By Casey Keefe
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Sugar Bowl: Ohio State (11-1) vs. Arkansas (10-2)

– The Matchup:

The Buckeyes are no stranger to BCS games. In fact, this will be their sixth straight BCS appearance and eight overall, which is more than any other team all-time. However, Ohio State isn’t always great on this stage. They’ve suffered blowout losses to Florida and LSU, and are a miserable 0-9 all-time against SEC opponents in bowl games.

Arkansas comes in to this showdown as the best 2-loss team in the nation, with their only defeats coming at the hands of Alabama and Auburn. The Razorbacks aren’t exactly as accustomed to playing on this stage as the Buckeyes are, but I don’t expect to see any nervous jitters from Bobby Petrino’s club.

With offenses as explosive as these two are, expect to see a lot of fireworks. We’ll see a contrast in styles – Arkansas is more of a traditional offense whereas Ohio State is a little more radical – but points will be aplenty.

– Players To Watch:

Ohio State: QB – Terrelle Pryor – 3,190 total yards, 29 total TD’s, 11 INT’s

Arkansas: QB – Ryan Mallett – 3,592 yards, 30 TD’s, 11 INT’s

– What Will Happen:

Arkansas will win this game… What, you thought I was going to learn a lesson after my Oregon over Ohio State prediction in the Rose Bowl last year? I don’t think so. The Razorbacks will be winning this game for the simple fact that they match up better, and I believe they are a little hungrier – And that’s something that goes a long ways.

Despite it being a completely different team with different players, it is the same coach and style of play, and I think there is something to this whole 0-9 thing against SEC opponents in bowl games. As much as you try to down play it, there is something to it, there’s no denying that.
Ohio State has a dangerous offense. Terrelle Pryor is a pain in the neck to deal with, despite being mistake-prone at times. He has a couple solid receivers in Dane Sanzenbacher (889 yards, 10 TD’s) and DeVier Posey (778 yards, 6 TD’s). Don’t forget about the ground support with running back Dan Herron who has rushed for 1,068 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season.

The Buckeyes are very balanced on offense, averaging 240 passing yards and 220 rushing yards per game. The Razorbacks do have the tendency to let up an unflattering amount of points, but I believe the unit matches up well against the Buckeyes. They’ll make them work for every inch they gain, and after all they do know how to defend quarterbacks like Pryor. Don’t forget the great job they did against Cam Newton in the Auburn game.

The main difference will be Ryan Mallett and the Arkansas offense which is truly one of the nation’s elite units. Yes, Ohio State is extremely stingy on defense and allows less than 14 points per game – But Mallett will expose some weaknesses in the Buckeyes secondary. Despite losing his best weapon (Greg Childs), Mallett still has a deep core of receivers including Jarius Wright, Joe Adams, and DJ Williams.

Don’t discount the fact that Ohio State doesn’t exactly play their best away from home. They are an entirely different team away from the Horseshoe.

I’m not saying Jim Tressel’s club will be a deer in the headlights come kickoff, but I don’t expect them to be clicking on all cylinders either.

The bottom line is that Ryan Mallett is the best quarterback in the country (yes, better than Andrew Luck and Kellen Moore). He will be a big-time pro, and will use the Sugar Bowl stage to showcase his terrific talents just one more time at the college level. He’ll find a way to do what very few have – pick apart the Buckeyes defense.

– Prediction:

Arkansas 27 Ohio State 23

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