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-
Coaching: 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-
Offense: 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-
Defense: 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-
Coaching: 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
FINAL GRADE: 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
Posted on: January 2, 2011 12:12 pm
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.
Posted on: December 27, 2010 12:42 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
There's been a bit of confusion and anger over the NCAA's decision to suspend six Ohio State players for five games next season for selling memorabilia and accepting discounted tattoos, but not to suspend them for the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. Well, it seems there's still a chance that none of the suspended players will play in the Sugar Bowl, though it's not the NCAA's decision.
The team met for the first time since the suspension was announced on Sunday, and according to a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the suspended players apologized to their teammates at the meeting. According to the same report, the Ohio State seniors also got together to discuss whether or not they wanted the players suspended by the team for the bowl game as well.
According to sources, the suspended players are scheduled to travel with the team to New Orleans, but the final decision on what happens to quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, left tackle Mike Adams, backup defensive end Solomon Thomas and backup linebacker Jordan Whiting obviously lies with Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. One source said one scenario could include the sanctioned Buckeyes playing in the Sugar Bowl, but perhaps not starting.
If I had to guess, I don't think Tressel will sit any of the players for the Sugar Bowl. If anything, he'll choose the option to not start them, though I don't even expect that to be the case. Personally, while I understand why people are angry that none of the players were suspended for the bowl game, I tend to feel that suspending them for five games next season hurts Ohio State more than forcing them to sit out the Sugar Bowl would.
Let's be real, here, while the Sugar Bowl is a big deal, it doesn't actually mean anything in the big picture. It's not like the winner of the game has a chance to be the national champion. The only thing on the line in the game is Ohio State's pride as they face another SEC team in a BCS bowl game.
Suspending the players for next season, however, likely costs the Buckeyes a shot at a national title in 2011 and possibly a Big Ten title as well. Even if players like Terrelle Pryor decide to leave school early rather than sit out nearly half the season, that still means the Buckeyes won't have them next year, which will have an impact on the team's performance.
Though, had the NCAA just decided to suspend the players for six games, including the bowl game, that would have kept everybody off its back, but since when does the NCAA ever do anything in which it doesn't leave itself open to criticism?
Posted on: December 23, 2010 5:10 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Back in September, the NCAA introduced legislation to make it possible for coaches to be suspended over secondary NCAA violations. Naturally, this idea is causing consternation among those in the coaching ranks, as secondary violations are generally regarded on the same level of seriousness as parking tickets. In the NCAA's eyes, of course, that mindset is itself a problem, so down this road we go.
Nick Saban sees all this, and Nick Saban doesn't like what he sees. Here's what he told reporters Tuesday, according to TideSports.com:“I thought originally in our discussions, in some of our meetings, that this was a rule that was going to be sort of implemented for people who had multiple secondary violations,” Saban said. “In other words, there was a disrespect for the rules shown by someone continuing to do the wrong thing. It wasn’t like you had one thing that happened that’s bad … and you could get suspended for a game.”
“I think it hurts the players when you start suspending coaches, so I’m not sure I’m in agreement. But I’m not sure that I have a solution, because we do respect the rules and we do want everybody to abide by the rules,” Saban said. “If this punishment is what’s going to change someone’s behavior, then I think it’s good. But if it’s not going to change anybody’s behavior, then I don’t really think it’s good.”
This is actually a remarkably sane approach to the issue. Punishment for the sake of punishment isn't necessarily a positive response to a widespread problem (see: Drugs, War On). Saban correctly recognizes that if the amount of secondary violations doesn't appreciably decrease, football would be worse off if some number of coaches are suspended than if none are suspended.
Further, it's worth remembering that it's really easy to commit a secondary NCAA violation. Derek Dooley just committed one the other day when he accidentally posted on a recruit's Facebook wall, after all. Arkansas had recruits try on jerseys and is under investigation. In basketball, Tom Izzo caught a one-game suspension for paying the wrong guy to run a weekend basketball camp.
So between this and Saban's inartful (yet not incorrect) comparison of unscrupulous agents and "pimps," it's plainly evident that he has a better grasp on incentives and disincentives than most people. Compare Saban's willingness to examine whether a rule is good or bad based on its evident effects on behavior with this from NCAA president Mark Emmert a month before his arrival with the organization, earlier this year:
"I'm really pleased with how we're working with the universities and colleges to try to correct behaviors that are not in the school's best interests," Emmert said in a phone interview Tuesday from Seattle. "Under my leadership, we're not going to see any diminutive effect of that effort. But I like where we're going right now."
"I can't talk about any [current] cases, but the fact that we've got strong enforcement going on, I think, is a good thing," he said.
Now, we're not about to accuse Emmert of not knowing or caring whether every one of those rules is appropriate for the NCAA. That would be wrong. It just seems that with extremely limited disincentive for, say, an agent to make subtle overtures to a prospective pro or a tattoo shop to offer the hookup to a football player in return for some swag, merely increasing the punishment on players taking advantage of such a relationship isn't going to solve any long-term problems; it'll probably just mean more players get in trouble. And if football suffers when its teams lose coaches to suspension with no effect on behavior, it sure as heck also suffers when more of its players are suspended for doing logical things like selling goods for money.
So while we'll stop short of recommending Nick Saban be the next president of the NCAA, in our estimation, the organization would be better off if Saban takes an advisory role on policy once he decides to take his career in a less demanding direction. Or think about it this direction: if Nick Saban's writing the rules, do you really think Terrelle Pryor or A.J. Green sit for a third of the season just for selling things that were given to them in a transaction that doesn't get the other side in trouble at all?
Posted on: December 17, 2010 4:49 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Why You Should Watch: It's the very first bowl game of the year! It's Saturday at 2:00 p.m., and don't you really want one more dose of Saturday afternoon football before the relatives start showing up and the holidays start getting a little too real? Plus, sure, BYU is 6-6, but that record's a bit misleading, as the Stormin' Mormons' regular season schedule featured seven bowl teams -- including all four non-conference foes. UTEP also faced a litany of impressive players, including Ryan Mallett with Arkansas and Houston QB Case Keenum before his season-ending injury. Neither defense is going to be surprised or overmatched, compared to what they'd seen earlier in the season.
Keys to Victory for BYU: The Cougars need to get Jake Heaps going early in the game. The freshman quarterback has been turning his season around after throwing just two touchdowns in his first eight games; Heaps is up to 11 passing TDs on the year and another TD on the ground, and the UTEP passing defense is just porous enough to allow the Cougars to get something going if they're in the mood.
But most of all, BYU has to shake the Green Chili Curse. Every year, before the New Mexico Bowl, the two teams engage in a green chili cookoff in honor of New Mexico's most famous cuisine. Trouble is, the winning team in the cookoff is 0-4 in the actual bowl game thereafter. Brigham Young won this year, so that's obviously a problem; near as we can tell, there are ancient gods who control green chilis and punish those who desecrate their sacred fruit to the infidel judges' liking in said competition. That's a factor BYU needs to account for, or this game's as good as lost. Either that or the cookoff correlation is just random chance, but where's the fun in that?
Keys to Victory for UTEP: On paper, UTEP is overmatched in this game, but the Miners are facing a freshman quarterback with a penchant for not throwing touchdowns who's playing in his very first bowl game. So often, these minor bowl games just come down to a battle of who could care less, so if ever there were an opportunity for UTEP to grab its first bowl win since 1967, it's now.
QB Trevor Vittatoe and star wideout Kris Adams are likely the keys for UTEP. Both are seniors playing in their last game as Miners, and despite their considerable career numbers, neither is projected to be much of a factor in the NFL as of right now. Adams might get drafted late; Vittatoe probably won't. If the tandem can hook up the deep game a couple more times in their last dance, UTEP could put up enough points to take this game.
The New Mexico Bowl is like: a glass of water. What's the first thing you get when you dine out? Appetizer? Salad? Rolls and butter? Drink order? No, no, no, and no; it's that ubiquitous glass of water, there to welcome you to the restaurant and whet your appetite for what's to come. It's not there to satisfy, and to expect otherwise would be just silly. Yet the longer you wait for it, the more uncomfortable everybody at the table becomes. Ladies and gentlemen, fret not; your water is here, and your bowl experience is about to begin.
Posted on: December 14, 2010 11:35 am
Edited on: December 14, 2010 11:38 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
Just when the NCAA decided to make an announcement regarding a violations-related rule change they made in September, wouldn't you know that a high-profile program is looking into some potential secondary violations. Of course, because that is just the way these things go. Arkansas is currently looking into the situation that led to a photo being taken of several Razorbacks prospects on their official visit this past weekend. The photo could serve as hard evidence that the program is guilty of secondary recruiting violations.
NCAA bylaw 18.104.22.168 specifically stipulates schools “may not permit a prospective student-athlete to engage in any game-day simulations … during an official visit.” In addition, the bylaw says “personalized recruiting aids include any decorative items and special additions to any location the prospective student-athlete will visit (e.g. hotel room, locker room, coach’s office, conference room, arena) regardless of whether the items include the prospective student-athlete’s name or picture.”
As you can see by the photo, ten prospects are wearing Arkansas game jerseys in the locker room. While it is not known if the ten jerseys are personalized, you can see the names of five prospects up above the lockers. Arkansas reportedly received two verbal commitments from the official visits this weekend, linebacker Tyler Gilbert and safety/linebacker Rohan Gaines. Gilbert can be seen in the photo wearing #56 and T. Gilbert is posted on the locker behind him.
If Arkansas does determine that NCAA rules were broken, the violations would be secondary and not effect the eligibility of the player. But thanks to the new provisions regarding secondary violations, coaches are now held personally accountable - and could face suspension. According to the NCAA report, the suspension could be "one or more" games, but it all depends on the circumstance. Head coach Bobby Petrino, recently awarded with a lucrative new deal from Arkansas, is likely not worried about being docked one game's worth of pay - if it even comes to that. (Photo credit: Arkansas News Bureau)
Posted on: December 13, 2010 6:45 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Just go ahead and call it the Lane Kiffin Rule: coaches who commit NCAA secondary violations in the name of recruiting can now face suspensions of up to two games . The days of head coaches willingly pushing the proverbial envelope and collecting slaps on the wrist like so many Pokemon sound like they may be over:
The NCAA does make clear that being found guilty of a secondary violation doesn't trigger an automatic suspension, and that "punishment could depend on the circumstances"; the coach or program who slips up somewhere once probably won't get anything more than the usual reprimand.
But some coaches -- like Kiffin during his abbreviated stay at Tennessee -- have seemed to treat the secondary violation as more bureaucratic annoyance than legitimate deterrent. This change is likely aimed at curbing those kinds of serial offenders, or the more obvious, flagrant violations, like recruits-running-out-of-the-tunnel gameday simulations.
NCAA punishments have often sounded imposing on paper and been toothless in practice; waivers for BCS schools running afoul of the annual APR requirements have been so rampant they may as well be automatic. But more than one coach complained anonymously in the media after incidents like Auburn's 2009 impromptu recruiting pep rally , and Teaff at least sounds serious. (The NCAA might even have an immediate test case at Arkansas after this photograph surfaced this week. Does dressing recruits up in Hog jerseys and letting them visit personalized lockers in the Hog locker room count as a gameday situation?) The rank-and-file in the AFCA may be tired of seeing the Kiffins of the world benefit while those that toe the line lose out.
So whether this will actually be a brave new world for recruiting violations and punishments remains to be seen. But there's little doubt it will be a development worth watching as Signing Day approaches.
Posted on: December 11, 2010 8:02 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The rumors started circulating on Friday night and early Saturday morning that Bobby Petrino was close to signing a contract extension that would keep him at Arkansas, and now it seems that it's no longer a rumor. According to reports on Saturday night, Petrino has signed a seven-year extension that will pay him nearly $25 million.
In another tweet from Marcello, it seems that there's a non-compete clause with the rest of the SEC in Petrino's contract as well.
Whatever the case is, this contract extension is just further proof that having your name mentioned as a candidate anywhere -- whether real or not, with or without mutual interest -- is a best way to get yourself a raise.