Tag:Jamell Fleming
Posted on: December 29, 2011 3:06 am
 

Insight Bowl Key Matchup

Posted by Adam Jacobi



A look at the key matchup that could decide the Insight Bowl

Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma vs. Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa

Marvin McNutt
is pretty indisputably the best pure wide receiver to ever wear the Iowa uniform. He holds the Iowa season and career records in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, he's five catches away from the team season record, and he's eight receptions away from the Iowa career record -- all in just three seasons of work as a regular contributor at WR. Not bad for a converted three-star QB out of St. Louis. The 6'4", 215 lb. wideout excels in making catches on the run -- often difficult or even one-handed grabs -- and he and QB James Vandenberg have been lethal on fade routes this season (see above). Iowa is 7-2 when McNutt gets the ball six or more times, and 0-3 when he doesn't meet that mark, so shutting McNutt down is a high priority for OU.

Where McNutt is not particularly effective, however, is route precision. McNutt's stride is long enough that while it's not necessarily a negative on long-developing plays or other routes where he gets a free release, it does affect his agility and ability to shake a cornerback who just needs to play press coverage for three or four seconds, like on hooks, short outs, and other single-move timing routes. And lo and behold, that's two-time first team All-Big 12 cornerback Jamell Fleming's specialty.

Fleming gives up plenty to McNutt in terms of physicality at 5'11" and 191, as most corners do, but his agility and ball skills are advanced enough that he's going to be able to play within five yards of the line of scrimmage with confidence -- especially if OU's pass rush is as effective as expected. Fleming excels in shuttle agility and should be able to make a play on most quick throws that go McNutt's way. Now, if McNutt makes a catch, he's strong enough that Fleming isn't guaranteed to make the tackle, which could spring a big gain or two on slants or any route that ends with Fleming tailing McNutt, but OU's going to be primarily concerned with disrupting Iowa's timing to the extent that those plays are minimized from the start. 

Keep up with all the latest on Oklahoma and Iowa at the Insight Bowl Pregame.

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Posted on: December 7, 2011 2:57 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 2:58 pm
 

CBSSports.com 2011 All-Big 12 Team

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part ofCBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the Big 12 conference.

Awards

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Robert Griffin, quarterback, Baylor

When it comes to choosing only one person to be the Offensive Player of the Year in a conference that features so many potent offenses as the Big 12, it's not easy. Or at least, it shouldn't be. Still, despite all the amazing offensive players in the Big 12 this season, the choice here was pretty clear for me. Robert Griffin set an NCAA record with his 192.3 efficiency rating this season, all while throwing for 3,998 yards and 36 touchdowns compared to only 6 interceptions. No one player was more important to his team this season than Griffin was, and he'll likely be adding a Heisman Trophy to his collection soon enough.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Frank Alexander, defensive line, Oklahoma

There were a few other players I considered for this like Iowa State's A.J. Klein and Texas A&M's Sean Porter, but in the end I went with Alexander. He was a force on the defensive line for one of the conference's best defenses all season long. Alexander finished the season leading the Big 12 in tackles for loss with 18, and was tied with Porter for most sacks in the conference with 8.5.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Quandre Diggs, defensive back, Texas

This was between Diggs and Kansas State's Tyler Lockett for me, but I went with Diggs since Lockett missed the final three weeks of the season. I also went with Diggs because he deserves the honor, picking off 3 passes and breaking up another 13 while making 46 tackles for the Longhorns in 2011.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Bill Snyder, Kansas State

This was extremely tough, as I mulled between Snyder, Mike Gundy and Art Briles for a while. In the end I went with Snyder because I'm still amazed by what he's now done twice in Manhattan. I had a feeling before the season began that Kansas State would be better than we thought, but I didn't see a 10-2 season and a near berth in a BCS bowl being possible. So because of that I have to give the nod to Snyder.

All-Big 12 Offense

QUARTERBACK

Robert Griffin, Baylor

He was my offensive player of the year, so he's my selection for quarterback here as well. Though I'd be remiss if I didn't give a tip of my non-existent cap to Brandon Weeden and Collin Klein.

RUNNING BACKS

Terrance Ganaway, Baylor and Henry Josey, Missouri

When it comes to the Baylor offense, Griffin and the passing game get a lot of credit, but Ganaway is what helps make that passing attack even more dangerous. When you have a running back who rushes for a Big 12-best 1,347 yards and 16 touchdowns, defenses can't just drop back into coverage and take away your passing game. Ganaway's presence gives Baylor its balance. As for Henry Josey, he finished the season averaging more yards per game than any other Big 12 running back and would have led the conference in rushing yards if not for a knee injury against Texas that cost him the last few weeks of the season. Still, 1,168 yards in 10 games and over 8 yards a carry will get you here injury or not.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Kendall Wright, Baylor and Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

Too many deserving receivers to choose from, but I went with Wright and Blackmon. Somebody had to be on the receiving end of all those Robert Griffin passes, and Wright was the most popular target. He led the conference with 1,572 receiving yards and had 13 touchdowns. Only one receiver finished the year with more receptions and touchdowns than Wright, and that was Oklahoma State's Blackmon. He came into the season with enormous expectations considering what he did in 2010, and though he didn't match those numbers, 113 receptions for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns is one hell of a letdown. Also, honorable mention to Ryan Broyles who had his senior season cut short and Texas A&M's Ryan Swope.

TIGHT END

Michael Egnew, Missouri

This wasn't that hard of a decision since Egnew led all Big 12 tight ends in receptions (47), yards (484), and was tied in touchdowns (3). Egnew was a reliable target for James Franklin all season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Grant Garner, Oklahoma State; Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State; Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma, Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State, Jeremiah Hatch, Kansas

No matter what kind of scheme you use, there are no great offenses without great offensive lines, which means the Big 12 had plenty to choose from. Trying to pare a long list down to five was not easy, but these are the guys who stood out to me the most all season.

All-Big 12 Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

Frank Alexander, Oklahoma; Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma; Ray Kibble, Kansas State; Alex Okafor, Texas

If you're an offensive lineman and you look across the line of scrimmage to see these four men in your face, you know you are going to be in for a long day. Whether getting to the quarterback or stuffing the run, all four of these lineman had their names called quite often this season.

LINEBACKERS

Arthur Brown, Kansas State; A.J. Klein, Iowa State; Sean Porter, Texas A&M

While Porter was tied for the Big 12 lead with 8.5 sacks, Klein was a tackling machine for the Cyclones with 101 tackles and also proved useful in coverage. Then there's Arthur Brown who, in my opinion, may be the best all-around linebacker in the conference. Whether stopping the run, in pass coverage, or just being wherever he needs to be to make a big play. Kansas' Steven Johnson and Texas' Emmanuel Acho also deserve a mention here.

SECONDARY

Nigel Malone, Kansas State; Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma; Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State, E.J. Gaines, Missouri

If you're a cornerback or a safety at a Big 12 school, you are going to be tested week in and week out. There's no way around it, and some plays you're going to get beat, as it happens to everybody. Still, more often than not, these were the four defensive backs whom I saw making the plays their defenses needed them to make this season.

SPECIALISTS

PK Randy Bullock, Texas A&M; P Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State; Returner Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

I could have gone with Quinn Sharp for both punter and placekicker as he performed both duties for Oklahoma State this season, and performed extremely well in both jobs. I decided to go with Bullock however as he was called on more often than Sharp to put points on the board and did so at the same rate. Then there's Tyler Lockett who was one of the more exciting returners in the conference this season, with two kickoffs returned for touchdowns. He just slightly edged out Texas' Fozzy Whittaker.
Posted on: August 16, 2011 12:10 pm
 

CBSSports.com Preseason All-Big 12 Team

Posted by Tom Fornelli

As part of the CBSSports.com season preview, here are my choices for the Preseason All-Big 12 team.

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Landry Jones, Junior, Oklahoma

This is the rather obvious choice, as while there are some good quarterbacks in the Big 12, there's only one who plays for the team many see as a favorite to win the national title, and one whose name comes up in the Heisman Trophy discussion. That would be Landry Jones, and he deserves the hype. In his first two seasons with the Sooners, Jones has thrown for 7,916 yards, 64 touchdowns and only 26 interceptions. 

Also watch for: Though he didn't claim the starting job until half the season had passed, Ryan Tannehill was a big part of Texas A&M's strong finish in 2010. There's also the supremely talented Robert Griffin III at Baylor, and you can't forget about Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State.

RUNNING BACK

Cyrus Gray, Senior, Texas A&M

While the Aggies deployed a two-headed monster at running back last season, Cyrus Gray was the most productive of the bunch. Gray rushed for 1,133 yards in 2010 and had 12 touchdowns. I wouldn't count on seeing Gray's production drop off at all as he enters his final season in College Station.

Roy Finch, Sophomore, Oklahoma

Finch didn't get a lot of playing time last season, but now that DeMarco Murray has moved on, the speedy back is going to see a lot of action this season, and in an offense as potent as Oklahoma's, that means we're likely to see some big numbers from the little man.

Also watch for: Christine Michael was part of Texas A&M's dynamic duo with Cyrus Gray last season, and he's going to have a big role in 2011 as well. There's also Eric Stephens at Texas Tech who could open some eyes with Tommy Tuberville implementing a more balanced attack and five returning starters on the offensive line. There's also Bryce Brown at Kansas State, and if Brown can live up to all the hype he had coming out of high school, then he may end up being the best back in the entire conference. Texas will be hoping that Malcolm Brown can be the feature back it's been looking for as well.

WIDE RECEIVER

Justin Blackmon, Junior, Oklahoma State

It's going to be hard for Justin Blackmon to match his 2010 numbers in 2011, but the fact is that his production was so insane last year, that he won't have to. Take away 500 yards and 5 touchdowns from his total last year and Blackmon still finishes with 1,282 yards and 15 touchdowns. The craziest thing of all, however, is if he surpasses last year's numbers, nobody will be all that surprised either.

Ryan Broyles, Senior, Oklahoma

Broyles could have left for the NFL last year, but he decided to return for another season in Norman and Landry Jones couldn't be happier about it. Broyles is coming off his second consecutive 1,000-yard season with at least 14 touchdowns, and a third straight year with those numbers is likely on its way.

Also watch for: The Big 12 is not hurting for strong wide receivers. While Broyles and Blackmon will get the most attention, Kenny Stills and Josh Cooper are excellent second options for their respective squads. Then there's Kendall Wright at Baylor, Ryan Swope and Jeff Fuller at Texas A&M, T.J. Moe at Missouri, and don't forget about Mike Davis at Texas.

TIGHT END

Michael Egnew, Senior, Missouri

Egnew is listed as a tight end, but realistically, he plays more like a wide receiver. Egnew caught 90 passes for 762 yards last year with five touchdowns, and he should see plenty of balls coming his way again this year as James Franklin looks to fill Blaine Gabbert's shoes.

Also watch for: While wide receiver catch most of the balls in the Big 12, there are some solid tight ends. Keep an eye on Oklahoma's James Hanna, Nehemiah Nicks with Texas A&M and Tim Biere at Kansas.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Center Ben Habern, Junior, Oklahoma

After redshirting in 2008, Habern has started 24 games at center for the Sooners over the last two seasons. He led Oklahoma with 123 knockdowns in 2010, including 16 against Colorado and was an honorable mention on the All-Big 12 team last season.

Guard, Lonnie Edwards, Senior, Texas Tech

Edwards is a key part of the Texas Tech offensive line that returns every starter this season. He'll play an even larger role this season as Texas Tech will likely run more than we've seen in the past. The 6-foot-4 320 pounder has started 23 games in Lubbock and was an All-Big 12 second team selection in 2010.

Guard, Lane Taylor, Junior, Oklahoma State

Taylor is the most experience member of the Oklahoma State offensive line, as he was the only returning starter in 2010. He's made 24 consecutive starts for the Cowboys, and aside from keeping Brandon Weeden off his back, Taylor was an first team academic Big 12 selection as well.

Tackle, Levy Adcock, Senior, Oklahoma State

They don't come much bigger than Adcock, and the 6-foot-6 322-pound tackle used his size awfully well in 2010. Adcock was a first-team All-Big 12 selection by both the coaches and the AP last season (a unanimous selection by the AP) after winning the starting job in August last year and never letting it go.

Tackle, Kelechi Osemele, Senior, Iowa State

Oh wait, they do come bigger than Adcock. Osemele checks in at 6-foot-6 and 347 pounds. Osemele got his start playing both guard and tackle in 2008 but moved to left tackle full time in 2009 and hasn't moved since, starting 30 straight games. This will be a name you hear called early in the NFL draft next spring.

Also watch for: Offensive lineman may spend most of their time living in anonymity and working as a unit, but Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel and Oklahoma State's Grant Garner are a couple other names you should get familiar with. Missouri's Elvis Fisher definitely would have made the list if not for his season-ending knee injury.

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Frank Alexander, Senior, Oklahoma

Alexander only started in nine games for the Sooners last season, but still managed to finish second on the team in tackles for loss (13) and sacks (7). In other words, he spends a lot of his time in backfields disrupting plays before they even get a chance to start.

DE Brad Madison, Junior, Missouri

Madison had a break out season in 2010 and proved to be one of the top playmakers on Missouri's defensive line. Madison ended the season leading the Tigers defense in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (11).  He was named to the All-Big 12 second team for his efforts, and now that he'll be replacing Aldon Smith his name is one that many opposing quarterbacks will have drilled into their brains as they prepare to face Missouri.

DT Kheeston Randall, Senior, Texas

An anchor on the defensive line for the Longhorns, Randall was an honorable mention for the All-Big 12 last season. This year I believe he'll be moving up the ladder and having an even bigger impact.  Randall finished second on the team with 13 tackles for loss in 2010, and also had a big impact on special teams, blocking two kicks.

DT Tony Jerod-Eddie, Senior, Texas A&M

In Texas A&M's 3-4 defense, Jerod-Eddie sees a lot of time at defensive end, but he's a defensive tackle in purpose. Think of Marcell Dareus at Alabama last season.  While Jerod-Eddie doesn't spend a lot of time in the backfield blowing up plays, he uses his size and strength to stuff the run at the point of attack and allow Aggie linebackers to flow freely to the ball.

Also watch for: Oklahoma's Ronnell Lewis only started the final four games for the Sooners last season, but he was incredibly productive in those four games. Starting all season could see him put up some ridiculous numbers. Jacqueis Smith of Missouri combines with Madison to give the Tigers a big push on the edges.

LINEBACKERS

Jake Knott, Junior, Iowa State

There weren't many plays run against the Iowa State defense last season in which Jake Knott wasn't in on the tackle. He led the conference with 130 tackles last season and was a first-team All-Big 12 selection because of it. He'll be bringing that same nose for the football back to the Iowa State defense this season, and though he broke his arm in spring camp, he should be good to go when the season starts.

Garrick Williams, Senior, Texas A&M

Williams tallied 112 tackles in 2010, and now that Michael Hodges and Von Miller are no longer in College Station, he'll be playing an even larger role in 2011. I'm not sure Williams will be able to completely fill Von Miller's shoes in the Aggie defense, but he may end up being just as important to the defense as Miller was.

Keenan Robinson, Senior, Texas

Robinson was all over the place for the Longhorns in 2010. He finished the season with 113 tackles, 2 for a loss, and also had 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries and a touchdown. Oh, and he's also a standout on special teams. He is literally all over the field on defense, and he's poised for another big season in 2011.

Also watch for: It was hard to pick just three linebackers in this conference, as there are plenty of other good options. Names like A.J. Klein (Iowa State), Arthur Brown (Kansas State), Caleb Lavey (Oklahoma State), Emmanuel Acho (Texas), Sean Porter (Texas A&M), Zaviar Gooden (Missouri) and Huldon Tharp (Kansas) are some of those options. Also, if it weren't for an injury that is going to keep him out for eight weeks, Oklahoma's Travis Lewis would have been an easy selection to the team. However, due to that injury, Lewis' replacement Corey Nelson is another name to watch out for.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB Jamell Fleming, Senior, Oklahoma

Big 12 quarterbacks will test Jamell Fleming at their own risk in 2011. In his first full season as a starter last year Fleming had 5 interceptions, and proved himself quite the playmaker in the Oklahoma secondary. He's also not afraid to create some contact, tallying 71 tackles with 8.5 for a loss.  He's a very good player in what may be the best secondary the Big 12 has.

CB Coryell Judie, Senior, Texas A&M

Judie finished second in the Big 12 in interceptions last season behind Fleming with 4.  He also broke up 4 passes and made 57 tackles for the Aggies. His impact is also felt on special teams, as he proved to be one of the most explosive kick returners in the conference last season, averaging over 30 yards a return with 2 touchdowns.

S Markelle Martin, Senior, Oklahoma State

This is not a man that wide receivers want to have a rendevous with over the middle of the football field, as Martin can bring the wood with the best of them.  What makes Martin more dangerous, though, is that he improved his coverage skills in 2010 and picked off three passes. He's the type of safety that can separate you from the ball physically, or just take it away from you in the air.

S Tony Jefferson, Sophomore, Oklahoma

2010 may have been Jefferson's first season of college ball, but you couldn't tell by watching him play. The Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year started 9 games for the Sooners in 2010 and finished the season with 65 tackles (7 for a loss) with 2 sacks, 2 interceptions and 7 passes broken up. I expect those numbers to improve in 2011 as this kid is only beginning to tap into his potential.

Also watch for: Oklahoma's Demontre Hurst could have been on my first team and given the Sooners secondary three of the four spots, but just because he didn't doesn't mean he's somebody quarterbacks should test too often. Keep your eyes on Blake Gideon (Texas), Trent Hunter (Texas A&M), Leonard Johnson (Iowa State) and Prince Kent (Baylor) too.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Grant Ressel, Senior, Missouri

P Quinn Sharp, Junior, Oklahoma State

KR Coryell Judie, Senior, Texas A&M

PR Ryan Broyles, Senior, Oklahoma

Posted on: February 25, 2011 4:11 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2011 4:17 pm
 

Oklahoma CB Jamell Fleming not enrolled in school

Posted by Chip Patterson

Oklahoma has been in headlines this week with their self-reported secondary violations caused by excessive offseason workouts.  So I guess they figured that everyone would be distracted when the Sooners dropped a suspicious note about starting cornerback Jamell Fleming on Friday.  The athletic department issued a release stating that Fleming is not currently enrolled at Oklahoma and will not be participating in spring practices.

"We're hopeful that Jamell can work through the things he's facing and resume his college career," head coach Bob Stoops said in the release.  The schools did not offer any other details on Fleming's academic or athletic status, though the star cornerback does have one year of football eligibility remaining.

Fleming led the Sooners with five interceptions in 2010, and his 14 pass breakups were among the most in the nation.  With Oklahoma entering the 2011 season as an early Big 12 (and possibly national) title favorite, this could be a big blow for the Sooners.  The situation is referred to as a "personal matter," so his return to the field in the fall is still possible.  However, the phrase "personal matter" could encompass any number of off-field issues.  When Fliming resumes his college career, the extent of the "issues" will likely impact whether he returns to the field.  If he does not, Fleming's promising career with the Sooners may be ending just as fast as it started.      

Posted on: January 2, 2011 2:38 am
 

Bowl Grades: Fiesta Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Oklahoma outpaced Connecticut en route to a 48-20 Fiesta Bowl victory.

Oklahoma

Offense: Landry Jones set an Oklahoma bowl passing record with 433 yards through the air, and he was able to find wideouts Ryan Broyles and Cameron Kenney (both of whom had over 150 receiving yards) without much trouble. Broyles' touchdown catch was the type of play that exemplified his All-American season: an absolutely brilliant display of athleticism. DeMarco Murray wasn't a gamebreaker, but his 25 carries for 93 yards kept the chains moving -- he accounted for eight of Oklahoma's 27 first downs. Jones did throw a pick-six and Broyles coughed up a fumble at the end of an otherwise brilliant punt return, but those were relatively minor concerns. Grade: B+

Defense: Giving up 20 points is sort of a bummer, right? Thing of it is, though, UConn scored one touchdown on the aforementioned pick-six, and the other came on a kickoff return. Also, Jamell Fleming and Tony Jefferson each took an interception to the house in the second half, pushing the game out of reach for UConn. So essentially, the Oklahoma defense outscored the Huskies' offense 14-6. That's a win. Grade: A

Coaching: Well, Bob Stoops finally got that BCS bowl losing streak off his back. Shame that it had to come against such a comically overmatched opponent, but that's probably of limited concern to Stoops and the Sooners. It's hard to fault Stoops for any play calls or in-game decisions, except for that fake field goal early in the fourth quarter. Everyone in the world knows Stoops doesn't have a great deal of confidence in kicker Jimmy Stevens, who doesn't have a field goal of longer than 41 yards this year, so when OU lined up for a field goal on 4th and 7 at the UConn 30, nobody really expected a kick to go up. Further, Jones passed for 8.8 yards per attempt on the day; let the kid make another play!  Grade: B-

Connecticut

Offense: It's painfully obvious that UConn quarterback Zach Frazer doesn't have much in the way of help at receiver. The senior QB had rather pedestrian numbers again tonight (19-39, 223 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs), but several of Frazer's throws were dropped, tipped, or aimed somewhere other than where the receivers ended up going. Even on Frazer's two pick-sixes, both passes hit his receivers in the hands before being deflected up and into a Sooner's hands. It was sort of painful to watch. Jordan Todman did rush for 121 yards after a slow start, however, and Anthony Sherman and Ryan Griffin were decent targets between the 20s. Grade: D+

Defense: The Huskies' main highlight on defense was the "look what I found" interception score by Dwayne Gratz in the second quarter that first got UConn on the board, but that was pretty much it. Landry Jones found open receivers nearly every time he dropped back to pass, and Oklahoma was only forced into four punts in 14 possessions on the day. Grade: D

Coaching: Randy Edsall 's first foray into the BCS bowl world didn't go well, but that was pretty much a given considering the matchup. Connecticut's execution was sufficiently bad that it's hard to pin much on Edsall's playcalling, and the Huskies at least made Oklahoma work for its victory; this was still a 14-point game with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. It's hard to say whether Edsall will ever make it back to a BCS game -- his odds are probably better at a stronger school than UConn -- but he didn't look bad today. Grade: B

Final Grade

Look, nobody outside of Storrs, CT and whatever lair BCS president Bill Hancock resides in wanted this game to happen. The final score was pretty predictable, even though UConn stuck around for a little longer than most people would have expected. It would have been great to see this high-powered Oklahoma offense face a real defense, like that of Stanford or TCU or Boise State . But the rules are what they are, and this is what we get because of them: an afterthought of a Fiesta Bowl. Connecticut didn't belong in a BCS game, everybody knew it, and they proved why today. Can we really not get an "automatic unless you're a four-loss team" clause in the BCS language? Really? This game's very existence was unacceptable. Grade: F

Posted on: December 31, 2010 8:17 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2010 8:18 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Fiesta Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The Basics: Oklahoma (11-2) vs. UConn (8-4), Jan. 1, 8:30pm ET

Why You Should Watch: If you like those nature programs where a pack of lionesses hunt down and ruthlessly slaughter a gazelle, this is totally the bowl game for you. Probably. Possibly. Not if you go by Bob Stoops' prior track record in BCS games, admittedly; he and his Sooners have lost their last five. And that's the real reason you have to tune in, no matter how lopsided a matchup this might appear to be. If a UConn team that is totally overmatched on paper -- remember that the Huskies lost to Temple, were shut out by Louisville, and won the Big East despite being outgained by some 600 total yards in league play -- can pull off what might be the upset of the season, or even come close, Stoops might hitch the first plane to Gainesville just to avoid the tomato storm that would await him on his return to Norman. It's not likely, but like the first round of the NCAA Tournament in hoops, the potential is tantalizing enough that it's still a game you have to watch. Just know that no one will blame you for making other plans for the third and fourth quarters.

Keys to Victory for Oklahoma: The biggest one for the Sooners is pretty simple: just don't screw it up. Stoops' team has overwhelming matchup advantages all over the field, and if they can merely avoid making the handful of catastrophic mistakes that would keep the Huskies in the game, they should cruise. Start with the passing game, where Oklahoma will feature the nation's No. 4 air attack at 337 yards-per-game, one headed by quarterback Landry Jones and featuring one of the FBS's most dangerous receivers in overlooked All-American (if there can be such a thing) Ryan Broyles. They'll be facing a low-wattage UConn secondary that was shredded by the likes of Michigan (8.5 yards an attempt), Rutgers (11.4), and Pitt (7.9). If the Panthers' Tino Sunseri can do that kind of damage (he finished 20-of-28 for more than 220 yards) against the Huskies, there's no telling what Jones and Broyles might do. It doesn't get much better in the run game, where 1,100-yard All-Big 12 rusher DeMarco Murray will face a young front seven ranked 56th in the country in rush defense -- lower even than the Huskies' pass defense. If the Sooners don't turn the ball over (and their 16 total giveaways were the fewest in the Big 12), they should put up major yards and points without too much effort. 

Defensively, though, the Sooners aren't quite as overpowering; they rank outside the top 50 in total, passing, and rushing defense. But they do have a penchant for big plays, having forced 30 opponent turnovers this year, good for the fourth-highest total in the country. The ball-hawking secondary tag-team of senior safety Quinton Carter and junior corner Jamell Fleming each picked off four passes, with a big assist to Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Jeremy Beal. The senior defensive end wreaked havoc on opposing lines all season, recording 8.5 sacks and 18 tackles-for-loss. If Beal can force the Huskies into repeated third-and-longs or the Sooners' sticky fingers can negate a UConn drive or two with turnovers, the underdog won't stand a chance.

Keys to Victory for UConn: To actually win this game, UConn's going to have to catch a ton of breaks, and the bigger impact those breaks have, the better. Which is why they're going to need to make the game as low-possession, as short, and as break-dependent as possible, and that means a heavy dose of Jordan Todman. The nation's second-leading rusher, Todman gained 1,574 yards this season on an impressive 5.2 yards per-carry. Combine his toughness with a veteran line featuring a pair of first-team All-Big East performers in jumbo junior tackle Mike Ryan (333 pounds) and equally jumbo senior guard Zach Hurd (325 pounds), and you get what might be the Huskies' only real matchup advantage as they go up against a Sooner front that's allowed seven different teams to average 4.5 yards a carry or better. If Todman and the big Huskie front can grind out some big first downs, they'll take loads of pressure off the entire rest of the team: wobbly quarterback Zach Fraser (5.4 yards per-attempt for the season, 5-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio), a front seven that could be ground down by the Sooners' up-tempo attack if left on the field very long, a secondary that simply can't be allowed to face Jones, Broyles, and Co. with the burden of trying to salvage the game on their shoulders. For Uconn, it all starts with Todman and the line.

The good news is that if that start can keep the Huskies close going into the fourth quarter, they've shown an impressive ability to finish, winning tight games against West Virginia, Pitt, and South Florida with key late drives and clutch kicking from big-legged All-Big East kicker Dave Teggart. There's also little doubt that should the game stay competitive deep into the second half, all the pressure -- not only from this game, but from Stoops' previous BCS failures and Oklahoma's role as the overwhelming favorite -- will be on the Sooners, It won't be easy to get there, but if Todman can get rolling and the defense (notably all-league defensive end Kendall Reyes) can play far enough over its head to keep the Huskies in it, it might be the other team that makes the single game-deciding mistake.

The Fiesta Bowl is like: an inspirational underdog sports movie recast -- probably -- as a gritty indie drama. We've got a lovable, plucky underdog that's scraped and clawed to get its one shot at Goliath, a Goliath that by all rights should pound it into submission. (Big East or not, the Huskies are a far bigger underdog to Oklahoma than Boise State was four years ago in this same game.) If this was Rocky or The Mighty Ducks or something similar, the Fiesta would end with UConn executing some crazy trick play at the final whistle to pull out a shocking victory. Unfortunately for fans of those movies, it's far more likely that the Huskie heroes will be taught a cruel-but-authentic lesson about their inability to deal with powerful forces beyond their control. The critics might applaud if Oklahoma pulls away by three scores in the second quarter, but we're not expecting a crowd pleaser here.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com