Ohio State vs. Arkansas In Sugar Bowl: Ryan Mallett, Buckeyes Meet Again

Tim BielikSenior Analyst IDecember 6, 2010

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 06:  Ryan Mallett #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks against the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 6, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

When former Michigan QB Ryan Mallett transferred to Arkansas as a freshman on January 9, 2008, nobody would've imagined that the highly-touted superstar would see the Ohio State Buckeyes ever again.

Fast forward almost three years where Mallett has developed into a top-10 NFL prospect under the eye of Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino and taken the Razorbacks to their first-ever BCS bowl game.

And in an ironic twist of fate, Mallett's BCS opponent is none other than the team we all thought would share battles with in Ann Arbor: the Buckeyes.

Mallett's transfer happen two months before Terrelle Pryor committed to Ohio State in March of 2008, meaning that a chance to imagine a Mallett vs. Pryor matchup in The Game never materialized.

The Arkansas gunslinger has gotten a taste of Ohio State's defense, filling in for Chad Henne in a rainy and windy contest in 2007 where he was 1-3 for just eight yards and was sacked once.

But this is different. This is a fully-developed QB under a coach who has coached in the NFL, albeit for only 13 games, and who loves to air it out.

And the defense Mallett will face is a much different unit compared to the group he saw in 2007.

This OSU defense is much more aggressive and faster than the 2007 defense, and most of all, they are opportunistic, tied for 12th with 29 takeaways.

The difference for Mallett is that he has seen good defenses in the SEC, including against Alabama and LSU, so this challenge may be nothing new to him.

And although OSU is ranked No. 4 in passing defense, they have not faced a better passer all season than No. 15 for the Razorbacks.

But for Mallett, looking back at his experience and his year at Michigan, he might have an extra edge to play against Ohio State simply because of that year with the Wolverines.

Even Jim Tressel felt relieved that he did not have to worry about seeing Ryan Mallett in Michigan, as he told The Ozone's Brandon Castel on Sunday.

"What was my reaction when he left? I'm not gonna lie, I was happy," he told Castel. "I thought I was done with Ryan Mallett."

Even back in early 2008, Tressel knew of the type of talent that Mallett would turn out to be.

And he has lived up to that billing and so much more.

Just imagine for a second if Les Miles had taken the Michigan job instead of Rich Rodriguez and had Mallett as his QB...

Scary thought. That winning streak over Michigan would not be as easy to extend as it has been in the past three seasons.

But nevertheless, Tressel must gameplan to shut down one of the game's best passers and arguably the best pure passer OSU has faced since NC State's Philip Rivers in 2003.

The OSU secondary has been banged up tremendously all season, but DBs Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence have been very good and should help take away favorite targets in WRs Jairus Wright and Joe Adams.

Rarely does a transfer from one big school to another work as a benefit for a QB.

But for Ryan Mallett, it has worked out better than anyone could have imagined.

Now he gets his chance to show his old rivals just how much he has improved since his days under Lloyd Carr at Michigan.


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