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Allstate Sugar Bowl to Feature Arkansas vs. Ohio State

Sunday, December 5, 2010

 

The 77th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic will feature the University of Arkansas, from the Southeastern Conference, against the Ohio State University, from the Big Ten Conference, on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011. The game is scheduled to kick off at the Louisiana Superdome at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN. This will be the first meeting between the two programs.

"We are very excited to welcome two of the top college football programs in the country to New Orleans," said Sugar Bowl President David Melius. "The opportunity to match up teams from the Southeastern Conference and the Big Ten Conference is a wonderful scenario for the Allstate Sugar Bowl, and we can't wait to welcome both teams and their fans to New Orleans to show off the hospitality for which our city and bowl have become famous."

This will be the sixth Sugar Bowl appearance by the Razorbacks, the seventh-most in history. However, it will be Arkansas' first trip to the Sugar Bowl since 1980. Ohio State will be making its fourth trip to the Sugar Bowl; and its first since 1999. The Buckeyes also made a New Orleans appearance following the 2007 season, battling LSU in the 2008 BCS Championship Game hosted by the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Arkansas is 1-4 in its five previous appearances; while the Buckeyes are 1-2. Schools that are currently in the Big Ten have posted a 2-7 all-time mark in Sugar Bowl action, while SEC teams have registered a 33-34-1 mark.

"We're quite pleased with the opportunity to host two of the nation's top teams in this year's Allstate Sugar Bowl," Sugar Bowl Chief Executive Officer Paul Hoolahan said. "After following these two programs all season long, we are well aware of their great coaches and their star players. The Sugar Bowl Committee has worked hard over the years to present outstanding match-ups that produce thrilling games. With Ohio State and Arkansas, I'm sure the 77th edition will be another memorable Sugar Bowl."

Arkansas was the first at-large pick of the Allstate Sugar Bowl, selected to replace SEC Champion Auburn, the Sugar Bowl anchor team, when the Tigers were tabbed for the BCS National Championship Game. The Razorbacks began the season ranked No. 17 in the nation (AP). They closed the regular season with a win over then-No. 5 LSU to jump from No. 12 to No. 7 in the country. The Razorbacks have four wins over ranked teams, the second-most in the country. Overall, Arkansas has made 37 bowl appearances, recording 12 wins.

Ohio State was the second at-large selection for the Allstate Sugar Bowl. After being ranked No. 2 in the preseason AP poll, the Buckeyes posted an 11-1 record and shared the Big Ten Championship this year. The lone loss for Ohio State came at the hands of No. 5 Wisconsin. Since that loss, it has recorded five straight victories by an average margin of 29.6 points to climb to No. 6 in the BCS Standings. Overall, the Buckeyes will be making their 42nd bowl appearance, having posted 19 victories in those outings.

While this is the first meeting between Arkansas and Ohio State, the Razorbacks have played six games against Big Ten foes, posting a 1-5 mark (defeated Northwestern in 1981). Ohio State has a 7-11-2 all-time mark against SEC teams.

This year's game will mark the first time an SEC and a Big Ten team have met in the Sugar Bowl since 2002 when LSU topped Illinois, 47-34. The SEC and Big Ten also squared off in New Orleans in 1984 (Auburn defeated Michigan, 9-7) and in 1978 (Alabama topped Ohio State, 35-6). Penn State has four Sugar Bowl appearances, posting a 1-2 record against SEC foes, but that was before the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten.

Both Arkansas and Ohio State come to New Orleans with talented quarterbacks as the faces of their offenses. Both Ryan Mallett and Terrelle Pryor are finalists for the Manning Award, the honor presented by the Allstate Sugar Bowl each year to the top quarterback in the nation. Mallett has thrown for 3,592 yards and 30 touchdowns while tallying a nation's best nine 300-yard passing games. Pryor, meanwhile, has 2,551 passing yards with 25 touchdowns, while also rushing for 639 yards and another four scores.

Mallett has been joined by sophomore Knile Davis, who has piled up 1,183 yards despite just stepping into the starting tailback role in the fifth game of the year, to power the Razorbacks to the ninth-best offense in the country (489.25 yards per game) as well as 10 games with 30 or more points this year. Mallett has distributed his touchdown passes to 10 different receivers while Davis has touchdowns in his last six games and has tallied five 100-yard games in that time. Defensively, the Razorbacks are led by defensive end Jake Bequette (seven sacks), defensive end Tenarius Wright (36 tackles, six sacks) and New Orleans-area product Jerico Nelson (83 tackles).

On the other side, Pryor and first-team All-Big Ten running back Dan Herron have the Buckeyes at No. 10 in the country in scoring at 39.4 points per game. However, it's the Ohio State defense that has been dominant behind the efforts of five first team All-Big Ten selections: defensive lineman Cameron Heyward (98.5 tackles for loss), linebackers Ross Homan (63 tackles) and Brian Rolle (70 tackles, 10 tackles for loss) and defensive backs Chimdi Chekwa (three interceptions, eight PBU's) and Jemale Hines (61 tackles). The Buckeyes rank second in the nation in total defense (250.6 yards per game), third in scoring defense (13.3 points per game) and fourth in pass defense (156.3 yards per game).

Both teams also have special teams standouts as Arkansas' Joe Adams ranks fourth in the nation with 17.9 yards per punt return, while Ohio State's Jaamal Berry leads a kickoff return squad that ranks No. 3 in the nation with 26.91 yards per return.

On the coaching side of things, Arkansas head man Bobby Petrino has registered an overall head coaching mark of 64-23 (.736), including 23-14 (.621) in three years with the Razorbacks. A Montana product, Petrino is a 1983 graduate of Carroll College, an NAIA school in Helena, Mont., where he played quarterback. This year, he is making his second BCS Bowl appearance (2007 Orange Bowl with Louisville). Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel has posted a 240-79-2 (.751) record in 25 years as a head coach, including 105-22 (.827) in 10 years directing the Buckeyes. An Ohio product, Tressel graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College in 1975 after playing quarterback for his father, Lee. In addition to leading Youngstown State to four I-AA National Championships, he has made seven BCS bowl appearances with the Buckeyes.

Ohio State's roster is dominated by Ohio products as 76 team members hail from "The Buckeye State"; 12 different states are represented on the roster with the next most common state being Pennsylvania with 11. For Arkansas, 51 Razorbacks are from "The Land of Opportunity" while 14 states have representation, including Texas with 26. There are eight Louisiana products on the Razorback roster including former New Orleans-area prep standouts Luke Charpentier (OT, John Curtis Christian School), Jerry Mitchell (S, Mandeville High) and S/LB Jerico Nelson (S/LB, Destrehan High).

-www.AllStateSugarBowl.org-