Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Basics: Ohio State (11-1) vs. Arkansas (10-2), Jan. 4, 8:30pm ET
Why You Should Watch: This game will feature one of the more interesting matchups in the BCS this season, and in the bowl games. On one side you have a program that is no stranger to the BCS, nor to facing an SEC opponent (Ohio State is 0-9 against the SEC in bowl games) while there in Ohio State. The other side has a team that's looking around like "Wow." Arkansas has had some success in the last decade, but the Sugar Bowl isn't a stage it's grown accustomed to. In fact, this is Arkansas' first appearance in a BCS game, and first trip to the Sugar Bowl since 1980.
It's also a clash of styles. Ohio State presents an offense that prefers to keep things close to its sweatervest, preferring to move the ball down the field slowly, and occasionally go for the big play. Arkansas is a team that can score from anywhere on the field at anytime, and is literally trying to score on every play. It'll be like a poker game where one guy is pushing all his chips in on every play, and the other is just sitting around waiting for pocket aces.
Keys to Victory for Ohio State: As I mentioned above, Ohio State and Jim Tressel have a very particular approach to football, and if they're going to win this game, it's a formula they'll likely need to stick to. Ohio State's defense is pretty strong, but the best way to keep the Arkansas offense from putting points on the board is to keep the Arkansas offense on the sideline. So while Terrelle Pryor has plenty of talent and nice weapons in Devier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher, the Buckeyes best bet is to keep the ball on the ground and in the hands of Brandon Saine and Dan Herron.
On defense, the goal is simple, but not easy to execute: stop Ryan Mallett. Mallett has thrown for 3,627 yards and 30 touchdowns this season, so it will be a key for Ohio State's defense to get pressure on him and not allow him to sit in the pocket and pick apart the secondary. Of course, while focusing on Mallett, the Buckeyes can't afford to sleep on Knile Davis. Davis has rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns, and is often overlooked due to the Arkansas passing attack.
Keys to Victory for Arkansas: Now, we know that Arkansas has a high powered offense. One that is 4th in the nation in passing yards with 349.2 a game, but its average of 37.3 points per game is actually below Ohio State's output of 39.4 points a game. So we know that Mallett, Greg Childs and the rest of the Razorback offense is going to make some plays.
The key will be whether or not Arkansas' defense can stop the Buckeyes. The Hogs have lost two games this season. One was a shootout against Auburn that saw its defense give up 65 points to Auburn. The other was a game in which the Hogs only managed 20 points against Alabama. Ohio State will be the toughest defense Arkansas has faced since that game, and the Arkansas defense will have to do its part to keep the Hogs in the game. To do this the Hogs will have to make Pryor one-dimensional. Either take away the pass and force him to beat you with his legs, or take away the running lanes and force him to beat you with his arm.
The Sugar Bowl is like: Well, it's like a big bowl of sugar. It tastes really good, gets you incredibly excited, but in the end, you're just going to crash and it won't really mean anything in the bigger picture. Of course, that won't stop you from doing it all over again.