Wednesday, December 15, 2010

BUCKEYES KNOW THAT ARKANSAS RUNNING GAME CANNOT BE IGNORED

Arkansas tailback Knile Davis (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
COLUMBUS — With an offense as explosive as the one owned by the Arkansas Razorbacks, Ohio State linebacker Brian Rolle is fully aware of the amount of pressure that will be put on the defensive unit.

The one thing that has jumped out to Rolle through game film is the amount of physicalness in Arkansas’ offensive strategy.

“You look at them and you think they’re a spread football team,” Rolle said. “They’re a very physical team, big backs. That’s probably the thing that really stuck out that a lot of their backs are big.”

Although the No. 8 Razorbacks finished 65th in the country in rushing with a total of 150.8 yards per game, the backfield is led by sophomore Knile Davis. The 6-foot, 220-pound bruiser rumbled to more than 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. But Davis has done most of his damage over the previous six games, collecting 889 yards and 12 scores.

So, with all the talk surrounding the talents of Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, it sounds as if the No. 6 Buckeyes need to concentrate on shutting down the abilities of Davis.

“When you have a quarterback like (Mallett) and a great running back you have to have great eye control,” OSU safety Jermale Hines said. “Because the second you peak into the backfield, that’s the second they play action and they’re going up top on you. In a game like this, you have to know their tendancies.”

The most infamous stat that continuously comes up when talking about the 2011 Sugar Bowl is Ohio State’s embarrassing 0-9 mark against SEC bowl opponents. But, what isn’t being examined is the reasoning behind such a record.

The popular and most fabricated answer would point toward the supposed speed advantage that SEC teams possess when lined up against Big Ten schools. Hines thinks the speed myth is a comical one.

“That’s overrated,” Hines said. “At this level, everybody we play is fast. Speed is speed … It’s really not a factor.”

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel still felt the need to praise the amount of speed possessed by the Razorbacks.

“There are teams with great speed and there are teams that have the quickness that goes along with it,” Tressel said. “They just look to me to be exceptionally quick.

“(The Razorbacks) are a quick, tough football team and they’re battle tested. Look at the people they’ve played and gone toe-to-toe with, everyone on their schedule. And it will be a great challenge, of course.”

The decisive edge that SEC teams have historically held over the Buckeyes is a surprising one when thinking about the scheme of Tressel-led teams. In the past four losses to SEC opponents, Ohio State has been pummeled on the ground.

In the back-to-back Outback Bowl losses to South Carolina in 2000 and 2001, the Buckeyes were outgained by a combined 338 to 149 rushing yards. Against the Florida Gators in the 2007 BCS title game, Ohio State gave up 156 yards while running for only 47. And in the 2008 BCS title game, the LSU Tigers put 152 rushing yards on the board. That’s an average of 161 rushing yards allowed in four demoralizing losses to the SEC.

With a unit that ranks fourth nationally against the run (94 yards allowed a game), the Buckeyes certainly have the physical nature that is needed to slow an underrated Arkansas rushing attack.

“I think guys this year are really just taking it seriously,” Rolle said. “People have talked about how we haven’t faired well against the SEC. That’s true. But I feel that this year guy’s heads are on straight and have kind of taken that to heart that guys feel like we can’t play.

"When we get out there on January 4, we’re going to show them that we can.”