After the 0-for-5 New Year's Day bowl game massacre of the Big Ten and subsequent media ridicule, the Buckeyes can make a statement for both themselves and the conference with a win over No. 8 Arkansas in the Big Easy.
The Buckeyes are no stranger to being the flag-bearer for the conference. They've played in the most BCS games of all Big Ten teams (and of any school in the nation too) and entering this game, they are 5-3.
The conference is now 2-5 in the bowls after a 2-0 start, and while 3-5 isn't great, it's better than 2-6 and better than 0-10 all time vs. the SEC in bowl games for Ohio State.
The Hogs have had troubles as well as they are 0-3 vs. the Big Ten in bowl games all time. One of those streaks will finally end.
Brief Game Outlook
Razorback quarterback Ryan Mallet, the backup QB at Michigan in 2007, is a (albeit vaguely) familiar foe to Jim Tressel and a few of the Buckeye players.
In a small sampling facing the 2007 Buckeye defense, Mallet was 1-for-3 passing for eight yards and had one carry (sack) for minus-six yards in that game.
The 2010 Ohio State defense has different faces, but is still one of the best units in the nation, and should be a huge factor in the outcome of the 2011 Sugar Bowl.
Knile Davis has emerged as the top running back for the Razorbacks and he has had a fine season against lesser defenses. Ohio State's strength is stopping the run so the Hogs will likely be forced to ask Mallet to throw and throw often.
Offensively for Ohio State, all indications are that starters Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey and Mike Adams will play. Each of them will serve up to five-game suspensions to start the 2011 season if they don't elect to go pro.
While the Arkansas offense has been good most of the year, their defense has not measured up on occasion. They have given up nearly 23 points per game on average this season, including a 65-point outburst in a loss to Cam Newton's one-man Auburn show.
Pryor and Newton are very similar players, but Pryor does not have to be a one-man band. He has several other weapons (Herron, Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry, DeVier Posey, Dane Sanzenbacher) at his disposal.
Don't look for the Buckeyes to score 65 with their pro-style, ball-control offense, but them scoring over 30 points won't be surprising.
Arkansas will move the ball and score a handful of time as well against the bend but (unusually) don't break Buckeye defense.
Time of possession and turnover margin will also likely sway the outcome, as it so often does in these types of evenly matched games.
Ohio State-Arkansas Rankings and History Lesson
• This will be the first-ever meeting between Ohio State and Arkansas.
• Ohio State is 0-9 all time vs. SEC opponents in bowl games.
• Ohio State is 5-3 all time in BCS bowl games.
• Counting the 2011 Sugar Bowl, Ohio State has played in nine BCS bowl games, the most of any school in the nation.
• Ohio State's defense has allowed just two 100-yard rushers in their last 34 games.
• Ohio State ranks second nationally in total defense—third vs. the rush, sixth vs. the pass and third in points allowed.
• Ohio State ranks 20th nationally in total offense—14th in rushing, 55th in passing and 11th in scoring.
• Ohio State is 19-22 all time in bowl games (1920-2009).
• Jim Tressel is 5-4 at Ohio State in bowl games (2001-2009).
• Terrelle Pryor is now 30-4 as Ohio State's starting quarterback.
• Arkansas is 0-3 all time vs. Big Ten opponents in bowl games.
• Arkansas is 12-22-3 all time in bowl games (1933-2009).
• Arkansas ranks 33rd nationally in total defense—66th vs. the rush, 18th vs. the pass and 42nd in points allowed.
• Arkansas ranks eighth nationally in total offense—65th in rushing, fourth in passing and 14th in scoring.
Final Score Prediction
Last year, Ohio State stopped what was considered to be a very high-powered, potent offense when they faced the Oregon Ducks in their 26-17 2010 Rose Bowl win.
It's going to feel kind of like déjà vu all over again in 2011.
Ohio State 34
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