Tradition? Oklahoma, UConn worlds apart

December, 31, 2010
12/31/10
10:07
AM ET
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Oklahoma leads the nation with 32 10-win seasons. Connecticut has none as an FBS team. Oklahoma has won seven national championships. Connecticut has none. Since World War II, Oklahoma leads the nation with 574 victories. Connecticut has 57 wins as an FBS team.

The Sooners have been ranked in the AP poll for 703 total weeks. UConn beat its first ranked team in 2007.

[+] EnlargeBarry Switzer
AP File PhotoFormer Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer holds a banner and indicates his Sooners are Number 1 after beating Michigan in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2, 1976. UConn began playing FBS football in 2002.
In 2000, when Oklahoma was rolling undefeated to its last national title, the Huskies lost to Rhode Island and Northeastern.

Do you need more? How about this: Think of every measure of a college football program available. Oklahoma has a lot; UConn has very little.

Oklahoma is one of the most storied programs in the nation. UConn only become an FBS team in 2002.

One of the main storylines heading into the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl is the David versus Goliath perception of the two programs. And it's not just that the Sooners are 11-2 and ranked seventh in the BCS standings and the Huskies are 8-4 and unranked.

When you think of Oklahoma you think of coaching and playing legends: Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer, Steve Owens, Billy Sims and Adrian Peterson. And when you think of UConn? Well, you, er, think of basketball.

"We know what Oklahoma is and what kind of tradition they have," Huskies defensive coordinator Hank Hughes said. "If you matched us up for 100 years, we don't match up with them. But on this one day for three hours, we have to go out and try to beat them in that one football game. That's the approach we're taking."

In other words, UConn won't be facing J.C. Watts, Brian Bosworth or Greg Pruitt, which is good because Ryan Broyles, DeMarco Murray, Jeremy Beal and Quinton Carter will provide enough of a challenge. UConn's players seem quietly confident that they can keep up with the Sooners. And they seem properly motivated by those myriad doubters who see this as a mismatch that is only possible in a system like the BCS.

Still, it's hard to get past the contrast, which is even more dramatic than when the Sooners took on Boise State in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.

Consider the bowl media guides.

In UConn's media guide, it lists an "FBS timeline," which starts with former athletic director Lew Perkins first recommending in 1991 that the school "seriously consider playing football at the NCAA Division I-A level" and ends with tailback Jordan Todman, on Dec. 8, becoming the second Husky to earn All-American honors in the "FBS era at UConn."

In Oklahoma's media guide, under a heading "OU Essentials," it cites the program's all-time record -- 809-303-53 -- and notes the Sooners lead the nation with 31 unanimous and 72 consensus All-Americans.

[+] EnlargeRandy Edsall
AP Photo/Matt YorkConnecticut coach Randy Edsall will be leading the Huskies against Oklahoma, and decades of tradition.
UConn celebrates Oct. 28, 2007, when the program earned "its first national ranking when it debuts at No. 16 in the AP Poll and No. 20 in the Coaches’ Poll."

Oklahoma has spent 76 weeks ranked in just the BCS standings -- since 1998 -- including 20 weeks at No. 1, most in the nation.

Players from both teams are almost as aware of this contrast as fans and media. For UConn, it serves as motivation. For Oklahoma, it's a potential trap.

"Everybody is saying we should kill them," Sooners quarterback Landry Jones said. "But if you don't prepare, history is going to repeat itself."

Ah, not all Oklahoma history is good. Jones refers to previous Fiesta Bowl upset defeats against Boise State and West Virginia.

UConn coach Randy Edsall hasn't avoided the topic, even with his team. He prepared his players for an onslaught of questions on the matter.

"Tradition is what it is," Edsall said. "We told them exactly the kind of program Oklahoma is -- the history and tradition."

He also noted that taking on historically great programs is not unexplored territory for his current team. The Huskies won at Notre Dame in 2009 and lost at Michigan this year.

Further, there seems to be some frustration from the UConn side of things that it hasn't been more embraced for making the quickest rise from an FCS school to a BCS bowl game. That, after all, is history, too.

"This is a tremendous story," Edsall said. "It's about giving somebody an opportunity."

UConn has an opportunity to create its own bit of history on Saturday. It won't have to beat those great Sooners teams from past years. All it has to do is be the better team for three hours.

Three hours in which the Huskies will be playing in their fifth bowl game vs. the 45th for Oklahoma.

Ted Miller | email

College Football

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