Friday, December 31, 2010
Fiesta Bowl: Three keys for Oklahoma
By David Ubben
1. Do not turn the ball over more than twice. There's no underestimating this for the Sooners since they are playing as heavy favorites. Even if Huskies running backJordan Todman runs wild on them for 200-plus yards, Oklahoma has the offense that can outscore Connecticut and score 50 points to win if necessary. What can stop that? Turnovers. Oklahoma's receivers, Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills, should be able to get open. The Sooners should be able to run the ball with at least moderate success. But lose the ball or throw it to the guys in the wrong jerseys and Oklahoma opens up a game that it should close in the second half. Oklahoma's lost just five fumbles this year compared to 11 interceptions from Landry Jones, so picks are more likely for the sophomore passer. Jones threw three in the first half against Oklahoma State.
One or two turnovers, unless they're returned for scores, won't be enough to cost the Sooners a win. But if the turnover battle gets to 3-0 or 4-0 in favor of UConn, brace yourselves for another Big 12 bowl upset.
2. Keep Todman from busting big runs. Oklahoma gave up a 66-yard touchdown run to Nebraska's Roy Helu Jr. early in the Big 12 Championship as part of the Huskers' 17-0 spurt to open the game. That's no big surprise, the Sooners have given up 25 runs of 20 yards or longer this season. Only eight teams in FBS have surrendered more. Of those eight teams, only two are bowling. Todman will get plenty of tough yards against Oklahoma's defense. But if the Sooners keep him from getting easy ones, they'll keep him under 150 total yards, limit big gains for Connecticut, and wear Todman down.
3. Defensively, win the fight on first down. Oklahoma has to force Connecticut to throw the ball as much as possible. The best way to do that is force lots of 2nd-and-8 or 2nd-and-9s that eventually force third down passing situations. If you see Connecticut with an impressive third-down percentage, it'll be because they're converting lots of 3rd-and-2 and 3rd-and-3 situations, rather than completing tough passes against Oklahoma's underrated corner duo of Demontre Hurst and Jamell Fleming. The more times Zach Frazer has to drop back and throw it against a prepared defense, the better it will be for Oklahoma. Some teams can consistently convert long third downs. The Huskies, ranked 105th nationally in completion percentage (53.1 percent), aren't one of them.