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 29, 2010 2:50 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
As they did in the wake of their ruling that Cam Newton was eligible -- and the media firestorm that accompanied it -- the NCAA has again issued a statement outlining a recent decision , this time the Ohio State suspensions, and this time they are angry . Or at least, they're as angry as a near-faceless all-encompassing bureacracy can be:
The NCAA throwing around words like "absurd" is the equivalent of your standard columnist or blogger typing out an expletive-laced ALL-CAPS rant. They are, to understate things for effect, not entirely happy.
And though he is well in the minority, this blogger for one doesn't blame them a bit. The criticism of the NCAA's Ohio State ruling seems to simultaneously accuse the organization of being too strict ("Why can Cecil Newton get away with asking for $180,000 while the Buckeyes get punished for a few underpriced tattoos and for selling their own possessions?" ) and, somehow, too lenient ("Why do the Buckeyes get to play in the bowl game when they're suspended?" ). As the saying goes, a good compromise leaves everyone unhappy, and from here it looks like handing down a five-game suspension but allowing the accused Buckeyes to play the biggest game of their current season looks like it fits that bill. (As for the Sugar Bowl's lobbying, please note that it was in the direction of Ohio State and Jim Tressel to keep them from sitting the players themselves, not the NCAA.)
The NCAA is also correct that comparisons between the Newton case and Ohio State's -- not to mention Reggie Bush's, Renardo Sidney's , and the like -- don't entirely fly when the NCAA has no evidence (as of yet) the Newtons received any benefits and plenty of evidence the Buckeyes did. As has been pointed out elsewhere , those accusing the NCAA of inconsistency miss that their response to accepted benefits has been very consistent indeed.
This isn't to say the NCAA hasn't earned its reputation for capriciousness over the years (and then some). There's solid arguments to be made that the Buckeyes should be sitting the Sugar Bowl, that their bylaws should have more clearly anticipated a situation like the Newtons', that the bylaws ought to be looser where relatively minor benefits are concerned (particulary considering how much money the athletes in question are earning for the programs they represent).
But the NCAA is right -- this time -- that just causally tossing out a comparison between the Newtons and the Buckeyes alongside words like "inconsistent" and "biased" isn't a fair method of criticism.
Posted on: December 29, 2010 11:31 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
On Tuesday the six Ohio State players who were suspended for five games next season sat down in front of the television cameras and assembled media and told they world they were sorry for what they'd done. Of course, just because the Suspended Six took responsibility for their actions, that doesn't mean that the world will just forgive them, nor accept the punishment they've received.
In fact, plenty of college football fans have expressed anger about the fact that the players are all suspended for five games next season yet get to play in the Sugar Bowl. There had been talk of the team and Jim Tressel benching the players in the game on its own, but it doesn't seem like that's going to happen. Why? Well, because it's doubtful that Ohio State would sit those players for the Sugar Bowl after the Sugar Bowl spent so much time telling them to lobby as hard as they could to keep the players eligible for the game.
On Tuesday, after the apologies, Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan had no problem letting everybody know that he pressured Ohio State to fight as hard as it could to keep the players eligible for the game, and have the suspensions put off until next season. Apparently Hoolahan first heard about the suspensions on December 7, a full two weeks before they became public.
"I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year's game, we would greatly appreciate it," Hoolahan told The Columbus Dispatch. "That appeal did not fall on deaf ears, and I'm extremely excited about it, that the Buckeyes are coming in at full strength and with no dilution."
So, just in case you were wondering who really runs this sport, now you know. Hoolahan also went on to say that while he understands why some Ohio State fans would want the players suspended for the bowl game, he "probably thinking of this from a selfish perspective."
I know, I'm shocked to hear that a bowl game would be thinking of itself and not the players, schools or fans too.
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 22, 2010 9:20 pm
Edited on: December 23, 2010 11:15 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
It appears some new ink could possibly end up costing a few Ohio State players the chance to play in the Sugar Bowl. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the school is now looking into some possible NCAA violations of several Ohio State players who may have received free tattoos in exchange for autographs.
Sources indicate that some sort of discipline is likely to be handed down, but it is unclear when, or to what extent. It is possible that some players may not be available for the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4, but it's also possible that any discipline could get pushed back to the start of the 2011 regular season.
Athletic director Gene Smith has not returned multiple messages.
It's against NCAA rules for any student-athlete to use their status to receive anything not normally offered to the general public.
Obviously, if any Ohio State players were to be suspended for the Sugar Bowl, depending on who they are, it would have a serious impact on the game. As of now we don't know which players may or may not be involved, but let's say this: I don't think a third string freshman safety is getting free tattoos in exchange for an autograph.
So, while I have no idea who any of the players are, I wouldn't be shocked to find out if some are starters. And Jim Tressel . You know the reason Tressel always wears that sweatervest and long sleeves is to hide the hundreds of tattoos on his arms.
UPDATE: Well, it seems we know at least one player who received tattoos: Terrelle Pryor , who announced on his Twitter page tonight, "I paid for my tattoos. Go Bucks."
According to the Cleveland Leader , other players involved reportedly include Dan Herron , DeVier Posey , Travis Howard , Jonathan Newsome , Jordan Hall , Chris Fields and Michael Brewster .
Posted on: December 8, 2010 12:07 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 12:10 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The economic slump has taken its toll on ticket sales and attendance figures for any number of bowls over the past couple of seasons -- no, John Q. College Football Fan does not want to spend his hard-earned cash visiting Detroit at the end of December to watch the Little Caesar's Bowl -- but that doesn't mean that with the right matchup in the right setting, fans still won't flock to their team's postseason destination.
Exhibit A: the Sugar Bowl has already sold out . It's the Sugar Bowl, sure, but getting to New Orleans from Columbus isn't the easiest of hikes, and while no one will accuse Arkansas fans of being any less fervent in their devotion to their football team than fans at their fellow SEC schools, they also simply don't have the numbers of an Alabama, Florida, or LSU. If it's taken less than 48 hours or so to sell out the Superdome, that's not bad.
But, yes, it is still the Sugar Bowl. And yes, it's the Hogs' first trip there in ages and the Buckeyes have one of the nation's largest followings. It's not bad, but it's not impressive. What might be, though, is Exhibit B: the Sun Bowl, in El Paso, Texas, has also sold out . It's even done so in record time, exhausting its ticket supply in less than 24 hours to break last year's mark by nearly nine days, and that's despite El Paso's less-than-desirable proximity to crime-ridden Juarez hampering its image as a tourist destination. (If you can't make it in person, remember that you can always watch the Sun Bowl at 2 p.m. EST Dec. 31, exclusively on ... wait for it ... CBS!)
That's what having two name-brand teams in Miami and Notre Dame set to renew the most famous and consequential rivalry of the late 1980s will get you, we suppose. (That the Irish declined to play a bowl game of any kind last season probably helps, too.) What happens if you're not pairing the 'Canes and Irish? What happens if you're pairing, say, a 6-6 Pac-10 mediocrity with a Big 12 opponent that 1. just crushed its legions of fans with a devastating championship game defeat 2. played in that same bowl game last year 3. obliterated that same Pac-10 team in that team's stadium earlier this season?
What happens is you have the Holiday Bowl and its Nebraska-Washington matchup, and you are also not going to see all that many Husker fans there :
The Nebraska athletic ticket office still has about 5,000 tickets for sale to the public, something that probably wouldn't have been the case had the Huskers made it to another bowl against another team.In many cases, yes, the economy will be to blame for bowl struggles. But as the Holiday is proving, there's often a lot more to it than that.
HT on Holiday story: DocSat .
Posted on: November 20, 2010 7:51 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Maybe it's fitting that Les Miles ' best job of clock management in ages -- maybe ever -- came against Ole Miss today in his Tigers' 43-36 win . After all, it was the spike-with-one-second fiasco against the Rebels last season that took the "Miles can't manage the clock" meme from the ravings of embittered LSU fans to an accepted mainstream fact.
But not today. Today it was Miles whose team took over on their own 49 with 4:57 to play, down 36-35, and cooly drove the ball into the endzone and -- just as importantly in a game that at times resembled a ping-pong match as much as football -- the clock under 35 seconds as the Rebels watched helplessly. Why helplessly? Because Houston Nutt 's charges had wasted two timeouts comiong out of the huddle slowly earlier in the half. Combine that with some hard running from Jordan Jefferson , Michael Ford , and Stevan Ridley , and the outcome of the drive (and the game) was a foregone conclusion from the minute LSU crossed the Rebel 20.
Yes, advancing that far was made a much more manageable goal by the questionable unsportsmanlike flag on the Rebels' Markeith Summers , who had been penalized for somersaulting into the end zone despite the fact he was being pursued by an LSU defender. (How exactly it's Summers responsibility to know precisely how far behind him the defender was, we're not sure.) But the flag only hastened the inevitable; the way the game had been going and as tired as the Rebels' defense had to have been, LSU was putting points on the board there.
Those points keep LSU in the dead middle of the hunt for a Sugar Bowl berth, one they'll all but clinch if Arkansas lose to Mississippi State tonight. But even if it comes down to Razorbacks vs. Tigers next week, LSU can sleep a little better knowing their coach has started to put some of his biggest past mistakes behind him.