SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It's the elephant in the room, but just about everybody not wearing an Oklahoma jersey wants to talk about it.
The Sooners haven't left a BCS bowl as winners since the end of the 2002 season, and five frustrating, season-ending losses have come since beating Washington State in the 2003 Rose Bowl.
Wins in the Holiday Bowl and Sun Bowl have dotted the drought, but at Oklahoma, seasons that end before January aren't quite as satisfying.
A plucky Connecticut team that closed the season with five consecutive Big East wins poses the Sooners' next challenge. The Sooners and Huskies will play in the same stadium where Oklahoma suffered a shocking loss to West Virginia in 2008 and a heartbreaking loss to Boise State in 2007 -- a game with a legitimate claim as the best in the history of college football.
"I think it is pretty obvious the last few times out here we didn’t win," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops told reporters on Monday.
Plenty is different this time around. Connecticut has four losses. So did the other five teams who beat Oklahoma to close the season. Four losses combined, that is. Oklahoma is a two-touchdown favorite this time.
"They have nothing to lose," said Sooners receiver Ryan Broyles. "They're going to take chances when they can and we expect that. You can't ever underestimate the underdog. We've seen that in the past."
Few will let them forget it, too. The Sooners were heavily favored against West Virginia before being steamrolled by 20 points. Stoops says he knew the senior-laden Boise State squad that lined up against Oklahoma in 2007 was capable of beating his team. The Sooners didn't exactly play like it, trailing for most of the game before a heroic comeback, lending real credence to Oklahoma's struggles in college football's marquee postseason games.
"We don't worry about the past. Right now, we're worried about the present and looking forward to the future," said running back DeMarco Murray. "This is a different team than last year, or 07 or 06, so we're definitely not worried about that. We have control of our destiny right now."
Here they are again, heavy favorites against a team that most of the country isn't giving a shot. In ESPN's College Bowl Mania contest, just under 96 percent of fans picking bowl games selected the Sooners to win.
Of course, the worst part about being heavily favored in a game of this magnitude is even winning won't completely silence the Sooners' BCS critics. Winning is what they're supposed to do. Only a lopsided win would impress.
But a win is a win, and on this stage, Oklahoma hasn't felt that in quite some time.
"We prepare every game to win like we did the last bowl game," Broyles said. "We don't feel like we're cursed or anything like that, we're just preparing to win like we do every other time out. We try not to look in the past."