Big 12 on the spot: Fiesta Bowl

I'll be out west in Phoenix all week providing coverage of the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday night, but we'll kick it off with one of the last entries of our On the Spot bowl series.

Oklahoma is in a BCS bowl for the eighth time in the past 11 seasons under Bob Stoops, which is nothing less than remarkable. As much flack as Stoops and the Sooners get for their five-game losing streak in the big bowls, the ability to get there is a signifier of the stability and excellence Oklahoma has shown over the past decade.

Connecticut will be the weakest team Oklahoma has played in a BCS bowl game, but they've still got to play the game. The Sooners can't mail it in and expect to win. So, who has to step up for them to do it?

The defensive line. We know about Oklahoma's pass rush, headlined by Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jeremy Beal. Together, the Sooners finished second in the Big 12 with 34 sacks, which also ranks 13th nationally.

The Sooners give up 4.26 yards per carry, though, which ranks ninth in the Big 12. If Connecticut is going to win this game, the Huskies will have to do it on the back of Jordan Todman, barring a lopsided turnover margin.

Todman ranks second nationally in rushing yards per game, with an average of over 143. He was also one of just two running backs nationally (Bobby Rainey, WKU) to top 300 carries on the year. Point is, with the nation's 112th-ranked pass offense, Todman will get lots and lots of touches.

The Sooners defended the run well down the stretch, limiting Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter to just 55 yards and excluding both Taylor Martinez's sacks and a 66-yard touchdown run by Roy Helu Jr. in the Big 12 Championship game, Nebraska's two running backs rushing attack 115 yards on 26 carries.

If Oklahoma can keep Todman from breaking the big ones, and defensive linemen like Jamarkus McFarland, Stacy McGee, Frank Alexander and Pryce Macon can plug the holes and help linebackers like Travis Lewis, Tom Wort and Austin Box make plays, the Sooners should be on their way to ending a frustrating bowl streak that's become one of the ugly defining marks of the program in recent years.

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