By Casey Keefe
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Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma (11-2) vs. Connecticut (8-4)

– The Matchup:

The University of Connecticut football program has made unprecedented progress this season. Randy Edsall’s club overcame a rough 3-4 start – which included losses to Temple and Rutgers – and won five straight games to earn themselves their second Big East title and their first ever BCS appearance.

Listen to coach Randy Edsall interview with Mark Malusis & Kim Jones:

Standing in their way in Phoenix will be the mighty Sooners of Oklahoma. They’re obviously one of the most prestigious and historic programs in all of college football. They themselves finished the season strong, winning four straight and averaging 42 points while doing so.

Talent wise Oklahoma is the better team. If this game was played on paper, the Sooners would win – and win big… The only problem is games are not played on paper, and this one certainly won’t be.

– Players To Watch:

Oklahoma: QB – Landry Jones – 4,289 yards, 35 TD’s, 11 INT’s

Connecticut: RB – Jordan Todman – 1,574 yards, 14 TD’s

– What Will Happen:

If you’re an ignorant fan and are just looking at the names of these two teams, then of course you think Oklahoma is the vastly superior club – Not true… It’s a whole lot closer than you think, and UConn will have more than a puncher’s chance because they matchup pretty damn good in this game believe it or not.

The Sooners offense is one of the more explosive units in the country. Quarterback Landry Jones is an old-fashion gunslinger and he has (with respect to Justin Blackmon) the best wide receiver in the country in Ryan Broyles (1,452 yards, 13 TD’s).

Not to be overlooked is running back DeMarco Murray (1,121 yards, 14 TD’s). This is a very dangerous offense that’s filled with weapons. They’ll be going up against a solid Husky defense that plays a “bend-don’t-break” style.

Lawrence Wilson and Scott Lutrus help form one of the finest linebacking corps in the nation. They along with the front four have shown the ability to get timely sacks. The showdown to watch on this side of the ball is the combination of Jones and Broyles, the core part of the fourth ranked passing attack in the land against the Huskies secondary which is inexperienced, but has held up well, only allowing 207 yards per game.

The X-factor here is that UConn is one of the most opportunistic defenses there is, always coming up with big-time takeaways at the most crucial times. Jones isn’t exactly bullet-proof in the turnover department either, tossing 11 interceptions on the season.

The battle on the other side of the ball will be equally as intriguing. The Huskies have been a different team since Zach Frazier regained the quarterbacking duties following the 26-0 loss at Louisville. No, he doesn’t set the stat sheet on fire, but he’s not called upon to do so.

Frazier is your prototypical “manage the game” type quarterback. He’s tough, resilient and rarely makes mistakes. The bread and butter of the offense is of course Jordan Todman (143 yards per game) who runs behind the most underrated offensive line in the country.

You might think it’d be a problem that the Huskies offense is somewhat one-dimensional and rely too much on Todman and the run… Well, that might be the case against some of the other BCS representatives, but believe it or not Oklahoma’s defense ain’t all that good. I know it might come as a shock to some that a Bob Stoops’ defense isn’t dominant, but that’s the case this season.

The Sooners defense can be had. It’s going to be up to Randy Edsall and company to mix up the offense to keep the Sooners on their heels. Todman will get 35+ carries, but Frazier will be upon at certain points to make plays – It’ll be up to him to make them.

This is a unique matchup. Connecticut is in a completely foreign situation taking on one of the most historic programs in college football history. However, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Oklahoma has lost their past 5 BCS games – including 3 national title games – all in the last seven years.

Oklahoma has shown the tendency to overlook opponents before (Boise State, West Virginia). Having a month to sit on being 17 point favorites against little old Connecticut sure hasn’t done much for them in the focus and motivation departments.

If you’ve gotten the inkling that I’m picking the Huskies to win this game, you’d be correct. UConn will pull off the shocker thanks to some timely takeaways and one final dominant workhorse performance from the courageous Jordan Todman.

– Prediction:

Connecticut 27 Oklahoma 23

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