This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the University of Connecticut Huskies taking on the University of Oklahoma Sooners in the 41st annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Connecticut, 8-4, 5-2 Big East, Randy Edsall’s Huskies captured the Big East title with five straight wins to close out the 2010 campaign and earned their first ever BCS Bowl. Edsall, who was the 2010 Big East Coach of the Year, is no real secret on how he likes for his team to move the ball as they relied heavily on the rushing attack. Edsall exploits of that part of the game because he has junior tailback Jordan Todman, Big East Offensive Player of the Year, who rushed for 1,574 yards and 14 touchdowns to average of 143.09 ypg.
The passing attack was lead by redshirt senior Zach Frazer who only completed 52.7 percent of his throws, for 1,202 yards and 5 touchdowns. Frazer often looked into the direction of Michael Smith as he had 42 receptions for 595 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Oklahoma, 11-2, 6-2 Big 12, Bob Stoops Sooners won their last four games to capture the Big 12 title. The Sooners like to air the ball out and with sophomore quarterback Landry Jones who has thrown for 4,289 yards and 35 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Jones won the Sammy Baugh Award which is awarded to college football’s top passer as he completed 65.3 percent of his throws.
He often looked down field for one of the best college receivers in Ryan Broyles this season who caught 118 passes for 1,452 yards and 13 touchdowns. Tailback DeMarco Murray had a good year despite the Sooners tendencies to pass first as he rushed for 1,121 yards and 14 touchdowns.
This marks the first time these two teams have met.
PICK: University of Oklahoma Sooners
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features University of Connecticut Huskies taking on the University of South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium.
The Connecticut Huskies have a chance to earn a spot in a BCS Bowl game this weekend, as they take on the South Florida Bulls in Big East action at Raymond James Stadium.
The Huskies appeared destined for a sub par campaign following a 3-4 start that included consecutive losses to begin Big East play. After losing 26-0 to Louisville however, UConn rallied and ripped through the toughest part of its schedule. A current four-game win streak, which includes a 38-17 triumph of Cincinnati last weekend, now has Randy Edsall’s squad in position to take the Big East title. At 4-2 within the conference, UConn is tied with both Pittsburgh and West Virginia for first place. Since the Huskies defeated both Pitt and WVU, all they need to do is win this weekend to earn the league’s automatic bid into the Bowl Championship Series.
Jordan Todman ran for 175 yards and three TDs on 31 carries to lead UConn past Cincinnati last weekend. It was another big effort from Todman, who has carried the team at times with 1,481 yards and 14 TDs on the ground. He has helped the team overcome the loss of starting quarterback Cody Endres, who was dismissed in late October. Zach Frazer stepped in as the new starter and he has done a nice job managing the offense, passing for 1,090 yards with just three INTs in 193 attempts. Last weekend, Frazer passed for 121 yards with a TD and INT in the win over Cincinnati.
The Huskies gave up 399 total yards to Cincinnati last weekend, but compensated by forcing five turnovers, including four INTs. This has been the case all season long, as UConn has recorded 26 takeaways to help overcome the 355.5 total ypg the defense is allowing.
Standing in the Huskies way is a USF club that has played well of late, winning four of five outings, and that includes a 23-20 overtime triumph of rival Miami-Florida this past weekend.
Bobby Eveld’s one-yard TD run with two minutes left in regulation forced overtime and Demetris Murray’s one-yard score in the extra session gave USF a 23-20 win over Miami last weekend. Murray scored twice on the ground and finished with 42 yards on 13 carries, while Moise Plancher led the way with 101 yards on 24 totes. Plancher and Murray have combined for 1,153 yards on the ground this season, helping USF to average 150.5 rushing ypg. As for Eveld, he entered the game after halftime due to an injury to starter B.J. Daniels. He completed 8-of-15 pass attempts for 120 yards in addition to his crucial score on the ground. Daniels, who has 13 total TDs on the year, is listed as questionable with a quadricep injury, so Eveld could be in line for the start this weekend.
Defensively, the Bulls have been steady this season and are holding opponents to 19 ppg and 327.6 total ypg.
The head-to-head series, USF holds a 4-3 edge over UConn.
PICK: University of Connecticut Huskies
This game goes down on the ESPNU network and it features University of Connecticut Huskies taking on Syracuse University Orange in the Carrier Dome.
The Huskies have put together back-to-back wins after losing two straight outings and dropping below .500. On November 11th, the team stole a 30-28 victory from the Pittsburgh Panthers at home, drawing the squad that much closer to make the cut and becoming bowl eligible again.
Zach Frazer converted 9-of-20 passes for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week against the Pittsburgh Panthers at home, but it was really the play of running back Jordan Todman that drew the most attention as he generated a game-high 222 yards on 37 carries for the hosts in the close call. It also helped that Dave Teggart was there to bail out the offense when it stalled, knocking through all three of his field goal attempts on the night. Except for the Louisville game when he tallied just 80 yards on 19 carries, Todman has rushed for at least 100 yards in every game he has played in 2010 and with his big day last week he now ranks first in the conference and second in the entire nation with 147 ypg. For Frazer at quarterback, the outlook has not been as great, considering he has the passing attack generating a mere 156.7 ypg this season and that has the Huskies ranked eighth in the league and 107th nationally.
Speaking of bowl eligible, that’s where the Orange find themselves after taking down once-mighty Rutgers, on the road no less, last weekend in a 13-10 final. The victory was the third in the last four games for Syracuse. By no means was it pretty, but the Orange did what they needed to do in order to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2004 by slipping past the Rutgers Scarlet Knights over the weekend by a field goal.
Quarterback Ryan Nassib got the ball rolling for the visitors as he hit Antwon Bailey with a four-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter and from there the defense took over. Ross Krautman added field goals of 48 and 24 yards in the third and four quarters, respectively, to tie the game and eventually win it for the Orange. Nassib, who has at least one touchdown pass in every game this season for the Orange, is finally getting a chance to show what he can do after sitting on the bench and watching Greg Paulus take most of the snaps last year. By no means is Nassib a star signal-caller, but at least he’s not making the kind of mistakes that can cost a team too greatly. The scoring offense for the squad is currently ranked 84th in the country with 23 ppg.
Head coach Doug Marrone’s defense is averaging better than two and a half sacks per game, ranking them third in the conference and 19th in the nation. That sort of pressure has allowed the team to limit foes to only 297.1 ypg overall, second-best in the conference and 9th in the nation entering play this week. Give a good part of the credit to the pass defense which has held opponents to just 168.3 ypg this season for 11th nationally.
As far as the all-time series is concerned, both teams have claimed three wins in the previous six encounters.
PICK: University of Connecticut Huskies
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features University of Pittsburgh Panthers taking on the University of Connecticut Huskies at Rentschler Field.
Pittsburgh is looking to go 4-0 in league play for the second straight season, and is riding on a three-game winning streak in which they outscored the opposition 106-38. This past weekend the Panthers had no trouble against Louisville, as coach Dave Wannstedt’s squad grabbed a 20-3 victory over the Cardinals.
The Panthers are not explosive offensively, but the team possesses a very balanced attack that is averaging a healthy 29 ppg. Coach Wannstedt has two solid options out of the backfield in Ray Graham and Dion Lewis, and both players have paced Pitt’s ground game, which is churning out a respectable 156.2 ypg.
The rushing attack has been successful because Tino Sunseri has done a terrific job passing the ball. Through eight games, Pitt’s quarterback has completed 65.9 percent of his throws, and although he has just 1,672 yards, he comes into this contest with 12 touchdowns against 4 interceptions.
While the offense has done a commendable job, it has been the play of the defense for Pittsburgh, that has the Panthers leading the Big East. Coach Wannstedt’s unit is one of the best in the nation, and is currently holding opponents to just 19 ppg. Pitt came into the season with a commitment to stop the run, and so far the Panthers have been outstanding in that area, limiting teams to a mere 93.8 ypg on just 3.0 yards per carry.
This unit has been slightly suspect against the pass however, as opponents are averaging 205.2 ypg through the air.
The Huskies snapped a two-game slide the last time they were in action, defeating West Virginia by a 16-13 margin in overtime. It was the first league win on the year for UConn, which is currently a perfect 4-0 at home this season.
Randy Edsall doesn’t have an evenly keeled offensive as Pitt, but they do possess a dangerous ground attack (174.8 ypg), that is led by one of the top running backs in the nation. Jordan Todman has suffered through some minor injuries this season, but that has not stopped the back from churning out 954 yards and nine scores in seven games.
However, Todman and the rushing attack has the pressure of carrying this offense, because so far Zach Frazer has been unable to produce under center. The quarterback has completed just 55.5 percent of his throws on the year and comes into this contest with only two touchdowns and 771 yards.
Inconsistent play has riddled this defensive unit, and Connecticut’s lackluster effort at times is a big reason for the team’s mediocre 4-4 mark. The Huskies have allowed 10 touchdowns through the air, and teams are enjoying 200.4 ypg against UConn in that area, but the real problem for this unit has come against the run, as teams are gashing UConn for 163.9 ypg.
The Panthers have won the last two meetings against Connecticut to even the series at three games apiece. However, at Rentschler Field, the Huskies own a slim 2-1 edge over Pitt.
PICK: University of Pittsburgh Panthers
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features West Virginia University Mountaineers taking on the University of Connecticut Huskies at Rentschler Field.
Head coach Bill Stewart will travel to Connecticut at 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big East after losing at home last weekend to Syracuse 19-14. The defeat snapped a 12 game home winning streak by West Virginia and knocked them from the national rankings. The Mountaineers success now and in the future rest on sophomore quarterback Gino Smith, 1536 yards 15 touchdowns 5 INTs, who is completing 65.9 percent of his throws. Smith still has the luxury of having senior running back Noel Devine, 626 yards 4 touchdowns, but he hasn’t been nearly as explosive as his past seasons.
The Mountaineers offense calls for a lot of quick slant routes for its receivers to run and that benefits sophomore Tavon Austin, 445 yards 3 touchdowns, and senior Jock Sanders, 370 yards 2 touchdowns, as they both have over 35 receptions on the year.
Defensively the Mountaineers have surrendered 7 passing touchdowns while coming up with 8 interceptions to rank 5th in the nation at being scored upon with just 13 points per game by its opponents. Junior defensive back Keith Tandy has recorded half of the team’s interceptions.
Head coach Randy Edsall has his Huskies ready for tonight’s matchup with a 3-4 overall record and 0-2 in conference play. The Huskies have a two game losing streak on their hands as they get ready for tonight, the latest being to Louisville in which they where shutout 26-0. Prior to last weekend’s game, junior Cody Endres, 471 yards 5 touchdowns, was suspended for the season following violations of school policies. Redshirt freshman Mike Box, 65 yards 1 INT, made his first career start under center but struggled and eventually was replaced by senior Zach Frazer, 605 yards 2 touchdowns 1 INT, who had begun the season as the starter.
Whomever does get the call this weekend the Huskies should get use to handing the ball off to junior Jordan Todman, 841 yards 8 touchdowns, as he is one of the top running backs around.
The UConn defense has trouble stopping the run but it does have senior linebacker Lawrence Wilson and his 78 tackles on the season to be on the lookout for.
West Virginia has won all previous six meetings between the two schools.
PICK: West Virginia University Mountaineers
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the University of Connecticut Huskies take on Rutgers University Scarlet Knights at Rutgers Stadium.
Head coach Randy Edsall takes his Huskies to New Jersey for their first Big East game and with a 3-2 overall record. The Huskies have won back-to-back games with a recent win over SEC Vanderbilt, 40-21. The University of Connecticut real strength is in their running game where they are ranked 25th in the nation where they average 209.4 yards per game However they will have to do without the help of junior running back Robbie Fey, 269 yards 3 touchdowns, who is averaging 6.9 yards per carry in a backup role due to an injured hand.
The Huskies though will have their main option in the backfield in junior running back Jordan Todman, 638 yards 7 touchdowns, and his 6.5 ypc. Junior quarterback Cody Endres, 318 yards 4 touchdowns 1 INT, after replacing the ineffectiveness of senior quarterback Zach Frazer, 553 yards 2 touchdowns 1 INT. No matter who is throwing the ball they are looking for junior wide receiver Michael Smith, 378 yards 2 touchdowns, as the main target.
Edsall defense is lead by sophomore defensive end Jesse Joseph who has 4.5 sacks a forced fumble and 7.5 tackles for loss. The team as a whole has registered 13 sacks and has already come up with 9 interceptions. It’s not all good news with the Huskies defense as they surrender 161.8 yards per game against the run.
Head coach Greg Schiano is trying to rebound his team from back-to-back losses with both of them coming in front of the home fans. The Scarlet Knights are 2-2 overall and this is their first Big East game. Schiano will also have his hands full in making the decision of starting injured sophomore quarterback Tom Savage, 399 yards 1 touchdown 3 INTs, who is a game time decision with injured ribs. Savage was replaced by freshman quarterback Chas Dodd who went 13-29 for 176 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Whoever the Scarlet Knights put under center they will at least have sophomore running back Mohamed Sanu, 225 yards 3 touchdowns, who also is a dual threat in receiving with 21 receptions for 234 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns.
Defensively for Rutgers they have only allowed 80 ypg against the run and just 12 points per game which is 4th best in the nation.
Rutgers leads the all-time series 20-9 and that includes a 4-2 record against them in the Big East. The Scarlet Knights won last year against the Huskies 28-24 in a last minute thrill fest in East Hartford.
PICK: University of Connecticut Huskies
The 4th annual Papajohns.com Bowl will see the Connecticut Huskies of the Big East, who are making their fourth ever bowl game, take on the SEC South Carolina Gamecocks in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Gamecocks stormed out of the gates this season with five wins in their first six games, including four in a row. However, the team eventually hit the tough part of its SEC schedule and suffered losses in four of its next five matchups. This will be the second straight bowl game for South Carolina and the 15th overall in school history. Unfortunately the Gamecocks have not enjoyed much success, posting a mere 4-10 mark in those contests.
Steve Spurrier Gamecocks averaged just 21 ppg and are turning out 125.0 ypg on the ground on 3.7 yards per attempt. Leading the ground attack is Kenny Miles, but he has rushed for just 602 yards and one score, while Brian Maddox has contributed 305 yards and a team-best 5 rushing touchdowns. Stephen Garcia has 2,733 yards and 17 scores against 9 interceptions with his only top receiver being Alshon Jeffery who has 43 receptions for 735 yards and 6 touchdowns.
The reason South Carolina was so competitive this season is mainly due to the play of the defense, which held the opposition to just 20 ppg. The Gamecocks allowed just 137.0 ypg on the ground on a mere 3.8 yards per carry, and against the pass the team was even better, limiting opponents to just 167.7 ypg through the air. The defense is lead by ALL-SGE-NCAA Football Team member Eric Norwood who has 71 tackles and 11.5 that where for a loss as well as having 7 sacks on the season. His sack and tackle for a loss totals pushed him to become the all-time leader for South Carolina in both categories. Cliff Matthews collected 7 sacks as well while Shaq Wilson led the squad with 78 tackles.
The Huskies are not as seasoned when its comes to playing in the postseason, participating in just three bowls prior to this year’s contest. UConn is however, 2-1 in those games, and that includes a 38-20 victory over Buffalo in last year’s International Bowl. This year the Huskies had to overcome tragedy along with a grueling Big East schedule. The Huskies began the season with four wins in their first six games however, after that win the Huskies endured a tremendous loss when cornerback Jasper Howard was killed on campus. UConn stumbled through three straight losses but fortunately UConn won its last three contests.
The Huskies rumble into this contest averaging a stout 32 ppg, and the success is largely due to the team’s performance on the ground, as UConn is churning out 172.8 ypg. Out of the 44 touchdowns scored by this unit, 29 have come via the run. Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon formed a dangerous duo for the Huskies, as Todman amassed 1,152 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Dixon rumbled for 967 yards and 13 scores. The ground game overshadowed the team’s lack of success through the air, as UConn struggled to find consistency with its passing attack. Zach Frazer played in seven games this season and was nothing more than mediocre, completing just 54.3 percent of his throws for 1,354 yards. Frazer threw 9 touchdowns on the season but also tossed 9 interceptions. Marcus Easley was clearly the top target on the roster, finishing with 44 receptions, for 853 yards and eight TDs.
The play of the offense lightened the load for UConn’s defense that was inconsistent at times this year. The Huskies are allowing 25 ppg, surrendering 137.6 ypg on the ground and 244.8 ypg through the air as well as 17 touchdowns against this secondary. Lawrence Wilson was one of the top performers for this defense throughout the season with 136 tackles and 10 TFLs and Lindsey Witten had 13 TFLs and 11.5 sacks.
This will be the first-ever meeting between South Carolina and Connecticut on the gridiron.
PICK: University of Connecticut Huskies
The Cincinnati Bearcats will try to stay perfect in Saturday’s prime-time affair while avenging last year’s lopsided loss to Connecticut, which is still looking for its first victory since the death of cornerback Jasper Howard.
The Bearcats have prospered despite star quarterback Tony Pike reinjuring his forearm against South Florida on Oct. 15, with Zach Collaros stepping in and leading the team to easy victories over Louisville and Syracuse. Collaros often used his scrambling ability to go 22 for 28 for 295 yards and four touchdowns on the road against the Orange last Saturday, leading Cincinnati (8-0, 4-0 Big East) to a 28-7 win.
Considering Collaros has thrown seven touchdowns without an interception in two starts in place of Pike, the Bearcats have no reason to rush the return of their senior signal-caller, who led the team to the Orange Bowl last season and has thrown for multiple touchdowns in all six of his starts this year.
Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly spread no-huddle offense is scoring nearly 40 points per game has gotten most of the attention and boosted Cincinnati’s average margin of victory to almost four touchdowns, the team’s defense has also been impressive. The Bearcats’ last two opponents have combined for 17 points, and neither gained 300 total yards. The combination has led to the program’s best start since it began 9-0 in 1951 – a school record it can match with a win.
Cincinnati needs to keep winning, however, not only to maintain its hopes of reaching the BCS title game, but also to keep an inside track for a second straight Big East championship. Pittsburgh is also 4-0 in conference play, and the teams don’t meet until the regular-season finale Dec. 5.
Connecticut (4-4, 1-3) challenged the Panthers in Pittsburgh before losing 24-21 on a last-second field goal Oct. 10. That was another in a series of heartbreaking defeats for the Huskies, whose four losses have each come by four or fewer points.
Perhaps none was tougher to swallow than Saturday’s 28-24 home loss to Rutgers. After the Huskies took a three-point lead with 38 seconds left, Rutgers scored the game-winning touchdown moments later on an 81-yard pass.
After facing the death of one of their teammates, coach Randy Edsall Huskies play the remainder of the season without starting quarterback Cody Endres, who injured his shoulder against Rutgers.
Junior Zach Frazer replaced Endres on Saturday, going 21 for 46 for 333 yards and a touchdown and leading a fourth-quarter comeback, but he also threw three interceptions.
The Huskies have lost by double digits in all three of their previous visits to Nippert Stadium, where the Bearcats have won 10 straight and 20 of 22.
PICK: University of Cincinnati Bearcats