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Dimes' Keys To Beating The Huskies

Top Priority: Stop Todman

Jordan Todman, the Huskies' star running back, is perhaps Connecticut's most valuable player. He is their star running back, and he is second nationally in rushing yards per game (143.1), second nationally in rushing attempts (302), fourth nationally in total rushing yards (1574), and 18th nationally in rushing touchdowns (14). Clearly, winning the Fiesta Bowl will involve stopping Todman.

The Huskies were 3-4 at one point this season. The three victories were against weaker opponents (Texas Southern, Buffalo, Vanderbilt), and in the four losses Todman only carried the ball an average of 22 times. After that point, the Huskies have been undefeated - winning five straight. In those games, Todman carried the ball an average of 32 times, and found the end zone at approximately double the rate that he did in the Huskies four losses. NFL Draft Gurus put Todman in the top 5 collegiate running backs, despite his 5'9" height, which would probably peg him for a late 2nd round or early 3rd round pick if he decided to forego his senior season.

Get The UConn Offense Into 3rd Downs

One only needs to check the 3rd down conversion rate leader boards to see that the Huskies struggle on 3rd downs. They only convert 31.6% of the time on 3rd down and that qualifies them for 9th worst in the country, and the 3rd worst of any bowl team this year (only Washington and South Florida were worse), and the worst of any BCS bowl team in the last 5 years. This is not to mention that Oklahoma boasts the 14th best 3rd down defense in the country.

The trend becomes more apparent if you look at different players' split stats. Todman's worst down by yards per carry is 3rd down (4.24). Despite the short yardage, he only converts the first down 59% of the time on 3rd down and 3 or less to gain. He has only converted 16.7% of the 3rd downs longer than 3 yards for a 44.1% overall 3rd down conversion rate when he carries the ball.

When you look at QB Zach Frazier, you see that when he passes the Huskies convert for 1st downs about as frequently on first and second down as they do on 3rd down (25.3%). His passer rating is only 81.02 on 3rd down, by far his worst of any down. 

Protect The Football

This is really key. Oklahoma is tied for 6th best in the country at +1.08 turnovers per game, but Connecticut is immediately behind them at +1.00 turnovers per game. Both teams are most successful when they take care of the ball. Despite only having the 44th ranked pass defense, the Huskies have intercepted 19 passes, to only 13 passing touchdowns allowed. Their opponent passer rating is actually quite good at 111.39, 16th best in the country. Oklahoma and Connecticut also both force about 1.3 fumbles per game.

I think the main pressure in this regard will be on Landry Jones. He can't whittle away at the number of possessions OU has by throwing interceptions. The Sooners will also need Mossis Madu, who has been fumble prone, and Brennan Clay, who doesn't have a ton of game experience, to make sure they handle the ball with care.

We all know the OU defense has been fairly vulnerable to the big play, but UConn's defense takes some time to break down. Therefore, it is paramount that OU takes advantage of the possessions that they have. The Huskies are a disciplined football team. They only commit about 41.4 penalty yards per game, and their defense makes you earn points and avoid sloppy mistakes. OU will need to be sharp on offense, and that starts with Landry Jones.