Arkansas Headed to Sugar

Something has to give when Arkansas and Ohio State meet in the Sugar Bowl. Arkansas is 0-3 versus Big Ten teams in bowl games. Ohio State is 0-9 against SEC foes in postseason.

Arkansas cashed its chips from a six-game winning streak to end the season with its first-ever BCS bowl invitation when the Sugar Bowl paired the Razorbacks with Big Ten co-champ Ohio State.

The No. 8 Razorbacks -- also No. 8 in the BCS standings -- will face Ohio State in the Jan. 4 Sugar Bowl in the Superdome in New Orleans.

Ohio State (11-1) lost only to Wisconsin. The Buckeyes finished in a three-way tie with the Badgers and Michigan State for the Big Ten title, but Wisconsin got the league's automatic BCS spot with a higher BCS finish.

The 10-2 Hogs, second in the SEC West, go the Sugar after SEC champ Auburn used a 13-0 finish to qualify for the national title game leaving the trip to New Orleans open.

The Hogs have been to the Sugar Bowl five times, the last in 1979 when Bear Bryant's undefeated Alabama team won to claim the national title.

Arkansas begins bowl practice Monday afternoon. The Hogs have announced workouts on campus through Dec. 15. No schedule for New Orleans has been released, but Sugar Bowl officials said they expected the Hogs to arrive six days before the game.

"I'm very, very proud of our team to get a chance to play in the Sugar Bowl, very proud of our coaches," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said Sunday night in a teleconference along with Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.

"I've had a lot of fun this year," Petrino added. "It's been one of the most fun years I've had in coaching. Our team has a great work ethic and has done a great job in their preparations. We've had very good leadership within this team. We are excited to represent our fans in our school's very first BCS game. It will be a challenge to play a very good Ohio State team."

Petrino said he had watched Ohio State some on television when the Hogs have played at night this year, but had not begun detailed breakdowns of the Buckeyes. However, when he does he wants to talk to his brother Paul, offensive coordinator at Big Ten school Illinois.

"I talk to Paul every week," Petrino said. "I will talk to him as long as he stays on the phone. I know he had a week of preparation against Ohio State. That should help us. But what I also find that helps is when you get to see a team all season as you prepare for other teams because you see their film that week, too. I expect to talk to Paul and hope he can give us information."

Petrino said he didn't spend any time working on Ohio State preparations this week.

"We were on the road recruiting," he said. "We traveled the country trying to get in as many homes as possible. We did watch the (SEC) championship game yesterday."

Did the Hogs cheer for Auburn?

"We didn't root for Auburn," he said. "We told ourselves we were rooting against South Carolina. We kept saying (Saturday) it's not over until the fat lady sings. When they gave her the microphone at the end, we were happy."

Petrino was asked about the defining moment for this team.

"The defining moment started last winter," he said. "Our players attacked the winter program and our offseason. The way they prepared and worked made our practices very enjoyable. Our players showed a lot of maturity."

Petrino was asked if the Hogs realized what was at stake when they played LSU.

"I talked to them the week of the Mississippi State game," he said. "We understood what was at stake. I told them if we took care of business that week, then the next week, we might have a BCS opportunity. Then I told them to quit talking about it, not to their parents or their girl friends.

"They knew if they won that week and again the next, things might play out in their favor. This team, I thought, was mature enough that we could talk about those things up front."

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said he had seen some Arkansas games on television. He also said he was very familiar with Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett.

"I thought I was through with him when he left Michigan," Tressel said. "Now we play him at the height of his career. He's very talented. He has a great, lightning quick release and he's playing his best football."

Tressel said the Buckeyes experience in BCS games and the Sugar Bowl would not be a factor in this matchup.

"In our 10 years here, we've played some games that aren't BCS and our preparations are the same, just as intense," he said. "As far as Arkansas, they've played a rugged SEC schedule and they are prepared for this game, too.

"You don't need to know much more about Arkansas than to look at the schedule and their ranking ... they are No. 6, 7 or 8 and have played those teams. We know plenty about Coach Petrino and what he did nearby from here at Louisville."

Tressel was asked if he was looking forward to getting the monkey off his back with an 0-9 record against SEC schools.

"Whenever you play against an SEC team, you know you are going to be playing against one of the best teams in the country," Tressel said. "We will have to play our best football in this game."

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