Five things to watch:
1. OSU is 0-9 against SEC teams in bowl games.
2. How the Buckeye players respond to off the field distractions.
3. Both teams can put up the points: OSU is averaging 39.4 points per game and Arkansas 37.3.
4. The Buckeyes defense is ranked third in the nation, allowing 13.3 points per contest. The Razorbacks are allowing 22.8 points per outing.
OSU wins 24-20
The Ohio State University will finally play a game Tuesday.
For the Buckeyes and their fans, it comes at a good time.
For three hours or so, OSU can concentrate on the game; instead of the recent troubles of the football program.
Just a brief recap of what’s been happening.
OSU rebounded nicely from a 31-18 loss to Wisconsin Oct. 16 to capture five straight wins and tie for the Big Ten crown with both Wisconsin and Michigan State.
Then on Dec. 5, the Buckeyes were awarded a BCS bowl — that being the All-State Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
It was quiet until Dec. 23 when it was announced that quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Daniel Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey and offensive lineman Mike Adams will be suspended from the first five games of the 2011 season because of NCAA violations.
Reserve linebacker and special teams player Jordan Whiting gets a one-game one suspension for 2011 for the same infraction.
Incredibly, all the players are eligible for the Sugar Bowl. I don’t get that part.
Then, there were Internet rumors that coach Jim Tressel will step down after the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
What affect — if any — these distractions have is yet to remain seen. They’re surely will be talk of both subjects leading up to the game.
The bigger question is: How will a layoff since Nov. 27 hurt or help the Buckeyes?
Needles to say this is a big game for OSU, which gained some of its swagger back with a 26-17 Rose Bowl win Jan. 1, 2010.
Beating an SEC team (which the Buckeyes haven’t done in a Bowl game) would help out even more. OSU players and fans know the struggles against the SEC, especially winless in bowl games and being outscored 79-38 in the 2007 and 2008 BCS National Championship Games against Florida and LSU, respectively.
It doesn’t appear the Razorbacks are of that caliber, but they are a formidable opponent.
You don’t go 6-2 in the SEC by not being good. You don’t win six games by not being good.
Their losses have been to Alabama (24-20 Sept. 25 in which the Crimson Tide were No. 1 at the time) and Auburn (65-43 (playing in the BCS National Championship Game).
Arkansas is led by quarterback Ryan Mallett, who is 242-of-364 for 3,592 yards (ranked ninth nationally) with 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
The Razorbacks are third nationally in passing at 338.4 yards per game.
OSU fans may remember Mallett from Michigan in 2007. He played briefly for the Wolverines, then transferred when Lloyd Carr retired at Ann Arbor and Rich Rodriguez took over.
Mallett went 1-of-3 for eight yards in Michigan’s 14-3 loss to OSU in 2007.
Mallett has a big arm and is considered one of the top quarterbacks to enter the 2011 National Football League draft.
Sophomore running back Knile Davis has gained 1,151 yards on 178 attempts. He’s averaging 6.5 yards per carry with 13 TDs on the season.
Mallett has a slew of targets. Four players have between 49 and 38 catches, paced by senior D.J. Williams with 49.
The Razorbacks scored 58 touchdowns in the regular season.
On defense, junior Tramain Thomas has four picks.
Even though Arkansas has a good team, probably the best OSU will play this season, the Razorbacks aren’t anything OSU hasn’t seen before.
I look for the Buckeyes to break their losing streak against SEC teams in bowls.