Blog Entry

Bowl Grades: Sugar Bowl

Posted on: January 5, 2011 2:40 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Ohio State builds a 31-13 second-half lead and -- despite a safety, lost fumble, and blocked punt, all in the fourth quarter -- holds off a furious Arkansas rally to win a classic, 31-26.


Offense: Terrelle Pryor may never be remembered as the dominant force-of-nature his raw talent suggests he can be, but it won't be for his bowl performances. The Sugar Bowl MVP racked up 336 yards-from-scrimmage (221 passing, 115 rushing), accounted for two touchdowns without committing a turnover, and was sensational on third down, converting multiple hopeless-looking situations into third downs with his scrambling.

Add Pryor's night to big ones from Dane Sanzenbacher (only three receptions but two touchdowns, one on a fumble recovery), Boom Herron (87 yards, one score), and the Buckeye offensive line (5.0 yards-per-carry, no sacks allowed vs. the nation's 12th-ranked pass rush) and it's easy to see how the Buckeyes raced out to a 28-7 first-half lead. They had a much rougher second half -- only 110 yards of offense after 336 at halftime, and Herron's safety and fumble handed Arkansas two gift-wrapped opportunities -- but they also never made the killer mistake to let the Hogs all the way back. GRADE: B+

Defense: Start with Cameron Heyward, a night-long nightmare for the Hog offensive line who for all of Pryor's brilliance should have been the game MVP. Then there's the four sacks, the mediocre 5.9 yards allowed per pass play (despite the loss of top corner Chimdi Chekwa to a broken hand early in the game), and the one touchdown allowed over the course of Arkansas's final 12 possessions.

But most of all, there's this: with the Hogs within one possession following the Herron safety, their final four drives started at the 50-yard line, the Arkansas 44, the Ohio State 48, and the OSU 18. Total results of those drives? 39 yards, three points, two punts, and one backbreaking turnover. There's clutch defense, and then there's that. GRADE: A-

A bizarre first-half onsides kick attempt aside, Jim Tressel and his staff pushed the right buttons, kept the defense together in the face of multiple injuries, and had his team plenty ready to play on both sides of the ball. You beat a 10-win SEC team in the Sugar Bowl, you've done a lot of things right, GRADE: A-


The Hogs finished with an impressive 402 yards against the No. 2 defense in the country, but no one's going to remember that. They'll remember the devastating parade of drops from the Hog receivers (six in all, half of them from particularly-butterfingered wideout Joe Adams) , the Swiss cheese pass protection, the wasted opportunity after wasted opportunity down the stretch, and finally the one game-icing mistake from Ryan Mallett. There's a lot to say for an offense that puts up those kinds of yards (including a quiet 139 yards rushing for Knile Davis, if there can be such a thing) and even the 26 points against a defense as stout as the Buckeyes, but as many chances as the Hog defense and special teams gave Bobby Petrino's favorite unit, there's also little question they should have found a way to finish the comeback. GRADE: C-

For most of the first half, the Hogs looked like the rock-bottom group from 2009 rather than the much-improved outfit we saw in 2010, missing tackles left and right (Pryor is one thing, but when Sanzenbacher is juking his way out of tight spots, you've got issues) and leaving massive gaps both up front and in the secondary. 336 first-half yards to an attack as generally non-explosive as the Buckeyes' (not to mention the 28 points) pretty much says it all.

To their credit, the Hogs responded with a huge second half, giving up just one net point after yielding one field goal and scoring a safety of their own. But maybe the offense could have gotten all the way out of the hole if it hadn't been quite so deep to begin with. GRADE: B-

Defensive coordinator Willy Robinson deserves some kudos for his halftime adjustments and Petrino a handful for keeping his team's head in the game down big, but Petrino made some curious play calls (repeatedly asking for draws or screens on third-and-long when his quarterback possesses the strongest arm in the college game) and could have been more aggressive looking for six points late in the game rather than settling for three. Still, the Hogs' biggest problems -- his line's terrible play, the wretched drops -- were more player execution problems than coaching issues. We think. GRADE: B

Games simply don't get a whole lot more dramatic than this one, with the outcome seemingly riding on each and every play in the fourth quarter and momentum swinging back and forth like the needle of a metronome. If this was our appetizer for the BCS national title game, we can't wait for the main course. GRADE: A



Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 22, 2011 11:24 am

Bowl Grades: Sugar Bowl

Many thanks for counsel. Which were gravely constructive. Grant my vision check out the ins and outs available.

Since: Jan 6, 2011
Posted on: January 10, 2011 11:57 am

Bowl Grades: Sugar Bowl

Two very good teams played the Sugar Bowl and I was lucky enough to be there. I also watched the game closely on tivo and I can only agree with you on a couple of your points. One the Hogs didn't execute on their opportunities that they created. We had clearly 6 dropped passes in which the passes hit them cleanly in the hands. Four of these drops were uncharacteristic of the players that dropped them. The Hogs couldn't help but get in their own way. One could argue that being their first BCS game could have played a role. I won't take anything away from OSU because I believe were playing an excellent team but even without the history we were evenly matched. Ryan Mallet did not have a bad game. He was harrassed by one of the best defensive lines we've faced this year and every time we needed a play he came up big and yet alas another drop. I like you thought that Mallet had a bad game until I watched the game again. It became clear to me that the Hogs battled better than I had thought and could have changed the outcome on any one of about 15 plays. What I'm getting at is that this was a great college football game between two very good teams not conferences or pasts. Watch it again and know the drops are not the norm with our team and I believe you will come away with no less pride for OSU which I congratulate but you will also see a very tough determined Razorback team as well.
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Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: January 6, 2011 2:00 pm

Bowl Grades: Sugar Bowl

Well OSU had to finally win one vs Sec. Good thing they did not play Bama or Auburn.

OSU did not earn the right to play that is immaterial.  Bama did not earn the right to play OSU, so that too is irrelevant.  Arkansas did earn the right to play OSU, but OSU held on to win despite the Hogs being blown a big wet kiss by the officials in the form of a bogus safety.

Next year polls need to stop ranking so many Big teams so high. The big ten is not a tough schedule when best they have go 2 and 5 in bowls. When every year they get to show how they measure up and lose big.

Fist off, the Big Ten went 3-5, not 2-5.  Get your facts straight.  On the surface a 3-5 bowl season looks bad.  Keep in mind that not all bowl matchups are created equal.  Of those 8 bowl games, the Big Ten team was favored in only 1.  Several of those were uphill battles where the Big ten Team was playing up in class. Like unranked Iowa facing #14 Mizzou, or Penn St having to face Florida in its own backyard with the advantage of having a retiring coach (how often do teams with a great coach retiring lose their bowl game?  Not too damn often).  That said, what do pollsters have to do with bowl matchups anyway?  With the exception of BCS bowl at-large bids, poll position does not matter.  That note that OSU was a BCS at-large team this year and they won.  What more do you want?  Also keep in mind that the Big Ten gains another strong program (Nebraska) next season.  This means a number of Big Ten teams will be bumped down in the bowl pecking order next year.  The result is a lot of the bowl mismatches we saw this year should be much more even matches next year.

TCU is good but  this year IMO would not beat Oregon, Stanford, Bama or Auburn. Since they beat Wisc they clearly could beat OSU as well.

Dude, just because TCU beat Wisconsin and Wisconsin beat OSU, it does not mean TCU would beat OSU.  For starters, TCU played the Badgers on a neutral field.  On the other hand OSU limped into a hostile Camp Randall with a beat up back 7 on D and special teams in disarray as a result.  Not to mention OSU presents different matchup problems than Wisconsin.  Who knows how a healthy OSU would match up with TCU on a neutral field?  But I would like OSU's chances.

Since: Sep 4, 2006
Posted on: January 5, 2011 7:09 pm

Bowl Grades: Sugar Bowl

Packerfan9, youre all over the place. 75% of your "facts" are false! Do some research homie!

Since: Dec 5, 2009
Posted on: January 5, 2011 6:03 pm

Bowl Grades: Sugar Bowl

Big Nasty, what I'm saying is with all the miscues Ohio State was having in the second half they are lucky they came away with that game. The punt blocked, the safety on Herron, then him fumbling the ball on 4th and inches, these happening they are lucky that Arkansas was not on their game and in the end Mallet threw the interception which was the end of the game. Ohio State found so many ways to lose that game, and Arkansas only lacked the capacity to capitalize. If the Razorbacks capitalized on one play when it mattered they'd be the 2011 Sugar Bowl champions.

Since: Dec 2, 2008
Posted on: January 5, 2011 2:48 pm

Bowl Grades: Sugar Bowl

Choco:  Won't argue your point in 07 and 08, but in 09 they lost on a last minute drive to Texas or they could just as easily be 7-2 in BCS games.  How can you talk about their regular season when trying to make a point about their BCS record?  The point is, they aren't playing "easy" competition in BCS and they are still 6-3.  Those are the facts.

I definitely respect this argument.  I even think an apology is owed for a lot of the grief OSU takes.  Ohio State plays the teams on its schedule and cannot help it if the Michigan or other in conference competition is lacking in a given season.  A 6-3 bowl record is impressive and even more impressive considering the BCS arranged competition.  My ultimate point is that a playoff is in order.  Ohio State would have made it into the "playoffs" a lot this last decade even if it just took the top 8 teams.

Let's take a look at a playoff even just using the top 8 teams by BCS ranking this year:

1.  Auburn
2.  Oregon
3.  TCU
4.  Stanford
5.  Wisconsin
6.  Ohio State
7.  Oklahoma
8.  Arkansas

First Round:  Auburn v. Arkansas;  Oregon v. Oklahoma; TCU v. Ohio State; and Stanford v. Wisconsin

The winners and losers would then be seeded into the Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and Rose Bowl to be played consistant with the current schedule and all of the non-top 8 teams would play in the rest of the regular bowls.  It's not OSU's individual fault that there isn't a playoff system, but their president's statement in support of the BCS perpetuates this fraud.  The playoff will still have problems as the NCAA waffles on it's enforcement actions regarding rules infractions and teams with similar records will argue they deserve a title shot.  But when was the last time we had 8 undefeated teams?  A system that would at least give undefeated teams a shot would be an infinite improvement.  People will continue to say TCU, Boise, etc. cannot hang with the big dogs, well try facing them in a playoff and let's see!

Since: Nov 6, 2006
Posted on: January 5, 2011 1:43 pm

Bowl Grades: Sugar Bowl

Choco:  Won't argue your point in 07 and 08, but in 09 they lost on a last minute drive to Texas or they could just as easily be 7-2 in BCS games.  How can you talk about their regular season when trying to make a point about their BCS record?  The point is, they aren't playing "easy" competition in BCS and they are still 6-3.  Those are the facts.

Since: Dec 2, 2008
Posted on: January 5, 2011 1:20 pm

Bowl Grades: Sugar Bowl

Show me another college with that resume.

Well of course no one else has that resume.  The BCS system is run by a cartel that chases the money they can get from the large Big 10 fan bases despite the fact that the Big 10 has been a very top heavy and under powered conference this decade.  Ohio State was a legitimate power when they beat Miami in 2003 for the National Title.  They had the nations best defense and were able to grind out games with physicality and field goals.  After that point Ohio State has won the Big 10 a lot of years without a conference championship game to trip them up and was crushed by superior competition 2007 through 2009 and definitely deserve credit for nice wins the last two years.  The ridiculous part of the BCS though, is that making it to a bunch of title games of BCS bowls means more in some conferences than others.  The Big East gets an automatic bid, and we've seen how well that conference has faired in recent years.  Without a playoff we have never seen the Big 10 face a non-BCS school like TCU or Boise State in a BCS bowl.  Bottom line is that saying a team has played a lot of BCS games is a phony measure.  With Michigan being an ugly step sister in the Big 10 the road for OSU has been pretty easy against non-powers like Northwestern, Indiana, Purdue, and Minnesota and inconsistant programs like Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and even Penn State.  You want some respect for a post season resume?  Tell your college president to stop bad mouthing teams like Boise State while he hides behind the shield of the BCS cartel that automatically bids or at large selects OSU all the time and play a playoff like real men!  Even the addition of a conference final will limit the number of automatic bids OSU can expect in the future.  I'm not saying the Buckeyers aren't the class of the Big 10 or one of the nations best programs, I'm not saying they aren't as elite as a superficial glance at the their BCS bowl record would suggest.

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: January 5, 2011 12:44 pm

Bowl Grades: Sugar Bowl

You can use the logic that is X beats Y and Y beats Z then X would beat Z.  In 2007 USC was #7 ranked team in the county and won the Rose Bowl.  Northeastern University beat New Hampshire that year, and New Hampshire beat Delaware, Delaware beat Navy, Navy beat Notre Dame, Notre Dame beat Stanford and Stanford beat USC.  So obviously, Northeastern could beat USC.  Ohio State went into a hostile home field game for Arkansas and beat them.  Arkansas was ranked #8 in the country.  Ohio State beat Oregon last year in the Rose Bowl.  Oregon is ranked #2 this year.  Say what you want about the Big Ten, OSU has delivered two big win over two tough team in the last two years.  Lets look at the stats:

Most BCS bowl appearances: Ohio State (9)
Most BCS Bowl wins:  Ohio State (6)
Most BCS Championships: Florida/LSU (2 each), OSU (1)

1999 - Beat #6 Texas A&M
2000 - Did not play
2001 - Did not play
2002 - Did not play
2003 - Beat #1 Miami for national championship
2004 - Beat #10 Kansas State
2005 - Did not play
2006 - Beat #6 Notre Dame
2007 - Lost to #2 Florida in national championship game
2008 - Lost to #2 LSU in national championship game
2009 - Lost to #3 Texas
2010 - Beat #7 Oregon
2011 - Beat #8 Arkansas

Show me another college with that resume.

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: January 5, 2011 12:26 pm

Bowl Grades: Sugar Bowl

Skel, not sure how you are slanting that Buckeyes were lucky.  If you say the interception at the end was lucky, then I say the punt block was lucky.  I think the real issue is the safety.  I almost fell out of my chair when saw that call.  I went to Delaware, so I really didnt care who won, but that safety call could have been a backbreaker for the Buckeyes and they didnt allow it.  As for the 5 guys, I am more upset that they sold things that I am sure Ohio State fans would hope that they counted as their prized possessions.  Apparently they knew they couldnt do it, so they should be punished, but how dumb is that rule?

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