Tomorrow evening, Ohio State will be playing in their 9th BCS bowl game, the most appearances by any school. If they play well, they have the opportunity to win their sixth BCS bowl, which would tie Southern Cal (even though one win was vacated) for the most BCS victories by any school.
Clearly, Ohio State has had its share of BCS success, no matter what the talking heads on TV say.
Despite the past success, or more likely because of it, anticipation for the Sugar Bowl is down in Buckeye land. Ohio State’s fan base has been spoiled by unparalleled success the past decade, which leads to disappointment at anything less than a national championship run. Good or bad, that is just the way it is these days.
Obviously, the off field shenanigans don’t help.
When news of the indiscretions broke, my holiday season (at least the football enjoying part of it) went to hell. On top of that, a Buckeye win will be tainted and a loss will add to Buckeye bowl woes against the SEC. If that weren’t enough, after a truly terrible showing by the Big Ten on New Year’s Day, the reputation of the entire conference rests with the good guys yet again.
Clearly, the baggage and the implications of the game are staggering. It is a unique situation to say the least, and a game that is difficult to get excited for due to the circumstances.
Arkansas, on the other hand, will be playing in their first BCS bowl game and the differences between the two fan bases are night and day in terms of excitement (even though I am sure the Buckeyes will be well represented in New Orleans, as always).
My hope is that once the two teams hit the field, all of the garbage will disappear and we can all enjoy a great game of football. To truly enjoy the game, the television may be going on mute very quickly.
Here’s a look at how the Buckeyes can get the W.
Like last bowl season, Ohio State will face a high powered offense, arguably the best they have played all year. Unlike the Rose Bowl, however, Arkansas features a pro-style attack led by one of the best quarterbacks in college football and an extremely well rounded and deep receiving corps.
The Razorbacks also can rely on Knile Davis at running back if needed. Davis has emerged as a dynamic and effective feature back over the last half of the season. All in all, Arkansas is a well rounded and potent team that can hurt you in many different ways offensively.
As usual, Ohio State will look to eliminate big plays from the Razorbacks and make them earn any points they get by driving the length of the field. In order to do this, they must win the field position battle with special teams plays and an offense that can at least get some first downs before punting (it’s funny what a decade of Tresselball does to your expectations).
Based on last year’s Oregon game and the last few minutes of Jay’s ‘know your enemy’ article (yes, I am writing this one last minute), there will be plenty of Arkansas fans running around thumping their chests about the ‘greatest offense in the history of the world’ today and tomorrow.
I will give them their great offense, but Ohio State’s defense is top notch as well and has a recent history of slowing down juggernauts in bowl games (Texas ’08, Oregon ’09).
If the Buckeyes win the field position battle, eliminate big plays, and force Arkansas to sustain drives, the defense will put the offense in a great position to score more points than the Razorbacks.
On offense, the Buckeyes have had a nasty habit of starting slow in most contents this season. Fortunately, the defense has kept the team in games until the offense got rolling. Against an offense like Arkansas, however, expecting the defense to bail us out yet again is not a very enticing proposition.
As mentioned, Pryor and the offense will need to at least get a few first down to put the defense in a better position. If the offense leaves a short field too often, it will be a long evening.
Additionally, sustaining drives also leads to the possibility of scoring points (*shimmer* *shimmer*). At the very least, it keeps Mallett and the Arkansas offense off the field. If memory serves me, an Oregon fan used the phrase ‘clock-Nazi offense’ to describe the Buckeyes after the Rose Bowl last season.
A repeat performance would be ideal.
Describing Tresselball isn’t the most exciting task in the world. You know exactly what you are going to get: great defense and an offense that can sustain drives, kill the clock, establish field position, and maybe just maybe score some points if things go well. Playing against an offense like Arkansas’ adds an extra twist to the plot as the offense will need to show up in order to win.
Many people have asked me about this game over the past few weeks. During that time, I developed a streamlined response which goes something like this: Ohio State’s defense is comparable to Arkansas’ offense as one of the best in the country, Ohio State’s above average offense is better than Arkansas’ mediocre defense.
In a nutshell, that is why I think Ohio State will win this game.