As part of our ongoing quest to bring you only the best and most in-depth coverage of our Sugar Bowl opponent, we're following up our interview with OSU beat reporter Ken Gordon with a Q&A with Ian Cuevas of the Buckeye blog, Inside the Shoe. Many thanks to Ian for sharing his knowledge...and once you've read through the discussion below, you can see what we had to say about the Razorbacks over on his site.
Give us a scouting report on this year's Buckeye team. What are the key strengths and weaknesses we should be aware of?
Coming into 2010, the Buckeyes were heavily hyped, and deservedly so with one of the top 5 defense's in the country returning most of their defensive line and secondary. Of course, the offense was nothing to laugh at either, as they torched Oregon's defense in the Rose Bowl for 26 points and amassing 419 total yards. The strengths this year would have to be the defense in general. They are the real quarterback of this team.
DeVier Posey even said it here this season: "If we don't get a three-and-out, well, when's the turnover coming? If we get don't get a sack, somebody's going to pick the ball up or we're going to get an interception. When those things don't happen, I'm almost surprised."
The defensive line doesn't put up the gaudiest numbers, but they provide enough pressure to force turnovers, which is very key against Arkansas.
Ohio State's weakness would have to be the special teams. Although they've cleaned it up a bit since the first half of the season, special teams have killed Ohio State all year long. Against Miami, there were two returns for touchdowns, and against Wisconsin the infamous opening kick off for the Badgers was taken to the house. On the flip side, Ohio State has some dangerous returners in Jaamal Berry and Jordan Hall, but there has only been one kick return for a touchdown all year, although several have come close.
In particular, which OSU player is poised for a big day against the Hogs? On the flip side, which Razorback worries you the most?
I'm going to assume that Tressel will be starting the "Tat Five" for this game, so I would have to pick Daniel "Boom" Herron. It really could go to either Terrelle Pryor or Herron, but the Buckeye's have averaged 220 yards on the ground this season, which is 14th best in the country. Don't be surprised to see him bust out a couple of big runs midway through the late second quarter or mid third quarter. He likes to get going, and as soon as he does, he's dangerous.
For Arkansas, the obvious is Ryan Mallett. I'm going to stick with that, only because our secondary is just now getting some injuries taken care of, which might send some momentum that these guy have had playing together in game situations, out the window. Mallett will be without his best receiver for the Sugar Bowl, but the tight-end is not something the Buckeye's are used to seeing and having to defend. It's going to be an interesting, but key match up.
If you had to break down the typical Ohio State fan's view of the Razorbacks, particularly with regard to the Sugar Bowl, what would it be? Are fans worried? Confident? Bored by yet another BCS bowl?
First things first, Buckeye fans will never get tired of BCS Bowls. As much as we would love to be facing Auburn or Oregon in the National Championship game, Buckeye fans have to face the fact they couldn't win all the games. Buckeye fans are viewing Arkansas as an underdog that is very dangerous on offense. Not a whole ton is known about the defense, which might make some worried, but most of the attention goes back to Mallett.
Before TatGate, Buckeye fans were still feeling pretty confident with the second best defense in the country backing the offense up. Now that the suspensions have been announced, there's uncertainty about how it will effect the team. It might backfire, and bring them closer together as a team, or end up harming team chemistry, and then all hell breaks loose in the Sugar Bowl. Buckeye fans haven't been in this situation for a long time, so Jan. 4 can not get here soon enough.
At this point, what would be more satisfying: beating Michigan once again or beating an SEC team?
Normally I would say Michigan. For all the smack talking that has been going on for years, and the continuous "SEC SPEED>SLOW BIG TEN" "0-9" I would have to say this is a huge game for the Buckeye's and is bigger than winning the Michigan game right now. If we were 1-8, it might be different. We still have to get that series lead back against Michigan, and there's no one else better to handle the reins to do that, than Jim Tressel. Plus, this is a very winnable game, it's a good match-up and coaching heads meeting, so I think Buckeye fans are excited for this one.
The Big 10 takes a lot of (mostly) good-natured flak from SEC fans about being slow, boring, etc. Consider this your opportunity to set us all straight...please share the most awesome things about the conference that we should know.
Hoo, boy. I have to mention the Stadiums. You have the 'Shoe (obviously a big influence to our blog), Kinnick in November, Camp Randall, Beaver Stadium, etc. Just so many memories there for every team, and that's something harder to find across the country. Plus, we have one of the oldest football conferences since college ball was introduced. The rivalries are fantastic, with Michigan-Ohio State (which is down, due to the dominance of OSU) Michigan State-Wisconsin, Iowa-Penn State, and Nebraska will probably end up being rivals with Iowa. There are plenty of trophies to be won, including the Illibuck, Land-Grant, Old Oaken Bucket, and more.
There are so many things that could be said, but the one thing is that we don't like to be called slow. We've had Tedd Ginn (who burned Florida early. Just imagine if we would have had him in the actual game) Beanie Wells stiff arming and running past LSU's safeties that were ahead of him, and even Michigan player Morgan Trent ran down Fla's runner in the 2006-2007 bowl season. To say the SEC is faster at everything is just plain ignorant. Of course, it would be ignorant for me not to admit that yes, the SEC has very fast players, and more than the Big Ten. I don't mind admitting it, because that's a part of recruiting down south. Telling me your lineman are faster than ours, or our linebackers are slower is just dumb.
Finally, what's your prediction for the game?
I've got Ohio State 31-24. Ohio State's defense will hold Mallett early, but once Ryan gets into a rhythm, he'll be tough to stop. Add in the running game, and that's almost a guaranteed 21 points. The defense is just too powerful at the end, holding Arkansas with about 2 minutes left, sucking the hope away and Pryor will be running around like a mad man. Don't be surprised to see Hall or Berry return a kick for a touchdown sometime during the game.