Ohio State (11-1, 7-1) will play in its sixth straight BCS contest when the Buckeyes take part in the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 1999. OSU is the only program in the country to qualify for nine BCS games in the 13-year history of the system, as Oklahoma ranks second with eight BCS bids. The Buckeyes return to New Orleans, La., for the first time since playing in the 2008 BCS Championship Game and have taken part in three previous Sugar Bowls, including a victory in their most recent trip following the 1998 campaign. Ohio State will battle Arkansas (10-2, 6-2 SEC) of the SEC in the Allstate Sugar Bowl to be played on Tuesday, Jan. 4, at 8 p.m. ET. The six-time defending Big Ten Champions are making their 11th consecutive bowl excursion, including 10 straight under head coach Jim Tressel. The Buckeyes' mentor has won five bowl games, tied for the fifth-most in Big Ten history, including a victory in the Rose Bowl Game last season to give him four BCS triumphs (Fiesta Bowls in 2003, 2004 and 2006). Ohio State will be playing in its 42nd bowl, which leads all Big Ten programs, and holds a 19-22 record in postseason play. The Big Ten has posted a 1-4 mark in the Sugar Bowl, including OSU's victory over Texas A&M in 1999.
Arkansas enters the game with a 10-2 mark after having won 10 games in the regular season for the just the eighth time in school history. The Razorbacks have won six-straight contests, which is the eighth-longest active streak in the country and the second-longest in the SEC. The Hogs will be making their 38th bowl appearance and second under head coach Bobby Petrino. The bowl trip will be the 10th in the last 13 years for the Razorbacks and will also be the 25th January bowl appearance in school history. The Razorbacks will return to the Sugar Bowl for the sixth time, making it the second-most visited bowl in school history. The last time Arkansas played in the Sugar Bowl was Jan. 1, 1980 against Alabama. The BCS appearance will be the second for head coach Bobby Petrino, who becomes just the third coach to take two different schools to a BCS game after winning the 2007 Orange Bowl with Louisville.
The Ohio State offense finished the regular season ranked second in the Big Ten in scoring (39.4), third in total offense (448.8), fourth in rushing (219.7), and seventh in passing (229.2). Terrelle Pryor has guided the Buckeyes to a 30-4 record with him under center and the dual-threat talent enters the bowl game just 18 yards shy of becoming Ohio State’s career rushing leader among QBs. Pryor had a respectable year as a junior, ranking sixth in the conference with 212.6 passing yards per game. He threw for league highs in touchdowns (25) and interceptions (11), and completed 65.8 percent of his 298 passes. Several of those attempts went to junior DeVier Posey and senior Dan Sanzenbacher, who was voted as the team’s Most Valuable Player. Sanzenbacher led the Buckeyes and ranked second in the Big Ten with 10 touchdown receptions. He finished the regular season with 52 catches for 889 yards for an average of 17.1 yards per catch -- the best in the Big Ten. Posey, who was seventh in the conference with 64.8 receiving yards per game, has caught at least one pass in 26 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the Big Ten. He enters the postseason rated eighth in the conference with 4.17 catches per outing and is tied for second with 15.6 yards per catch. On the ground, Dan “Boom” Herron led the Buckeyes with 1,068 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground, and has been unstoppable down the stretch. In his last four contests, he has rushed for 548 yards and four touchdowns, an average of 137.0 yards per game.
Arkansas’ defense was fourth in SEC in defending the pass (182.3), fifth in total defense (339.8) and scoring (22.8), and 10th against the rush (157.4). Both Herron and the Buckeyes’ high-powered offense could pose problems for the Razorbacks’ defense. Looking to stop the Scarlet and Gray is second-team All-Conference selection Jake Bequette at defensive end. Bequette led the Razorbacks and ranked fifth in the SEC with 7.0 sacks this season. He also led the team with five quarterback hurries and had 8.0 tackles for loss, which were tied for third on the team. Joining him as a second-team All-Conference honoree is linebacker Jerry Franklin, who tied for ninth in the SEC with his team-leading 93 tackles and tied for seventh with his team-leading 12.5 tackles for loss. The junior is looking to become the second Razorback since 1960 to lead the team in tackles three straight seasons. His year was highlighted by a 20-tackle performance in UA's 38-31 win at No. 21 Mississippi State. The tackle total is the fourth-highest in the NCAA this season and most for Arkansas since 2002. Also expect Jerico Nelson and his 83 tackles this season to play a role, as well as safety Tramain Thomas and his four interceptions.
Offensively, Arkansas made waves in the SEC this year. The Razorbacks rated first in the conference in passing (338.4), second in total yards (489.2) and scoring (37.3), but just ninth in rushing (150.8). Still, Arkansas was the only team in the country with a quarterback (Ryan Mallett) who passed for 3,000 yards, a running back (Knile Davis) who rushed for 1,000 yards and five receivers (Joe Adams, Greg Childs, Cobi Hamilton, D.J. Williams and Jarius Wright) who had at least 500 receiving yards. Mallett has seen the Buckeyes before, having begun his collegiate career at Michigan. He is the fourth quarterback in SEC history to throw for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons and just the third to eclipse 3,500 yards passing in two straight seasons. This year, he led the SEC and ranked fifth in the NCAA with 299.3 passing yards per game. His 30 passing touchdowns led the conference and ranked seventh in the country, while his 295.5 yards of total offense per game were second in the SEC and 13th in the nation. Williams is the stud of the offense, having captured the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end and recently named as a third-team All-American by the Associated Press – the first AP All-American for the Razorbacks since 2007. He is the NCAA's active career leader in receptions (147) and receiving yards (1,817) by a tight end. This year he led the team with 49 receptions, which netted 589 yards, and a single-season career-high four touchdowns. His 4.1 receptions-per-game average was sixth in the SEC this season. In addition to Williams, Mallett looks for Childs, who led the Razorbacks with 46 receptions for 659 yards with six touchdowns. Wright had 38 catches for 718 yards with four touchdowns, and Adams had 41 catches for 693 yards for five scores. Davis was just the 10th player in Arkansas history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He ranked third in the SEC with 98.6 rushing yards per game, and his 6.6 yards-per-carry average was the highest among the top-10 rushers in the conference. He had five 100-yard rushing games in 2010, including four straight to end the regular season.
Among FBS teams, Ohio State ranks second in total defense (250.5), third in points allowed (13.3), fourth in rushing (94.3) and passing (156.25), and is tied for second in turnover margin (+1.17), having forced 29 opponent turnovers through 12 games, while committing just 15. The Buckeyes paced the conference with 18 interceptions on the season and allowed just 16 touchdowns over their 12-game campaign. Those numbers are credited to a strong secondary, led by seniors Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence at the corners and safety Jermale Hines. Not to mention the Buckeyes have an impressive linebacker corps that is tough against the pass as Brian Rolle and Ross Homan led the attack in OSU’s second level. Homan was 19th in the conference this year with 6.3 tackles per game, followed by Rolle at 5.8 and Hines at 5.2. Both Homan and Chekwa forced a pair of fumbles on the season, while Nathan Williams recovered two when he was registering one of his 4.5 sacks on the year. And don't forget about defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, who recently took home the team's top defensive award. Heyward looks to make an impact in his final Tuesday game before he begins playing on Sundays next year.
NOTE: CollegeFootballPoll.com's Congrove Computer Rankings (a.k.a. CCR Top 120) give Ohio State a 7.54-point edge. It is 10-2 in forecasting the winner of Arkansas games this season and 6-5 against the spread. It is 11-1 straight up with Ohio State, but just 4-8 against the spread. (Such information is tracked for the sole purpose of recording the computer's accuracy in picking games and ranking teams. It is not intended for gambling purposes).