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A pair of teams that probably felt like they were going to be in better shape this season meet up as the second best teams in the Big Ten and the SEC respectively in the 2011 Sugar Bowl. The SEC has really put a whooping on the Big Ten so far in this bowl season, but the Buckeyes have a great chance to buck the trend in this one, as they are short favorites down in New Orleans. Is it justified, though? Check out our 2011 Sugar Bowl picks.
Sugar Bowl Matchup: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Arkansas Razorbacks
Date: Tuesday, January 4th, 8:30 ET
Location: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Sugar Bowl Line: Ohio State -3.5
Buckeyes Notes: The Buckeyes are going to have a lot of issues to set aside in this one. QB Terrelle Pryor, WR DeVier Posey, and RB Daniel Herron are amongst the five players that are going to be suspended for the first five games for next year. However, this could be the last stand for all five players, especially the three offensive superstars. Pryor had his best season this year to date, throwing for 2,551 yards and 25 TDs against 11 picks, and he rushed for 639 yards and four TDs. Herron was fantastic this year on the ground, rushing the ball 192 times for 1,068 yards and 15 scores. Posey was the second leading receiver with 50 catches, 778 yards, and six scores. WR Dane Sanzenbacher led the team in all of the receiving categories in 2010. He caught 52 passes for 889 yards and 10 tuddies. OSU's defense ranked No. 2 in the country this year at 251.6 yards per game, and though that was quite a ways behind the TCU Horned Frogs for No. 1, this was clearly a tougher schedule that the Buckeyes had to face. There is no doubt that this would have been the top scoring team in the land if not for the fact that the defense and special teams really gave up too many scores either directly or indirectly. Still, the Wisconsin Badgers were the only team on the docket this year that scored more than 24 points against this unit this year, and half of the dozen teams ended up scoring ten points or fewer.
Razorbacks Notes: Head Coach Bobby Petrino was really looked upon as one of the biggest skunks in football after bailing both on the Louisville Cardinals and then the Atlanta Falcons, but we have to admit that everywhere this man goes in college, he just continues to produce winners. This year, he beat the LSU Tigers in the regular season finale in the game that inevitably put this team here in the BCS for the first time in the history of the program. Of course, it helps that QB Ryan Mallett is one of the best signal callers in the entire country. Mallett threw for 3,592 yards and 30 TDs against 11 picks, but more importantly, he averaged a whopping 9.9 yards per pass attempt. Of course, that means that there are a lot of receivers on this club that can stretch the field. The three receivers that are healthy on this team, WR Jarius Wright, WR Joe Adams, and WR Cobi Hamilton, are all averaging at least 17 yards per reception this year, while TE DJ Williams was the possession receiver of the bunch at 49 catches, 589 yards, and four scores. Six different receivers caught at least four TD passes this year, while five men had at least 580 yards. RB Brodrick Green was really expected to come to the forefront this year in the SEC, but he never really panned out, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and amassing three scores. RB Knile Davis had his back though, rushing for 1,183 yards and 13 scores to lead the team in both categories. Arkansas had a very underappreciated defense this year, allowing just 338.4 yards and 22.8 points per game, and if you take out that ridiculous 65-43 loss to the Auburn Tigers, the team allowed just 19.0 points per game.
The Final Word: We've already mentioned how badly the SEC has beaten the Big Ten this year, but the Buckeyes are bound to get some revenge in this one. The scoring might not be nearly as high as many are expecting in this one though, as both of these defenses are built like rocks. We tend to believe that this is the last time we see Pryor in a college uniform, and we think that he is going to go out on top with a 'W' in the Sugar Bowl.
Sugar Bowl Free Pick: Ohio State -3.5
Sugar Bowl Prediction: Ohio State 24 – Arkansas 16