Better Than Anticipated??

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On paper, everything about Saturday's Fiesta Bowl matchup between OU and Connecticut suggests a blowout.

The Sooners are a 17-point favorite.

UConn seems to be way outmatched from a talent and physicality stand point.

OU is surging at the right time, winning four consecutive must-win games in order to get to the Big 12 Championship and ultimately win it.

But wait, UConn is surging at the right time as well.

That's perhaps some reason to believe this game could be more attractive than it first seems.

Just ask the players.

"Oh yeah, oh yeah, I mean, as a team we know, you know, anybody wins four or five straight at the end of the year is peaking at the right time," said defensive end Jeremy Beal. "They're a good team. They wouldn't win five straight if they weren't. You know, they wouldn't be Big East Champs, and we know that, you know, even though we're 17 point favorites, you know, they're hearing that, too."

See, that's the thing.

"And it's gonna give them a lot of motivation to come out and try to beat us and we know that," Beal said. "And we think they're a great team anyways, and to add to that, any time you're an underdog, you're going to come out fighting, and we expect that."

Strong safety Jonathan Nelson also agreed about this one potentially being a better matchup than outsiders may tend to believe because both teams are hot.

"Yes, that definitely adds to it," Nelson said.

Same with free safety Quinton Carter.

"Yeah, I think so," Carter said. "We don't pay attention to the point spread or, you know, how much we're supposed to beat a team by. You know, whatever happens within those four quarters happens, and winning is all that matters at the end of the day."

Within that statement is a little piece of knowledge Nelson said he's acquired since arriving at OU.

"You know, one thing I've learned since I've been here, since I've been a freshman and, you know, five years later, you know, me being a fifth year senior, I've realized that rankings don't make games," Nelson said. "The style of the team makes the game, and, you know, they're a really tough, physical team. We can't worry about, you know, the point spread or whatnot because that's all opinionated, so, you know, we'll just have to see. Hopefully we can peak a little bit higher than they can on Saturday."

So, nationally the perception of this game might not be that good.

"Yeah absolutely, you know, the media's portrayed it as, you know, UConn doesn't have that number in front of them," said right tackle Eric Mensik.

But that might not entirely be the case.

"On film they're a great team," Mensik said. "You know, from watching their defense, they're strong, very big guys up front. And they're a very sound football team, and they're at their high point like you said. We're at our high point, and so it's going to be a great battle, you know, two good teams going at it. You know, they might not be ranked, but on film they're very good, very good team, and so, you know, it's going to be a really good challenge."

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