Arkansas has Sugar Bowl win in its hands…then drops it.

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett (15) is chased from the pocket by Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Hayward (97) during first half action of the 77th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana January 4, 2011. UPI/A.J. Sisco

Here are five quick-hit observations on Ohio State’s wild 31-26 win over Arkansas in the 2011 Sugar Bowl.

1. From the opening play of the game, Arkansas blew its opportunities.
Little did Arkansas know that the first play from scrimmage would be an omen for the rest of the game. Ryan Mallett threw a perfectly timed spiral to streaking receiver Joe Adams, who beat the coverage and would have had a touchdown had he hung onto the ball. It was the first of six dropped passes for the Hogs on the night, most of which came in crucial situations. And the drops weren’t the only opportunities Arkansas missed on the night. From Dane Sanzenbacher’s fluke fumble-recovery-turned-touchdown in the first quarter to the missed scoring opportunity after Boom Herron’s fumble late in the fourth quarter to Colton Miles-Nash’s inability to pick the ball up cleanly on teammate Ben Buchanan’s blocked punt to Solomon Thomas’ interception of Mallett in the final minute, the Razorbacks blew it time and time again. Wisconsin was heavily criticized for missing opportunities to beat TCU in the Rose Bowl last Saturday, but that was nothing compared to what Arkansas did Tuesday night. Their fans will need a lobotomy after watching that game.

2. Cameron Heyward will make one NFL team very happy some day.
Heyward is an absolute monster and he and the rest of his defensive linemates deserve major praise for harassing Mallett all night. He manhandled Arkansas offensive tackle DeMarcus Love and he didn’t allow Mallett to set his feet for many of his throws. When Mallett had to step up in the pocket to pass, he was widely inaccurate, often throwing the ball at his receivers’ feet. His wideouts didn’t do him many favors, but the Buckeyes’ defense really brought the heat on third down and made life uncomfortable for the Razorback signal caller. If it weren’t for Heyward and crew, Arkansas may have scored 40 points.

3. The SEC curse is over for Ohio State.
Try as they did to lose the game, the Buckeyes finally got the SEC monkey off their backs. The win snapped a nine-game bowl losing streak against SEC teams. OSU also saved some face for the Big Ten, which went 0-4 on New Year’s Day. Terrelle Pryor threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, while also rushing for 115 yards on 15 carries. On a night when Herron only gained 3.6 yards per carry and couldn’t get anything going on the early downs, Pryor stepped up several times when the Buckeyes’ offense faced third-and-long. He also picked up a huge first down on a quarterback sneak late in the game to shed time off the clock and keep the ball in OSU’s possession while they tried to preserve the lead. For the second year in a row, Pryor was special in a BCS bowl.

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The Official Rose Bowl Smack Talk Thread: Ohio State vs. Oregon

The Big Ten Champion Ohio State Buckeyes will battle the Pac-10 Champion Oregon Ducks in the 2010 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. In order to help get you ready for the game, below is a viewing guide complete with TV information, kickoff times, odds and more.

2010 Rose Bowl Game Information
Matchup: Ohio State (10-2) vs. Oregon (10-2)
Kickoff: 4:30PM ET
TV: ABC
Odds: Oregon –3.5

Key Stats:
Ohio State comes into this game with the 19th best rushing offense in the nation, led by running backs Daneil “Boom” Herron and Brandon Saine, as well as quarterback Terrelle Pryor (who almost went to Oregon before deciding on OSU). The Buckeyes also have the fifth best run defense in country, the 17th best pass defense and are ranked fifth in both total defense and scoring defense.

Oregon has been an offensive juggernaut this season, averaging over 37 points (they rank seventh in the nation in scoring offense) and over 236 rushing yards per game (sixth in the nation). The backfield tandem of LaMichael James and Jeremiah Masoli has been tough to stop this season and the duo is aided with the return of one-time Heisman candidate LeGarrette Blount, who missed 10 games after serving a suspension. Defensively, the Ducks rank 32nd against the run and 37th against the pass.

The Bottom Line:
This game offers a great matchup between the Ducks’ sixth-rated rushing attack versus the Buckeyes’ fifth-rated run defense. But the key to victory might be whether or not the undersized, fast Oregon defense can match up to the physical (yet inconsistent) OSU offense.

Let the smack talk begin:

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Who will win the 2010 Rose Bowl?
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