Sugar Bowl Preview: Ohio State vs. Arkansas
by Robert Ferringo - 1/4/2011
Things are already embarrassing for Ohio State and the Big Ten. But tonight’s Sugar Bowl is an opportunity for them to enter the realm of the absurd.
The Buckeyes, the pride of the Big Ten, will take on Arkansas tonight at 8:30 p.m. at the Superdome in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. Despite its constant failure on the biggest stages and plenty of off-field controversy, Ohio State has an opportunity to win its record-tying sixth BCS bowl game. Arkansas, on the other hand, is playing in its first.
No. 6 Ohio State is 0-9 in its history in bowl games against the SEC. The Buckeyes beat Oregon, a team built upon the same base of speed as No. 8 Arkansas, in the 2010 Rose Bowl. Yet, they had fallen in their three previous bowls to Texas, LSU and Florida.
But Ohio State really hasn’t had time to worry about past failures over the past few weeks. They’ve had bigger issues to deal with.
Starting Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor and three other offensive starters sent the bobblehead sports media in a full tizzy this December with news that they would be suspended for the first five games of next season for NCAA rules infraction. That alone is news. But the fact that Pryor and the lot would be allowed to play in this game howled of hypocrisy and caused even more of an uproar than the Big Ten’s bowl performance has this year.
The Big Ten, long the most overrated and over hyped conference in all of college athletics, put on a humiliating performance on New Year’s Day. The league went 0-5 in marquee bowl games that day, including a loss by Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. However, that loss to TCU was at least respectable. Three other Big Ten reps (Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State) came up small against SEC opponents, losing by an average of 31 points in that trio of blowouts.
Big-armed junior quarterback Ryan Mallett leads Arkansas. The Michigan transfer threw for 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns this season on a team that suffered just two losses – both featuring blown fourth-quarter leads. The Hogs ranked No. 8 in the nation in total offense and No. 4 overall in passing while ringing up 37.3 points per game.
Despite the drama and the distractions, Ohio State still has one of the most solid foundations in the sport. Coach Jim Tressel is one of the best coaches in the country and he employs the No. 2 total defense and No. 3 scoring defense in the land. The Buckeyes have NFL talent throughout the roster and under his focused leadership I don’t think they will collapse. However, the question remains: is the Big Ten good enough to overcome the raw talent and ability of SEC opponents. We will see.
Sugar Bowl Betting Odds: Ohio State vs. Arkansas
The spread on this game has held at -3.0, with Ohio State the clear favorite, since the line has been released. However, nearly two-thirds of the action on this game has come in on the Buckeyes. The total has dipped to 56.5, down from an open of 57.5.
Sugar Bowl Betting Trends: Ohio State vs. Arkansas
Razorbacks are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games overall.
Razorbacks are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 games following a S.U. win.
Razorbacks are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games as an underdog.
Razorbacks are 16-5 ATS in their last 21 games following an ATS win.
Razorbacks are 16-5 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
Razorbacks are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 bowl games.
Buckeyes are 8-0 ATS in their last 8 non-conference games.
Buckeyes are 12-3-1 ATS in their last 16 games as a favorite of 0.5-3.0.
Buckeyes are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 bowl games.
Buckeyes are 43-17-1 ATS in their last 61 games as a favorite.
Buckeyes are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games in January.
Buckeyes are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 neutral site games.
Buckeyes are 48-20-1 ATS in their last 69 games overall.
Buckeyes are 34-16-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
Buckeyes are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 vs. SEC.
Sugar Bowl Betting Picks and Predictions: Ohio State vs. Arkansas
Right now everyone is pouncing on the Razorbacks. But I think that they are missing the point of the controversy: Terrelle Pryor and Friends will be playing in this game. He will be one of the best players on the field and I think that the Buckeyes will take the field with something to prove. Also, I think a lot of people are betting on Arkansas here because they want Ohio State to lose rather than because they think they will lose.
That said, I like the Razorbacks in this one. And it has nothing to do with karma or sentiment. I think that Ryan Mallet is the better quarterback and I love the experience on this Razorbacks roster. We’ve seen the Big Ten get embarrassed this bowl season and, honestly, there is zero reason not to think that it will continue. Until proven otherwise, take the SEC speed and talent over the Big Ten brawn and ballyhoo.
Robert Ferringo is a writer and a professional sports handicapper for Doc’s Sports. You can sign up for his college football and NFL picks and get more information here.
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