OSU's O-Line Faces Another Stiff Test

Ohio State's offensive line has had its share of troubles against defensive lines in games against Southeastern Conference foes in recent years. The Buckeyes will be challenged yet again Tuesday night when they battle a quick and talented Arkansas defensive line that led the SEC in sacks this fall.

Unless you've been in a coma for the past decade or so, you probably already know Ohio State is winless in nine bowl games against Southeastern Conference opponents. Two of those losses have come in the last five years in BCS National Championship game losses to Florida and LSU, respectively.

Most Ohio State fans probably do not think about those games unless they have to, but one of the most notable things about those losses was the struggles of OSU's offensive line against quicker defensive lines. The Gators harassed Troy Smith all night on Jan. 8, 2007, and sacked the Heisman Trophy winner six times. A mere 364 days later, quarterback Todd Boeckman was sacked five times.

The 2010 Ohio State offensive line will get its opportunity to avenge their brethren Jan. 4 when the Buckeyes take on Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. It won't be easy, though. The Razorbacks led the SEC and were tied for sixth in the NCAA in sacks with 3.08 per game (36 total) through the regular season. Leading that effort was defensive end Jake Bequette, who finished the regular season fifth in the SEC with 7.0 sacks. That total was the eighth-best single-season effort in school history and was one better than fellow defensive end Tenarius Wright.

"They're a really good bunch," Ohio State senior guard Bryant Browning said of the Arkansas D-line. "They've got a lot of guys with good size. They get off the ball and make big plays in the backfield."

Added OSU offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Jim Bollman: "Those defensive ends are pretty quick, good movement guys. They've got some guys in the middle and everybody else runs around pretty good and flies around the football field. .... They really play laterally very well. People trying to run around on them don't always have a lot of luck."

Browning said the Razorbacks' line reminds him of Illinois and Penn State in their ability to get pressure and move well laterally.

"If they were in the Big Ten they would have one of the top defensive lines in the conference," Browning said. "They've got a lot of big guys that can move pretty well. Whenever you have guys like that it leads to having a good line."

Ohio State has had some struggles keeping quarterback Terrelle Pryor upright this season. Buckeye quarterbacks were sacked 22 times, which ranked ninth in the Big Ten. Only Illinois and Northwestern allowed more sacks.

Even so, Arkansas defensive end Damario Ambrose said the Buckeye linemen passed the look test when he saw them on the streets of New Orleans.

"We were out walking around and I saw some of their guys and said, ‘Man, those guys are big,' " Ambrose said. "Those guys were walking around in packs and were 6-8, 350 (pounds). They're great offensive linemen, just like the guys we've played (in the SEC). They kind of remind me of the tackles of LSU. They're really big and strong with long arms."

Bequette also thought the Buckeyes looked like the Tigers on film.

"They're really big with NFL-type bodies," Bequette said. "They come off the ball hard and they're very athletic in pass protection. There's not many weak links, and we're going to have to be more physical and faster than them."

Players for both teams said Ohio State's previous struggles against SEC defensive lines have nothing to do with how the current Buckeyes' offensive line will fare against the Razorbacks.

"The past is what it is. There's nothing you can do about that. This year is a new year," Browning said. "I was here for a couple of the games (against the SEC) and sometimes we didn't perform at our best. This year I feel we have a veteran bunch that's ready to go.

"We're studying hard and working hard so we can go out on Jan. 4 and give it our best."

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