2011 Allstate Sugar Bowl Preview
Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett & OSU QB Terrelle Pryor
Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett & OSU QB Terrelle Pryor
Posted Jan 4, 2011

When the bowls were announced, the pressure was on Ohio State to finally break the 0-9 bowl record vs. the SEC. Now. after the Big Ten's disastrous New Year's Day, and after the controversy with the NCAA, the spotlight is even brighter. Check out CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2011 Allstate Sugar Bowl, and check out the Stream of Consciousness Notes tonight.

2011 Allstate Sugar Bowl

(10-2) vs. Ohio St (11-1)

Tuesday, January 4th, 8:00 ABC  

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By Pete Fiutak

Allegedly, Arkansas is playing in the Sugar Bowl.

Because of Ohio State's off-the-field shenanigans, and the bizarre NCAA ruling that came with it, the 2011 Sugar Bowl hasn't gotten too much attention for its importance on the field. Throw in the Splenda Bowl, Alabama's Capital One annihilation over Michigan State that could've easily have been a BCS game and could've easily have been the Sugar Bowl, and mix in the Big Ten's clunker of a January 1st, and Arkansas appears to be nothing more than part of the anti-Big Ten momentum.

Statistics In Yards
20th Total
2nd Total
11th Scoring
3rd Scoring
14th Rushing
3rd Rushing
55th Passing
6th Passing
4th Turnover Margin 45th
Position Rankings
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
O   A
4.5 QBs 5
4 RBs 4
4 WRs 4
4 O Line 3
4 D Line 4
4 LBs 3
5 DBs 4
4.5 STs 4
5 Coach 5
CFN 2010 2011 CFN Bowl Previews & Confidence Picks
- New Mexico - BYU vs. UTEP
- Human. - Fresno St vs. NIU
- New Orleans - Troy vs. Ohio
- St. Pete - UL vs. So Miss
- Las Vegas - Utah vs. Boise St
- Poinsettia - SDSU vs. Navy
- Hawaii - Tulsa vs. Hawaii
- Little Caesars - Toledo vs. FIU
- Ind. - Air Force vs. GT
- Champs - NC St vs. WVU
- Insight - Iowa vs. Mizz
- Military - Mary. vs. ECU
- Texas - Illinois vs. Baylor
- Alamo - Ok St vs. Arizona
- Armed Forces - SMU vs. Army
- Pinstripe - SU vs. KSU
- Music City - UNC vs. Tenn
- Holiday - Neb vs. Wash
- Meineke - USF vs. Clemson
- Sun - Miami vs. ND
- Liberty - UCF vs. Georgia
- Chick-fil-A - FSU vs. USC
- TicketCity - NW vs. TT
- Outback - PSU vs. Florida
- Capital One - MSU vs. Bama
- Gator - Mich vs. Miss St
- GoDaddy - MU vs. MT
- Cotton - A&M vs. LSU
- Compass - Pitt vs. UK
- Kraft - BC vs. Nevada
- Rose - UW vs. TCU
- Fiesta - OU vs. UConn
- Orange - Stan. vs. VT
- Sugar - Ark. vs. OSU
- BCS Champ. - Aub. vs. Oregon
But, of course, this is a special game for the Arkansas program in the second biggest bowl game in school history after the 1965 Cotton Bowl win over Nebraska that capped off an 11-0 season. (By the way, to fun-stat that 1964 Hog team with Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones, the defense didn't give up a point over its final five regular season games.) This is the moment when Bobby Petrino cements his place as one of the elite college football head coaches, having taken Louisville to the BCS and the 2007 Orange Bowl win over Wake Forest, and this might be the moment when the SEC puts a final nail in the Big Ten's coffin, at least for now.

These things go in cycles, and it's not fair to ignore all the Big Ten has done against the SEC over the last several years, but the SEC has overcome a disastrous 0-3 start to the bowl season from the East schools by going 3-0 against the Big Ten by a combined score of 138 to 45. Forgetting that the Big Ten was the underdog in all three games, it was the way the bowls went that was so galling with Penn State throwing pick after pick against Florida, Michigan's offense fizzling and the defense playing like wet tissue paper against Mississippi State, and Alabama pulling some of its starters just after halftime in the embarrassment over Michigan State. The focus will be on Auburn to keep the SEC as the power of power conferences, but a win by Arkansas wouldn't hurt the cause.

This is a must-win for the Buckeyes on several levels. This is the school's sixth straight BCS appearance and seventh in eight years, and while the three-game bowl losing streak was ended with a 2010 Rose Bowl win over Oregon, that came against a Pac 10 team. It might not seem right, and it might not seem fair, but for all the great things Ohio State has done over the years, the 0-9 bowl record against the SEC is an anchor that gets brought up every time anyone wants to throw out the idea that this might be college football's best and most consistent program. With a win over Arkansas, suddenly, the cloud is lifted, the "yeah, but" can be taken away, and the Big Ten will finish a not that bad 3-5 in the bowl season.

A win would legitimize a Buckeye season that was obviously great, going 11-1 is never anything to sneeze at, but lacked teeth. Beating Miami, Iowa, Penn State, and Michigan sounds great, but those four teams weren't anything that special. OSU didn't have to play Michigan State, and the one huge game on the slate, Wisconsin, was a 13-point loss. 12-1 with a win over an SEC team means a top five finish, the highest ranking of any Big Ten team, and sets the tone for a 2011 that should be special, even with the suspensions.

Oh yeah, the suspensions. QB Terrelle Pryor, RB Dan Herron, WR DeVier Posey, OT Mike Adams, and LB Jordan Whiting will miss most of the first half of the 2011 regular season after they sold things from Pryor's 2008 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award, to a trinket given to players after a Michigan win, to shoes and jerseys, but in a mystifying ruling by the NCAA, they all get to play in the Sugar Bowl. And Arkansas should be happy about that.

The last thing the Hogs, or any SEC team, would want is beat Ohio State and then have the excuse that many of the key players were missing. Now, an Arkansas win would be a big Sugar Bowl moment and it would come at the expense of a full-strength Buckeye team. Led by a phenomenal offense that can bomb away when needed, and hammer away with the run at times, too, Arkansas rolled to a 10-2 season with a six-game winning streak to close things out. In a defining performance, the 31-23 win over LSU got the team to New Orleans, and now the pressure is on to hold up the league's reputation with a win.

7-3 in the last ten Sugar Bowls, the SEC has used this game to flex a little muscle, like it did last year with Florida's destruction of Cincinnati, and in 2008 when Georgia beat down Hawaii. When the league did lose, like in Georgia's braincramp against West Virginia in 2006 and Alabama's shocker to Utah in 2009, it's been a major upset. The Sugar Bowl is the SEC's game, and Ohio State is looking to come in and raid the party. Considering the last four Sugar Bowls have been a disaster, with the final scores a combined 164 to 65, there's a chance this might not be pretty.

Considering what happened on January 1st, the Big Ten has to hope beyond hope that the trend stops here.

Players to Watch: To say Terrelle Pryor has been a disappointment is way too strong. Ohio State is 31-6 over the last three years with three BCS bowl games with him as the starter or a major part of the equation, but he hasn't been the be-all-end-all star he was expected to be after all the hype surrounding his signing. Basically, he hasn't been Cam Newton. The talk after the suspensions were handed down surrounded whether or not Pryor would turn pro, but the problem is that he's not a high end prospect quite yet because he's not remotely close to being an NFL passer. Interceptions were an issue this season with 11 on the year and eight in the final six games, but he did have a decent year yardage-wise throwing for 200 yards or more in every game but four, and while he ran less, he threw better. Against Arkansas, his job will be to keep the chains moving with both his arm and his legs to keep the Hog offense off the field.

Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett has played Ohio State before, seeing a little time as a true freshman in the 2007 14-3 loss completing just 1-of-3 passes for eight yards, but that was a lifetime ago. Now he's a top pro prospect and an all-timer of an Arkansas passer following up a 3,624-yard, 30 touchdown season with a 3,592-yard, 30 touchdown 2010 regular season. Very big with a howitzer for an arm, he can put the ball anywhere on the field and is in total command of the offense. It didn't matter when injuries hit the receiving corps, Mallett kept on winging it with 11 touchdown passes in the final three games and with 300 yards or more in four of the last five outings. Great in the pocket, he's not the same passer once he has to get on the move, so he has to get the ball out of his hands in a hurry and his decision-making has to be spot on. This is his showcase game. At the moment, he's likely the No. 5 quarterback in the overall pecking order of possible draft picks, with Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, and Jake Locker all expected to go higher, if they all come out. Mallett can change that by lighting up the Buckeyes.

While the quarterbacks will take center stage, the two stars of the game could be the running backs. Ohio State's Dan Herron has somehow flown under the radar, even though he's a 1,065-yard back for the Buckeyes. Great around the goal line, the slippery junior took on a bigger role late in the season with three 100-yard games in the final four, including a 190-yard effort against Penn State and a 175-yard day against Michigan. The Arkansas run defense is suspect, so the Buckeyes will try banging away with "Boom" first, while Arkansas will be sure to test out the OSU run defense with its own star back, sophomore Knile Davis.

While Herron is quick and darting, Davis is a bruiser with the ability to pound away inside and out. A revelation over the second half of the year, he ran for 110 yards or more in five of the last six games and went for 176 or more in three of them, including a 187-yard, two touchdown effort against Mississippi State. Because of Davis, Arkansas has become more balanced than it gets credit for.

Arkansas will win if ... it makes Pryor a passer. The Hogs will happily make this a shootout if they can, and the more pressure is put on Pryor to make plays with his arm, the more he'll screw up. Pryor is at his best when he's on the move running the ball or staying in the pocket and getting five days to throw. If he has to throw on the run, he guesses way too much and tries to rely on an arm that isn't quite there to make the throws he wants to. He's a big, strong player who can glide through defenses when he gets a seam, and it'll be vital for the Hogs to be disciplined, to not bring the house to try to hit him, and to take chances with the Ohio State downfield passing game. The front seven will key on stopping Herron first, keeping Pryor from taking off second, and jumping the routes on third-and-long third.

Offensively, it's all about getting physical. The Buckeyes are the classic bullies who look tough and are tough, but can get smacked around by anyone who dares to stand up to them. OSU is third in the nation against the run, but Illinois had some success with Mikel Leshoure, Wisconsin, helped by a great game from the offensive line, got 104 yards out of John Clay and 75 out of James White, and Denard Robinson scampered for 105 yards in Michigan's loss. Arkansas isn't going to run for 200 yards, but as long as Davis can be effective and can pound away on the inside for 75 yards or more, the rest of the offense will open up. Ohio State's defensive stats might be great, but it hasn't faced anyone who can throw the ball like Mallett, and the one team it did face with great balance, Wisconsin, was able to move the ball efficiently and effectively.

Ohio State will win if ... it starts coming up with takeaways early and capitalizes on the mistakes. It's not like the Arkansas offense was a turnover machine this year, giving it away 23 times, but there were three picks thrown in the loss to Alabama, three turnovers in the loss to Auburn, and three giveaways in the overtime near-miss against Mississippi State. After turning it over six times in the first two games, blowouts over Tennessee Tech and ULM, Arkansas was relatively stingy with the ball, and had problems when it wasn't. The Arkansas line is tough and can get physical, but it also has problems with good pass rushers. As long as the OSU defensive front can make things happen in the backfield, not a given for a team without a top-shelf pass rusher, and if it can get to the statue that is Ryan Mallett, the opportunities will be there to come up with some big defensive plays. The Buckeyes are fourth in the nation in turnover margin.

This is when Ohio State has to go Tressel Ball conservative. The Arkansas offense has to be kept off the field as much as possible, even though Mallett and company can strike quickly, and that means Ohio State has to work the clock, move the chains, keep the score low, and rely on defense and special teams to pull this out. The Buckeyes, even with all their talent, aren't equipped to keep up in a firefight, but the problem is that Arkansas is terrific at getting its defense off the field. The Hogs are seventh in the nation in third down conversion defense allowing teams to connect on just 32% of their chances. Ohio State, however, is fifth. Pryor can't be in too many third and long situations. The Ohio State offensive front has to dominate for the ground game throughout so Pryor doesn't have to make too many deep throws.

What will happen: Never screw with a streak. Ohio State has been unfairly tagged and hasn't gotten all the respect it deserves because of the 0-9 bowl mark vs. the SEC, but this isn't Jim Tressel's best Buckeye team and that will become apparent early on. The Arkansas defense and running game will be surprisingly great, Pryor will be shockingly mediocre, and while the Buckeyes won't face plant like many of their Big Ten brethren did on Saturday, they won't be able to pull out a nip-and-tuck win in what should be a terrific game.

CFN Prediction: Arkansas 27 … Ohio State 23 ... Line: Ohio State -3.5
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Pick ATS: Arkansas  Confidence Score: 31
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 10 out of 35

Pete Fiutak: Pick ATS - Ohio State  Pick Confidence - 20
- Ohio State, it's time to finally beat an SEC team in a bowl game. The Buckeyes' only loss came to Wisconsin on the road, but they didn't beat anyone of note. Winning at Iowa doesn't seem like that big a deal now, and beating Miami wasn't anything to get fired up over. However, beating an SEC team in a BCS game would exorcise plenty of demons, while a loss would be devastating; at least it would for the message board types. The Hogs boast one of the nation's most effective offenses, able to play any style. A win over the Buckeyes would make Arkansas the IT team going into 2011, even if Ryan Mallett is off to the NFL.

Richard Cirminiello: Pick ATS - Arkansas  Pick Confidence - 17
- This is arguably the best bowl game aside from the obvious. Bobby Petrino's offense vs. Jim Tressel's defense will be one of the most delicious games-within-the-game of the entire postseason.

Matt Zemek: Pick ATS - Ohio State   Pick Confidence - 14
- Ryan Mallett needs to win this game; Terrelle Pryor needs to avoid losing it. Jim Tressel-Bobby Petrino is a fabulous coaching matchup and a connoisseur's delight.

Russ Mitchell: Pick ATS - Arkansas   Pick Confidence - 25
- Next to the Championship, this is my second favorite match-up. There are several great storylines, two great teams, and an ugly Ohio State streak to try to get over. It's SEC vs. the Buckeyes. You know what's coming.

Barrett Sallee: Pick ATS - Arkansas  Pick Confidence -18
- Arkansas finished the season playing better football than every team in the SEC not named Auburn. They get to the chance to extend the SEC's long and storied dominance over Ohio State. Just like the Orange Bowl, this is actually a good matchup in the BCS. Odd.

Gabe Harris: Pick ATS - Arkansas  Pick Confidence - 3
Brian Harbach: Pick ATS - Arkansas Pick Confidence - 12
Matthew Smith: Pick ATS - Arkansas  Pick Confidence - 34
Billy Gomila: Pick ATS - Ohio State  Pick Confidence -  30
Clucko (A coin flip): Pick ATS - Arkansas  Pick Confidence -  20  

Sugar Bowl History

2010 Florida 51, Cincinnati 24
2009 Utah 31, Alabama 17
2008 Georgia 41, Hawaii 10
2007 LSU 41, Notre Dame 14
2006 West Virginia 38, Georgia 35
2005 Auburn 16, Virginia Tech 13
2004 LSU 21, Oklahoma 14
2003 Georgia 26, Florida State 13
2002 LSU 47, Illinois 34
2001 Miami 37, Florida 20
2000 Florida St 46, Virginia Tech 29
1999 Ohio State 24, Texas A&M 14
1998 Florida State 31, Ohio State 14
1997 Florida 52, Florida State 20
1995 Virginia Tech 28, Texas 10
1995 Florida State 23, Florida 17
1994 Florida 41, West Virginia 7
1993 Alabama 34, Miami 13
1992 Notre Dame 39, Florida 28
1991 Tennessee 23, Virginia 22
1990 Miami 33, Alabama 25
1989 Florida State 13, Auburn 7
1988 Auburn 16, Syracuse 16
1987 Nebraska 30, LSU 15
1986 Tennessee 35, Miami 7
1985 Nebraska 28, LSU 10
1984 Auburn 9, Michigan 7
1983 Penn State 27, Georgia 23
1982 Pittsburgh 24, Georgia 20
1981 Georgia 17, Notre Dame 10
1980 Alabama 24, Arkansas 9
1979 Alabama 14, Penn State 7
1978 Alabama 35, Ohio State 6
1977 Pittsburgh 27, Georgia 3
1975 Alabama 13, Penn State 6
1974 Nebraska 13, Florida 10
1973 Notre Dame 24, Alabama 23
1972 Oklahoma 40, Auburn 22
1972 Oklahoma 14, Penn State 0
1971 Tennessee 34, Air Force 13
1970 Mississippi 27, Arkansas 22
1969 Arkansas 16, Georgia 2
1968 LSU 20, Wyoming 13
1967 Alabama 34, Nebraska 7
1966 Missouri 20, Florida 18
1965 LSU 13, Syracuse 10
1964 Alabama 12, Mississippi 7
1963 Mississippi 17, Arkansas 3
1962 Alabama 10, Arkansas 3
1961 Mississippi 14, Rice 6
1960 Mississippi 21, LSU 0
1959 LSU 7, Clemson 0
1958 Mississippi 39, Texas 7
1957 Baylor 13, Tennessee 7
1956 Georgia Tech 7, Pittsburgh 0
1955 Navy 21, Mississippi 0
1954 Georgia Tech 42, W Virginia 19
1953 Georgia Tech 24, Mississippi 7
1952 Maryland 28, Tennessee 13
1951 Kentucky 13, Oklahoma 7
1950 Oklahoma 35, LSU 0
1949 Oklahoma 14, North Carolina 6
1948 Texas 27, Alabama 7
1947 Georgia 20, North Carolina 10
1946 Oklahoma State 33, St Mary's (Colorado) 13
1945 Duke 29, Alabama 26
1944 Georgia Tech 20, Tulsa 18
1943 Tennessee 14, Tulsa 7
1942 Fordham 2, Missouri 0
1941 Boston Coll 19, Tennessee 13
1940 Texas A&M 14, Tulane 13
1939 TCU 15, Carnegie Mellon 7
1938 Santa Clara 6, LSU 0
1937 Santa Clara 21, LSU 14
1936 TCU 3, LSU 2
1935 Tulane 20, Temple 14