This post is sponsored by the United States Marine Corps. The USMC has been kind enough to sponsor bowl preview posts, particularly for sites whose teams are, you know, actually in bowl games. Still, the USMC has been kind enough to allow college bloggers whose teams are home for the holidays to participate in the promotion by previewing any bowl game of their choice. From an IU perspective, the choice was easy. While the Hoosiers did not qualify for the postseason, Indiana's new head coach, Kevin Wilson, will be doing his final work for the Oklahoma Sooners tomorrow night when Oklahoma plays Connecticut in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Many IU fans watched OU's win over Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game with interest, because Wilson was the subject of heavy speculation that he would be IU's next coach. Still, the will be the first and final opportunity to see OU's offense in action with the knowledge that Wilson is IU's coach.
It's important to note that Wilson is not in his former role of offensive coordinator for this game. Quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel, best remembered as the QB who led OU to the 2000 national championship, will be calling plays for the Sooners. Wilson will be coaching the tight ends. There was some initial hand-wringing about Wilson's decision to coach for OU in this bowl game instead of washing his hands of the situation and dedicating himself completely to IU. Frankly, I think his decision is fine. Three weeks later, it's hard to argue with the outcome. Wilson has spent plenty of time in Bloomington and has gathered what appears to be a first-rate coaching staff. Recruiting is currently in a dead period, and IU's above average (for IU) recruiting class is mostly full, largely intact, and recruiting is in a dead period anyway. The damage to IU is minimal or nonexistent, and the benefit is that tomorrow's game likely will include some positive publicity for IU when Wilson is discussed. Finally, during his introductory press conference, it was obvious that the win over Nebraska meant quite a bit to Wilson. It was the last OU-NU game for the foreseeable future, and it sent Oklahoma to the BCS for the ninth time in the last 11 years. If there is any negative mark on Bob Stoops's resume, it is that the Sooners have lost their last five BCS games. Certainly, most schools would kill for the opportunity to play in five BCS bowls in a 7 years, win or lose. Still, I get the sense that the losing streak sticks in Wilson's craw and that he wants his final work at Oklahoma to involve putting an end to the streak. I can respect a coach who wants to finish what he started.
The Fiesta Bowl is predicted to be the most lopsided of the remaining bowls. Oklahoma is favored by 17 points. Still, the Sooners' opponent, Connecticut, has spent the last decade beating the odds. The Huskies moved up to Division I-A for the 2000 season. The Huskies spent four seasons as an independent before the football team began Big East play in 2004. In 2003, the Huskies opened their new stadium. IU was kind enough to show up for the occasion--somewhat. UConn won that game 34-10, ad won 14-7 in Bloomington three years later, in 2006, when the Hoosiers were led by Bill Lynch on an interim basis when Terry Hoeppner missed the game for cancer surgery.
Here are the Sooners individual stats for 2010. OU finished 11-2, with quality wins against Nebraska, Oklahoma State, and Florida State, and losses at Missouri and Texas A&M.
Landry Jones did not match the performance of his Heisman-winning predecessor, Sam Bradford, but he did have a solid season, and the Sooners ranked #4 nationally in passing offense and #13 in total offense, and #33 in pass efficiency. DeMarco Murray added 1121 rushing yards for the Sooners. Ryan Broyles was among the nation's top receivers with 1452 yards and 13 touchdowns. While offense is the Sooners' strength (OU ranked #57 in total defense), watch out for both defensive ends. Jeremy Beal had 8.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss, Pryce Macon had 6 sacks and 10 TFL, and Frank Alexander had 11 TFL and 6 sacks. Quinton Carter and Jamell Fleming led the way with 4 interceptions each.
Here are Connecticut's numbers. The Huskies finished 8-4, but won their final 5 Big East games after an 0-2 start in the conference.
Overall, the Huskies are #96 in total offense and #48 in total defense. Zach Frazer has taken most of the snaps at quarterback, although he has onlt 5 TDs to 4 interceptions. They key to the UConn offense is Jordan Todman, who ran for 1574 yards and 14 touchdowns. Jessee Joseph leads the Huskies with 8.5 sacks.
This one is lopsided on paper, but from the IU perspective it will be educational to watch the OU offense, particularly given that UConn's strength is its defense.