We have a special treat for you today, Hog fans. Although Ken Gordon, the OSU football beat writer for the Columbus Dispatch, is no doubt one of the busiest men alive these days (covering a breaking eligibility scandal + a BCS bowl game will do that), he very graciously agreed to share some of his Buckeye expertise with us. So, sit back and enjoy the knowledge that's about to be dropped...and file some of the following tidbits away so you can impress your friends with them at every opportunity.
Many, many thanks to Ken for generously sharing his time and insight with us. We really appreciate it, and also recommend that you follow him on Twitter for a more daily dose of this type of awesomeness.
Ohio State never struck us as a particularly drama-plagued team (in the way that Arkansas was in the later Houston Nutt years, for example), but the last few weeks have been dominated by craziness coming out of the OSU camp. Earlier in the week you wrote that all this extracurricular action would hurt the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl, but isn't it also possible that it could motivate the team to come out with extra fire to prove the critics wrong? What makes you lean toward the former scenario rather than the latter?
First off, I don't have a crystal ball, so it indeed is very possible that this could be a rallying cry for the team, as you say. In 2004, starting QB was suspended just before the Alamo Bowl, and OSU beat Oklahoma State 33-7 with its backup QB and all sorts of controversy swirling around. But that was an inferior Oklahoma State team (in Les Miles' last year there, by the way), nothing like this Arkansas club.
I wrote what I wrote because I believe there are all sorts of emotions and underlying issues going on right now. The five juniors who will be suspended must be thinking about their NFL decision. Teammates of theirs may feel betrayed. Jim Tressel was deeply hurt that these players thought so little of beating Michigan and winning Big Ten titles that they immediately sold their memorabilia, and he might have been more wounded by the fact that none of these players came to him and told him they were in financial trouble (if indeed they were).
So again, maybe I'm wrong. But when I sat at the press conference Dec. 22, it felt heavy. It felt bigger than a simple suspension. I find it hard to believe it won't be a distraction.
Terrelle Pryor has racked up great stats and has an amazing win-loss record in his tenure as the Ohio State QB, but has never been totally able to stay away from controversy even before the tattoogate story broke. When it's all said and done, what will his OSU legacy be? How big an impact will his Sugar Bowl performance have on the way he's perceived by Buckeye fans?
That's a complex issue, and the bottom line is that short of winning a national championship, Pryor will be viewed as underachieving UNLESS he can deliver two more stellar performances in big-time bowl games, against Arkansas and again in 2011 (assuming he returns, which I think he will).
The Rose Bowl game last year was a tour de force for Pryor, no doubt. Ohio State is the last team to beat Oregon, keep in mind, and Pryor was the star. So if he can duplicate that on Jan. 4, then sit out however many games next year and come back and have a very good ending to the season, most fans will appreciate his tenure here.
But he's a very emotional guy, and that has hurt him at times, on and off the field. For the most part, he has not played his best in the biggest games (except for the Rose), and much of his very good win-loss record can be attributed to inferior opposition, good running games and/or OSU's outstanding defense.
He doesn't communicate particularly well, either. He's a good student, but has trouble articulating his thoughts well, so that has generated a fair share of controversy, as well.
Long story short: He's in danger of ruining what could be a very good legacy. But he also still has an opportunity to salvage it, as well.
The conventional wisdom says that the key matchup is OSU's highly ranked defense vs Arkansas' highly ranked offense. Who do you expect to get this better of this matchup, and why?I'm not trying to sound homer-ish here, or arrogant. But I've seen enough of Ohio State's defense limiting a number of high-powered offenses to believe that the Buckeyes will be successful in that aspect of this game.
That doesn't mean Ryan Mallett throws no touchdowns, or Knile Davis doesn't make some nice runs. It doesn't mean total shutdown....but again, last year, Oregon came into the Rose Bowl averaging 46 points a game and 475 yards, or something like that. Ohio State limited the Ducks to 19 minutes of possession, 260 yards and 17 points. Their best player -- QB Jeremiah Masoli -- was a complete non-factor in the second half.
This is a fast, physical, veteran OSU defense. They're smart. They have given up just one 100-yard rusher all year, and only 7 TD passes (against 18 INTs). Arkansas may very well win this game, no doubt, but I feel confident the Razorbacks won't run roughshod over this OSU defense.