Buckeyes Ready For Some Sugar

Ohio State learned its bowl opponent Sunday night when it was announced that the Buckeyes would face Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. It marks the eighth time the Buckeyes have been selected to take part in a BCS game during the last nine years. Updated at 9:56 p.m.

Ohio State is winless in nine bowl games against SEC opponents. Arkansas has lost all three bowl contests against Big Ten foes.

On Jan. 4, something will have to give when the Buckeyes and Razorbacks face each other in the Sugar Bowl.

"The Buckeyes are excited to be going to the Sugar Bowl," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "We're awfully proud of our seniors who have once again led us to a championship in the Big Ten and a chance to play in a BCS game the magnitude of the Sugar Bowl."

If history shows anything, No. 6 OSU might have an advantage heading into this contest. The Buckeyes boast a 1-2 record in the Sugar Bowl, with the lone win coming while they were rated higher than their opponent. That came at the end of the 1998 season, when third-ranked OSU earned a 24-14 victory against No. 8 Texas A&M.

Arkansas is ranked eighth in the BCS, two spots behind the Buckeyes.

Like Tressel, Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino said he has not yet spent much time getting to know his next opponent.

"We don't know a lot about them yet," he said of the Buckeyes. "We know they're very, very talented. They have a big offensive front and a tremendous quarterback who is a dual-threat. Statistically they're one of the top teams defensively in the country."

OSU has been to New Orleans more recently, however. The Buckeyes dropped the 2008 BCS championship game to LSU. Fifteen players listed in the team's two-deep as of Dec. 2 were on the roster for that loss.

This season, the Buckeyes boast an 11-1 record with their only loss coming at the hands of Wisconsin, which finished the season fifth in the BCS and will play in the Rose Bowl. OSU will be making its eighth appearance in a BCS bowl in the past nine seasons.

To get to this point, Arkansas finished the season on a six-game winning streak. They finished 10-2 overall and earned a second-place finish in the SEC West.

Getting to that point, the Razorbacks went 4-2 against teams ranked in the top 25 of the BCS with wins against LSU (No. 10), Texas A&M (17), South Carolina (20) and Mississippi State (21). Conversely, the Buckeyes are 0-1 in that category.

However, Petrino downplayed the thought that his team played a tougher schedule than his upcoming opponent.

"Oh not at all," he said. "We know both conferences are very good. We did play a very difficult schedule but it's now all behind us. It's now all about how we prepare for this game."

The Razorbacks boast one of the most potent passing offenses in the nation led by a player OSU is somewhat familiar with. Quarterback Ryan Mallett began his career with Michigan before transferring out after current head coach Rich Rodriguez took over the program.

He sat out a season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, but before doing so he completed 1 of 3 passes for eight yards in OSU's 14-3 victory against the Wolverines during the 2007 season. Mallett saw limited duty in relief of injured starter Chad Henne, who played through a shoulder injury and completed 11 of 34 passes for 68 yards.

This season, Mallett has completed 242 of 364 passes for 3,592 yards and 30 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.

"What was my reaction when he left (Michigan)? I'm not going to lie to you, I was happy," Tressel said. "I thought I was through with Ryan Mallet. He's a special player."

The coach also pointed to the fact that the game will feature OSU's Terrelle Pryor under center as well.

"Everyone in the country knows about them," he said.

This season, the Razorbacks sit third in the nation with an average of 338.4 passing yards per contest.

"Anytime that you get to match those two conferences and play people from a league like that, the road that Arkansas traveled to get to that point is a battle every weekend just like we feel like the Big Ten road is a tough one," Tressel said. "We're real excited to be in a matchup like this."

The Buckeyes will return to practice Thursday after finishing up with final exams. They will practice until Dec. 21 and the players will be off until Dec. 26, when they will be required to return to campus. OSU will then practice in Columbus until the 29th and begin practice in New Orleans the following day.

Freshman defensive back Christian Bryant could return to action after missing the final five games of the season, but the Buckeyes will not get any other players back in action, Tressel said.

When they return to action, Tressel said he hopes his players have the right blend of business and fun as they prepare for the game.

"I want them to enjoy this experience and create those lifetime memories, but one of those memories will be how well do you play?" he said.

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