Sunday, December 5, 2010

BUCKEYES TO FACE ARKANSAS, MALLETT IN THE SUGAR BOWL

Ohio State will play in the 2011 Sugar Bowl. (The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
COLUMBUS — Ohio State (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) will make its sixth straight appearance in a BCS bowl game early next month when they take on the eighth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks in the 2011 Sugar Bowl on January 4 in New Orleans.

It will be a record ninth trip to a BCS bowl game and the Buckeyes fourth ever appearance in the Sugar Bowl, where they are 1-2 all-time. The Buckeyes last trip to the Sugar Bowl came in 1999, where they defeated Texas A&M, 24-14.

"Our guys are excited about going to the Sugar Bowl," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "We  are awfully proud of our seniors who have once again led us to a championship in the Big Ten and the chance to play in a BCS game the magnitude of the Sugar Bowl, playing against a great team in Arkansas.

"I know our seniors have been (to New Orleans) before. To me, the thing I remember most about our time in New Orleans was the people, how excited they are to host the game, and just the great pride they have in their city."

The Buckeyes last played in New Orleans in 2008, where they lost to LSU, 38-24, in the BCS Championship Game. They are 0-9 all-time in bowl games against the Southeastern Conference.

This will be the first time in history that the Buckeyes have faced the Razorbacks. Arkansas finished the 2010 regular season with a record of 10-2 overall and 6-2 in the SEC, and have recorded impressive victories over South Carolina (41-20) and LSU (31-23) along the way.

The Razorbacks are led by their high-powered offense which has racked more than 5,800 total yards this season (11th best in FBS) and 37.3 points per game (16th best).

"If you look at Arkansas, and I don't know too much about them, but they only had two losses and that was to Alabama and Auburn — two of the best teams in the country," Tressel said. "They're a great football team."

Ryan Mallett
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
However, this will not be the first time the Buckeyes have seen Arkansas star quarterback Ryan Mallett.

As a freshman at Michigan in 2007, Mallett saw action against Ohio State during the final week of the regular season, going just 1-of-3 passing for eight yards, in the 14-3 loss to the Buckeyes in Ann Arbor.

Of course, Mallett isn't the same wide-eyed freshman as he was then. The Razorback junior has become one of the best quarterbacks in the nation — and a major first round NFL draft prospect — since his days in Ann Arbor. Mallett has thrown for 3,592 yards and 30 touchdowns this season and has a passer rating of 170.5 — third best in the country (FBS).

"We're most familiar with Ryan ... " Tressel said of Mallett. "We know how great a player he was when he was in our conference, and he's done nothing but grow into an even finer player."

Tressel said though that Arkansas couldn't have reached where they're at today on just Mallett alone.

"My bet would be that — and again this is without watching any film — if you're going to be successful in that league, you cannot be one dimensional," Tressel said. "I'm sure that they not only do a great job throwing it, they do a great job protecting, they do a great job of running the football and they do a great job flying around on defense.

"But the thing we're most familiar with, of course, is Ryan Mallett."

The Buckeyes, who finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten with Wisconsin and Michigan State, lost out in the tie breaker with the Badgers for a spot in the Rose Bowl. The Badgers finished with a higher ranking in the final BCS standings (No. 5), earning themselves a trip to Pasadena to face unbeaten Texas Christian.

A trip to New Orleans isn't too bad of a consolation prize, though. And it's not too bad of a birthday gift, either.

"How many people get a Sugar Bowl for their birthday?" Tressel laughed, who turned 58 on Sunday. "I mean that's pretty cool."

The Buckeyes are ranked sixth in the BCS standings.