NCAA Football

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Preview: Oklahoma vs. Connecticut

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No. 7 Oklahoma vs. Connecticut

Glendale, Ariz., U. of Phoenix Stadium
Saturday, January 1, 2011 8:30 PM ET ESPN

Laying the scene

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The Sooners flew relatively under the radar in the first part of the season until the BCS named them the top team in the country in the first BCS rankings of the season. They immediately relinquished the top spot, however, with a loss to Missouri and then fell to Texas A&M a couple of weeks later. Nevertheless, the Sooners beat out Oklahoma State in the Bedlam Game to earn a shot at the Big 12 Championship and came through with a win over Nebraska. Connecticut heads to the Fiesta Bowl as the Big East's unranked champion. They beat South Florida in the final game of the season to win the Big East Championship and the right to play in a BCS bowl game. This will mark the Huskies' first ever BCS bowl appearance in the program's brief FBS history.

What Oklahoma has to do to win

Protect the football. Oklahoma is talented enough to score against this Huskies defense and has done a very fine job of protecting the football this season, but the Huskies have been ball hawks, picking off 19 passes this season. In their four losses this season, the Huskies have forced just one turnover (against Temple). In their eight wins, they have forced 28 turnovers (five turnovers once, four turnovers three times, three turnovers three times and two turnovers once). If Oklahoma avoids turning the ball over against the UConn defense, they shouldn't have a problem coming away with the win.

What Connecticut has to do to win

Make the defense respect the pass. Oklahoma ranks 13th in pass efficiency defense (51st in pass defense), but are 62nd in rushing defense, giving up 151.8 yards per game. Big East Offensive Player of the Year Jordan Todman has rushed for over 1,500 yards and has scored 14 touchdowns. He's the nation's fifth leading rusher and it's a good bet the Sooners will key in on the running game to force quarterback Zach Frazer to win the game with his arm. Frazer doesn't have to throw for 400 yards, but he has to make the Sooners defense respect his ability to hit short- and mid-range passes to move the ball and the chains. If he's able to do that, holes will open for Todman and the running game.

The call

Oklahoma. This game may be a little closer than a lot of people are expecting. Oklahoma has been here before and the experience is not an unfamiliar one for the Sooners. Connecticut, on the other hand, is venturing into unfamiliar territory and should be riding an emotional wave heading into the game. Running back Jordan Todman took offense to those who do not believe the Huskies deserve to be playing in a BCS bowl game. "Let them have their opinion," he said according to ESPN.com. "My goal, what I really want to do, is to go out and prove them wrong. It's somewhat of a slap in the fact, that we don't belong here or the Big East wasn't that tough, UConn's really not that tough. I really don't like that. At the same time, it's their opinion."

Nevertheless, the Sooners are a very efficient football team, and although Connecticut has forced 29 turnovers, tied for the 13th most in the country, Oklahoma should break its five-game BCS bowl losing streak by protecting the football and moving the football against a Connecticut defense that is 1-4 when allowing more than 25 points. - Danny Hobrock

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

You may email Danny directly at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at DannyHobrock

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