are the Big East champion and the Big East is a BCS conference.  The other BCS conferences are the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC.

UConn finished the regular season by beating South Florida.  The Huskies, during the season, however, lost to lowly Temple and Rutgers and got blanked by 6-6 Louisville.  They are unapologetic and a bit sensitive over the situation.

"Don't get on UConn for what the system is," UConn coach Randy Edsall said. "We happened to win the conference and we’re deserving to be there. We didn't back our way into it. We won our way into it."

The University of Connecticut began playing in Division I-A in 2000—the year Oklahoma won its last national championship.  Now, against one of America’s powerhouse football programs, UConn will try to gain its first BCS game victory.

When it comes to passing the ball, the Huskies are ranked No. 112 out of 120 schools. 

I picked the Huskies women’s basketball team, in an earlier column, to win 100 games in a row.  They’re proving me right so far.  I love the colonial atmosphere of the University of Connecticut and the entire Connecticut area. 

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Dec. 4, 2010: Bob Stoops coaches in the Big 12 Championship game in Arlington. His expertise could turn the tide of a game.

I’d pick and choose one of those homes close to the New York border if I lived there.  For now, though, let’s go over my pick for the 2011 Fiesta Bowl.

 

Prediction

Is this a mismatch to the millionth degree?  I don’t believe so.  The Sooners are bigger, faster and more experienced in BCS football. 

They are, however, 1-3 in the Fiesta Bowl and 0-3 in their last three tries.  I suspect eight or nine defenders will be in the box to stop Todman.

The hungrier team could be the Sooners.  Their proud program has lost five straight BCS games, but they’ll turn it around starting with UConn.  No disrespect to the Huskies. 

If this was a women’s basketball game, I’d pick UConn in a New York minute.  But full-court traps and three-point shots don’t apply.

Win, lose or draw, it’s a marvelous achievement for the Huskies program to play Oklahoma in a bowl game.  Connecticut football, while on the rise, will get a rude awakening from one of America’s big-time college football programs. 

Oklahoma will win it, 43-34.

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