For the past week, it seems the only news surrounding the Sugar Bowl has involved the five Ohio State players -- including quarterback Terrelle Pryor and leading rusher Boom Herron -- who have been suspended by the NCAA for the first five games of next season for selling memorabilia. Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan said he appealed to Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith to get the suspensions pushed to the 2011 season. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Ohio State officials succeeded in lobbying the NCAA to leave the players eligible for the game. Hoolahan told
While Hoolahan's delight in subverting the NCAA enforcement process for the sake of ratings doesn't say much about the bowl's integrity, the decision to allow the Buckeyes to play should make for an excellent game -- which is exactly what Hoolahan wanted in the first place.
The emergence of tailback Knile Davis as a go-to ballcarrier has made the Arkansas offense even more dangerous. Davis has rushed for at least 100 yards in the Razorbacks' past four games, and Arkansas has averaged 42 points per game during that span.
Ohio State is especially tough in the fourth quarter. In the final quarter this season, opponents have scored only 41 points (3.4 per game) and converted only 24.4 percent of their third downs against the Buckeyes.
A win would be especially meaningful for Ohio State, which hasn't played an SEC team since consecutive BCS title game losses to Florida and LSU following the 2006 and 2007 seasons. "Personally, I have lost three in a row against the SEC," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "I'm not tired of hearing about it. It's a reminder to me of just how good the SEC is in football. We are playing another great one in Arkansas."
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is only the third coach in the BCS era to lead two different schools to a BCS bowl. (Petrino's Louisville team won the 2007 Orange Bowl.) That puts Petrino in pretty good company. The other two coaches to pull off the feat are Alabama's Nick Saban (LSU, Alabama) and recently retired Florida coach Urban Meyer (Utah, Florida).
The controversy swirling around the suspended Ohio State players must have offered a distraction, but the Buckeyes dealt with the situation early and left plenty of time for the players to focus on the game. With Pryor playing, Ohio State coaches may want to swipe a page from Auburn's playbook. Cam Newton, the Tigers' fast, 6-6, 250-pound quarterback, shredded the Hogs for 188 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. Pryor, Ohio State's fast, 6-6, 233-pound quarterback, might have similar success if the Buckeyes don't go conservative.
Buttoning up the offense wouldn't be wise, because even though Ohio State's defense is excellent, Arkansas is going to score points. If Davis can establish the Razorbacks' run game, Mallett can carve up even the best secondary. Ohio State's best bet is to try to do what Alabama's defense did -- hit Mallett as often as possible and try to force him into ill-advised throws.