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Sugar Bowl

Arkansas vs. Ohio State

Betting Line: Ohio State -3 o/u

1/4/11

The Ohio State Buckeyes have played in six consecutive bowl games with the last being a victory over Oregon in the Rose Bowl. They are 2-3 in the last five bowl games. In Buckeye history they are 0-9 against teams from the SEC, with the last two failings coming in the BCS Championship Game where they were whipped by Florida and later LSU. That record probably doesn't put OSU fans at ease as they are set to play the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Sugar Bowl. The Razorbacks have experienced resurgence under HC Bobby Petrino, but this is their biggest test in years. Let's take a look at this interesting matchup.

The line for this game opened at 3 and has held steady in most cases. Some places have added the hook. Wagering favors the Razorbacks 57% to 43% for the Buckeyes. Although it is Arkansas with the reputation for scoring, OSU is a bit higher in PPG at 39.4 compared to 37.3 for Arkansas. The Ohio State defense only gives ups 13.3 PPG compared to 22.8 PPG for the Razorbacks. Both of these teams are incredible ATS with 9-2 records. Arkansas has marquee wins over Texas A&M, South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU. They played Alabama close, but lost 24-20. Ohio State's best wins came against Miami, Illinois, Penn State, Iowa and Michigan.

The Ohio State offense (and defense) dodged a bullet when suspensions placed on QB Terrelle Pryor, OL Mike Adams, RB Dan Herron, WR DeVier Psoey and DE Solomon Thomas were held until the start of the 2011 season. The five players were found guilty of selling items such as Pryor's Big Ten Championship ring as well as trading autographs for tattoos. Their chances in this game would have been shot without those players.

Pryor is a big time playmaker as proved by posting 2,551 yards and 25 TDs this year. The junior also ran for 639 yards and 4 TDs. INTs have been a problem late in the year as he has tossed 8 in the last 6 games. Junior RB Dan Herron will be the key for the OSU offense. He has been a big time key to this offense down the stretch. He has 1,068 yards and 15 TDs on the season. The Warren, OH native had 190 yards against Penn State and 175 against Michigan. HC Jim Tressel will make good use of him. 

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With a big performance QB Ryan Mallett could be a top 5 selection in the upcoming NFL Draft. The 6-6 238 lbs junior has 3,592 yards and 30 TDs in his second year as the Arkansas starter. Just like Pryor, INTs have been a bit of a concern lately, but not as much as for his OSU counterpart. Mallett had 303 yards a TD, and an INT against South Carolina. One of his best games of the year came against Texas A&M when he threw for 310 yards, 3 TDs, and an INT.

Mallett isn't the key though. Sure he has to play well, but RB Knile Davis is where it starts. The sophomore has 178 carries for 1,183 yards and an average of 6.6 YPC. His biggest game of the year was a 110 yards 3 TD effort against South Carolina. He had 152 yards and TD against LSU. Davis can catch passes out of the backfield too. He caught a TD pass against Ole Miss.

The Arkansas defense has tightened up towards the end of the year. They gave up 482 yards to Mississippi State, but held LSU to just 297. They held South Carolina to the same number. They own 10 sacks in their last 4 games. This is a defense that creates turnovers. The most yardage OSU has allowed this year is 351 to Michigan and 336 to Wisconsin. They haven't seen an offense as good as Arkansas this year other than the Badgers who dropped 31 on them.

There are certainly enough reasons to reconsider our position here. How will the pending suspensions affect Ohio State? Will they rally, knowing this will be the suspended players last game until October of next year? Will they come in with a chip on their shoulder as a result?

How about the Big 10 losing 5 Bowl games on New Years Day? They are 2-5 in Bowls and are 12-24 in Bowls the last 5 years! That's not a strong vote of confidence for the Buckeyes.

But our numbers have been good to us here in the Bowls. 14-2 over the last 2 years, so we'll see what happens here. Our score prediction model has Ohio State winning 29-19.  Arkansas played a stronger schedule, which we have to account for. Yards per point numbers favor Ohio State on both sides of the ball and the Buckeyes are +14 in turnover margin to The Razorbacks +2.

The Buckeyes seemed to play with more purpose this year. In years past, they never seemed to finish teams off. This year, they seemed to play 4 full quarters for a change. We think the Ohio State defense will be the difference here. Offensively, the Buckeyes will get their points. Auburn hung 65 points on the Razorbacks and Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor is very similar to Cam Newton in style. Let the chips fall where they may.......

3* Key Release Ohio State -3

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