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Fiesta Bowl

UCONN vs. Oklahoma

Betting Line: Oklahoma -16.5 o/u 55

1/1/11

**Note - Key Release was sent out a few weeks ago at UCONN +17

Remember the movie Rocky? Of course you do, you're a sports fan. In the movie, heavyweight champion Apollo Creed gives Rocky Balboa a shot at the title. The premise of the movie sort of reminds us of this year's Fiesta Bowl. The Oklahoma Sooners aren't quite the heavyweight champ, but they are Goliath to Connecticut's David. The Sooners are Apollo to the UCONN's Rocky. Can they pull off one of the biggest upsets in the history of bowl games? Can they cover the spread?

The line for this game opened with Oklahoma as a 17 point favorite and they have held steady since then. The wagering favors them 53% to 47% for Connecticut. The Sooners score 36.4 PPG compared to 26.9 for the Huskies. UCONN is a tad better defensively at 19.8 PPG to 21.9 PPG. Connecticut is also stronger ATS at 7-4 compared to 7-6 for the Sooners. The only common opponent for these teams is the Cincinnati Bearcats. Both defeated them, but Connecticut did a better job winning by a score of 37-17. The Sooners won 31-29 and were helped tremendously by mistakes of the other team.

The Oklahoma Sooners offense is one of the most underrated in the country. They can stack up against anyone. HC Bob Stoops has got hogs up front protecting what is one of the best young QBs in the nation in Landry Jones. The sophomore has passed for 4,289 yards and 35 TDs this year. Those stats are absolutely incredible! His top target is junior WR Ryan Broyles. He has 118 catches for 1,452 yards and 13 TDs.

Working out of the backfield is the hard to tackle senior RB DeMarco Murray. He has carried the ball 257 times this year for 1,121 yards and 14 TDs. That's an average of 4.4 YPC. The Sooners rank 17th in the nation in Points For and 4th in Passing Yards. They have problems with strong defenses though. Missouri held them to 27 points, Texas A&M only allowed 19 points and Nebraska held them to 23 points. The UCONN defense is one of the best they will see this year. If the Sooners don't take them seriously they will pay a hefty price. 

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We have established that the Connecticut defense can keep up with Oklahoma's rock solid offense, but can the Huskies score points? That's a tough question to answer. They will rely heavily on RB Jordan Toddman. The junior has 302 carries for 1,574 yards and 14 TDs this year. He was shut down against South Florida in the season finally, getting only 93 yards from 33 carries. It's safe to say he was a bit fatigued, but let's not take anything away from a strong Bulls defense. Prior to that game he scored 3 times against Cincinnati and racked up 175 yards. He had 190 yards against Vanderbilt and 222 against Pittsburgh. Toddman will get the ball moving without a doubt. He needs QB Zach Frazer to help open things up with the pass. The Notre Dame transfer hasn't played well this year. He can make up for that and go out with a big bang if he plays well here though.

The Connecticut defense ranks 23rd in the country in Points Against at 19.8 PPG. Some of their best efforts include holding Cincinnati to 17, West Virginia to 13 and shutting out Louisville. It's important to key in on their great effort against Cincinnati at home. The Bearcats, while not very good this year, have a passing attack somewhat similar to Oklahoma's. Bettors should know UCONN has stopped the pass in the past.

Bob Stoop's Oklahoma defense is every bit as good as UCONN's. They rank 35th in Points Against at 21.9 PPG. They were able to hold Baylor to 24, Nebraska to 20 and they shut out Iowa State.

It's no secret that the Oklahoma Sooners have more talent than UCONN. While UCONN has made some great strides over the last decade, they are still light years behind the Sooners in terms of recruiting talent. Oklahoma has been a college football super power for many years and will continue to be for many years to come. But for these very same reasons, we like UCONN here.

The psychological/motivational edges that favor UCONN here are huge. The pointspread itself is likely the biggest motivator. Each and every player on both teams, as well as the fans and everyone involved with the game knows the pointspread here. Players know these things as it is. But here, the major media outlets have hammered home the lopsided number. UCONN knows it's the biggest underdog of all the bowl games. They also know a win would be historic.

All of these UCONN kids grew up watching the Sooners. Heck, we all did! Most of these kids were looked over by major schools. UCONN is almost like a 2nd chance for high school football players that were passed over by the big schools. Yet here they are, playing on New Years Day in a BCS bowl against a giant.

Of course all the motivation in the world means nothing if the team isn't capable to begin with. But UCONN is plenty capable.

First, we'll toss out the names a few teams that should give UCONN some motivation. Utah State, Air Force, Cincinnati, Texas and Texas A&M. We included Texas due to the down year they had. But the rest of those teams are all teams UCONN could no doubt compete with. They actually beat Cinci by a larger margin than the Sooners did. All of those teams mentioned came within a touchdown or less of Oklahoma. Both Air Force and Cincinnati had a chance to pull the upset and Texas A&M did pull the upset.

We have been handicapping football games for many years here. Close to 30 now. We know a 17 point dog when we see one. UCONN should not be a 17 point dog here. That doesn't mean they won't lose by 17. Anything can happen. But of all the ways we know of to make a number on a football game, none of them come close to 17.

We acknowledge the schedule strength difference. But that difference isn't 17 points. Maybe a touchdown at most. Yards per point is a number we love to use. Again, you have to consider schedule strength, but once again, UCONN gets the nod. UCONN has an offensive yards per point number of 12 on offense and almost 18 on defense. Oklahoma has a 13 on offense and close to 17 on defense. Making a line using those numbers, UCONN would be favored by 2. At which point, you would factor in schedule strength. Again, the difference isn't 17 points.

Regardless of schedule strength, I don't believe I have ever seen a bowl game that had two teams with those yards per point numbers and one team being favored by a couple of TD's or more. Also note turnover margins of +12 for UCONN and +14 for the Sooners. Both very good.

Our score prediction model has the margin a bit wider. It favors Oklahoma by 10 with a predicted score of 31-21, still with a full touchdown of breathing room between the posted number.

UCONN is not flashy, and there are no super stars on the roster. They are simply a good, fundamentally sound football team led by one of the most underrated coaches in all of college football. Randy Edsall won't try and reinvent the wheel here. He'll have a game plan within the limits of the talent he has. He'll try and keep this one close and give his kids a chance to win it in the end.

There are no sure things in the sports betting world. UCONN +17 is just a good, solid bet that we know we will win 55 times out of 100, which is enough to make us a long term profit. 3* Key Release UCONN +17

 




 

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