Sugar Bowl Preview: Ohio State vs. Arkansas

2011 BCS Bowl Previews: BCS National Championship | Fiesta Bowl | Rose Bowl | Orange Bowl | Sugar Bowl

Date: Tuesday, January 4 2011
Time: 8:30PM ET

Why Watch: Because this may very well be Terrelle Pryor, Daniel Herron and DeVier Posey’s final game as Buckeyes after they were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season after receiving improper benefits. Assuming there’s a NFL season next year, you have to wonder if all three will consider forgoing their senior years at Oho State to go pro. Either way, they’ll be in uniform for the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas and for now, that’s all that matters for college football fans (or the NCAA for that matter, which didn’t want ratings to suffer by suspending OSU’s best offensive players). The Buckeyes are 0-9 against SEC teams in bowl games and will face a Razorback squad making its first BCS Bowl appearance in school history. Fans that want to see a shootout may get one, as OSU averages 39.4 points per game and Arkansas averages 37.3 PPG. But the key may be OSU’s defense, which is allowing an average of 9.5 fewer points per contest than Arkansas.

Game FactsThe Buckeyes are 19-22 all-time in bowl games and finally broke a three-game bowl losing streak last year when they beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl. They haven’t played in the Sugar Bowl since 1998, when they defeated Texas A&M, 24-14. As previously mentioned, this will be Arkansas’ first appearance in a BCS bowl game and its first trip to the Sugar Bowl since 1969, when it lost 27-22 to Ole Miss. The Hogs are 12-22-3 all-time in bowl games, which includes a 20-17 overtime win over East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl last season.

Key Player: Knile Davis, Arkansas.
We all know about Ryan Mallett and the Arkansas passing game, but the balance that Davis adds is what makes the Razorbacks especially dangerous. Despite starting just seven of Arkansas’ 12 games, Davis managed to gain 1,183 yards and score 13 touchdowns. He’s also a First-Team All-SEC selection and if he can get things going on the ground, that will open things up for Mallett in the passing game.

Odds: Ohio State -3.5
Ohio State opened as a 3-point favorite but the line has since moved up to 3.5. That’s a little surprising given the Buckeyes’ struggles against the SEC in bowl games, but the public remembers how OSU’s defense shut down Jeremiah Masoli and Oregon’s explosive offense in last year’s Rose Bowl. The public can’t like the matchup between OSU’s offense against Arkansas’ defense either. The over/under total opened at 57.5 but is now down to 56.5, presumably because bettors are buying into how the Buckeyes’ defense could stifle Mallett and Bobby Petrino’s offense.

How Arkansas can win: If its defense shows up. Arkansas was in some shootouts this season — most notably a 65-43 loss to Auburn — and we know that Petrino’s offense can score points. What we need to see is Arkansas’ defense stop a good team. The Razorbacks allowed 22.8 points per game, but that jumped to 30 points per contest against the six ranked opponents that they faced throughout the year. The good news is that the Razorbacks beat four of those six opponents, while Ohio State does not have a win against a ranked team this season.

Why Ohio State will win: Because of its defense. Mallett saw some good defenses and great defensive backs during the SEC season, but Ohio State will be the best secondary he’s seen all year. The Buckeyes were No. 4 in the country in pass efficiency defense because they can cover and get after the passer. Plus, you don’t think Pryor, Posey and Herron will be out to prove something before they’re held out of the first five games next year (assuming they return, of course)?

Prediction: Ohio State 34, Arkansas 27

Contributors: Anthony Stalter and Paul Costanzo

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts