football

Sugar Bowl Game Day Ticket

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BOWL
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href="http://arkansas.rivals.com/">Arkansas
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onmouseout=startHideTimer(); href="http://ohiostate.rivals.com/">Ohio
State (11-1)
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Jan. 4, 7:30 p.m.
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WHERE: Louisiana Superdome,
New Orleans 
TV: ESPN
(Brad Nessler will do play-by-play, with Todd Blackledge as the analyst).
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THE LINE: Ohio State by
3. 
RECORDS VS. BOWL
TEAMS: Arkansas 6-2, Ohio State 6-1.
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NCAA SCHEDULE STRENGTH:
Arkansas 6th, Ohio State T-55th.
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BCS RANKINGS: Arkansas 8th,
Ohio State 6th. 
OFFICIATING
CREW: From the ACC.
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COACHES: Arkansas -
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href="http://arkansas.rivals.com/viewcoach.asp?Coach=604">Bobby Petrino
class=Apple-converted-space> (3-2 in bowl games); Ohio State -
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href="http://arkansas.rivals.com/viewcoach.asp?Coach=32">Jim Tressel
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WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: It's a
heavyweight matchup between teams that, with a couple of breaks, could have been
in the national championship picture. Both have explosive, high-scoring
offenses. Yet the most compelling factor may be whether Ohio State can finally
get a bowl win against an SEC opponent; the Buckeyes are 0-9.
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KEY STATS: Behind the
passing of QB 
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href="http://arkansas.rivals.com/cviewplayer.asp?Player=83432">Ryan Mallett,
Arkansas averages 338.4 yards per game to rank third in the nation in passing
offense. But Ohio State's pass defense is the best Arkansas will have faced this
season. The Buckeyes are ranked fourth in the country in that
category.

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This season, those same players led this team to a 10-2 record and a No. 8 national ranking with a chance to be one of the best teams in Razorback history. And if there is any question about the fan base, one can merely creep near Bourbon Street and hear Hog Calls echoing throughout the Big Easy - one fist. Regardless of tonight's outcome, this is the bunch that turned it around in Fayetteville - this team, these fans, these coaches. They did it with their leadership, undying support, work ethic and belief in the coaching staff. This team knows how to prepare, how to compete and how to finish.
"It seems like we were just a bunch of youngsters," UA linebacker Jerry Franklin said. "Freshmen, redshirt freshmen, sophomores, that put in a lot of time and work in the weight room and now it's starting to show. There's just a huge difference in the way we were when we were freshmen. It's definitely been a whole team thing, from the coaches, to the players working on each other, trying to make each other better, in all aspects, in strength, in film study, everything."
Big-time offense
Led by a strong-armed quarterback in Ryan Mallett, a unified front, playmakers at wide receiver and an emerging star in running back Knile Davis, the Razorback offense is a force on the national scene.
"We're trying to start a tradition here of getting to a BCS game every year, and to get a win over Ohio State would be kind of special," Mallett said. "The defensive end, Cameron Heyward is a great player. You can see on film not a lot of people were able to block him this year. You can see with their secondary, had a lot of interceptions. What we've got to do is not throw them the ball."
Distractions for Ohio State
On the other side are the Ohio State Buckeyes, the No. 6 ranked team in the nation and a bunch that is looking to prove their worth after detractors have ripped them for selling awards, rings and receiving improper benefits (free tattoos). Since the Buckeyes beat rival Michigan, six players were found guilty of those NCAA violations and five Buckeye players will be suspended for the first five games of next season. Another must sit one game next season. But this is also an experienced group, and unlike Arkansas they have been here before.
The major discussions among fans and media members is whether or not the players should be suspended for the Sugar Bowl. In other cases, the NCAA has not been so lenient just because a big game is coming up next on the schedule. Regardless, Razorback coaches, players and fans are happy to be getting Ohio State's best shot, regardless of whether they feel the NCAA ruled fairly or not. They don't want this game tainted anymore than the Buckeyes.
Pryor the key for Buckeyes
No player has been more scrutinized for the infractions or some of his comments than star OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Pryor is a difference-maker.
"He is a dynamic player. He does have a lot of speed and he'll take off and run down the field for a touchdown. As a passer, he has pretty good accuracy. Once they get the run established, the pass does open up a lot for them. But, he does the work with his feet. I think, once you look in the backfield to see if he's trying to run the ball, you'll take your eyes off the receiver and that leaves him wide open. That's when he makes big plays," UA defensive end Tenarius Wright said.
"He brings a big challenge, but we're up for it. He's a big, mobile quarterback that can also throw. We've been facing a lot of them this year, so we're ready," UA linebacker Anthony Leon said.
"He's very versatile. He's similar to Cam Newton (Auburn's quarterback), the Heisman Trophy winner. It'll be a great challenge for our defense, it'll be a fun game to watch, and we're looking forward to it," UA safety Elton Ford said.
For Pryor, football has always been a release from any off-field issues in his life.
"What have I learned? -It was two years ago. I already knew what I shouldn't have done back two years ago that I know now," Pryor said. "To tell you the truth, I really didn't learn much because I already knew what I shouldn't have done two years ago. I'm grown now and I wouldn't make the same decision. So, I can't tell you that I learned something because I already knew what I did [was] wrong.
Props to the Hog defense
The Razorback defense has come a long way since Petrino hired coordinator Willy Robinson in February of 2008. The Arkansas defense ranked in the bottom half of the Southeastern Conference in virtually every category the past two seasons, including ranking last in total defense. But Petrino kept faith in his defense, what Robinson was teaching and the overall plan for the future. This group of Hogs played their best defense in the second half of the season, and they now rank in the top half of the SEC in total defense.
"They're aggressive. Their team speed, their defensive speed is pretty good as well," Pryor said. "They've got some talented guys in the back, especially on the pass game. Their four down front is pretty good, too. Their linebackers and the secondary in the second level is pretty good, too. We've got a game on our hands."
The nation's best conference
Arkansas will also be carrying the SEC flag Saturday when they take on the Big 10's last chance at redemption in Ohio State. The Big 10 is a storied conference but had possibly the most embarrassing day in conference history when they went 0-for-5 in bowl games on New Year's Day, including two blowout losses to SEC schools (Alabama 49, Michigan State 7 and Mississippi State 52, Michigan 14) and there was another convincing win for SEC member Florida over the Big 10's Penn State, 37-24.
Each game is different, and none of this means Arkansas will beat Ohio State because bowl games can be tricky with regard to off-field issues, improved player health, the players' approach to the contest and all the intangibles that come with a month-long layoff. Ohio State is in another class than Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, no doubt.
Win or lose, Petrino and Arkansas have put it back on the chin of their detractors. Those who called Petrino a job-hopper can take a look at his new 7-year deal would cost a Petrino suitor $18 mil. before they even discuss his salary, and no SEC team can even talk to him due to a non-compete clause. Those who ripped the fans cannot deny their current support when they see the crowd on Tuesday. Petrino is with Arkansas, Arkansas is with Petrino. Meet the new and improved Arkansas Razorbacks, and get used to it.
Predictions:
Otis Kirk: 31-28, Arkansas
Danny West: 35-24, Arkansas
Trey Biddy: 35-27, Arkansas
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State Scoring
Defense
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Ohio State Passing
Offense
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