Big 12 Bowl Central
Need to know: 7:30 p.m. CT, Jan. 1, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., ESPN/ESPN3D.
Team records: Oklahoma 11-2, Connecticut 8-4.
Story lines: A fiesta is supposed to be a party, a celebration. For Oklahoma, the Fiesta Bowl has been just the opposite. The Sooners have lost their last three trips to the Arizona-based bowl including back-to-back losses in 2007 (to Boise State) and 2008 (to West Virginia).
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said the loss to the Mountaineers was “embarrassing.” In this year’s Fiesta matchup, the Sooners face another Big East Conference team. Connecticut, making its first Bowl Championship Series game, is the biggest underdog in BCS history.
For the Big 12 champions, a loss to the Huskies would be more Fiesta fail.
"We want to prove that even though we've lost two times before, we are still a team that can play in the BCS," Oklahoma senior offensive tackle Eric Mensik said.
Last year’s victory in the Sun Bowl ended a three-game bowl losing streak for the Sooners, who haven’t won a BCS game since the 2003 Rose Bowl.
Connecticut moved to Division I-A (now Football Bowl Subdivision) in 2000. The Huskies were 3-4 before rallying to finish in a three-way tie for the Big East title; a tiebreaker earned UConn – a school known for men’s and women’s basketball – a BCS berth.
"The bigger message is about what this team has accomplished," Connecticut coach Randy Edsall said. "For our young men to win the Big East coming back from a 3-4 record and being in the BCS for the first time, I commend the people of college football for giving young people that opportunity.
“It's going to show other people if you work hard and play as a hard and don't care who gets the credit, you can accomplish anything in life. That's what this team is all about."
Freshman running back Roy Finch is the only significant injury for the Sooners. He’ll miss the Fiesta Bowl as he recovers from a hairline fracture in his foot. … Quarterback Landry Jones is ranked third in the country with 330 passing yards a game and has 35 touchdown passes. … Co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel will make his debut as OU’s play caller. He takes over for Kevin Wilson, who is leaving to become Indiana’s coach.
Mike Lang, one of UConn’s three primary safeties, will not play because of academic issues. He did not make the trip to Phoenix. Lang was seventh on the team with 41 tackles and had two interceptions. … Of the Huskies’ 2010 opponents, only Cincinnati ranked in the Top 30 nationally in pass offense. … Connecticut has won five consecutive games, two by three points. … Junior Jordan Todman is one of the nation’s top running backs with 1,574 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. … The Huskies are 112th (out of 120 schools) in passing.
Oklahoma is playing in the Fiesta Bowl for the fifth time. Only Ohio State (seven), Arizona State, Penn State and Nebraska (six each) have played in more Fiesta Bowls than the Sooners.