No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks (10-2 SU, 9-3 ATS) vs. No. 6 Ohio State
Buckeyes (11-1 SU, 9-2-1 ATS), Allstate Sugar Bowl, 8:30 p.m. EST,
Tuesday, January 4, 2011, Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, La., TV:
by Badger of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Ark +3.5/OSU -3.5
Over/Under Total: 57.5
Two teams that were a mulligan or two away from playing for the title
will instead have to play for a little conference pride in the
Allstate Sugar Bowl, when the 8th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks and
quarterback Ryan Mallett engage in a SEC-Big Ten showdown with the
Ohio State Buckeyes and quarterback Terrelle Pryor inside the
Superdome on January 4th.
The Razorbacks finished the 2010 season as one of the hottest teams
in the game, winning their final six games in a row including big
wins over South Carolina (41-20), Mississippi State (38-31 in OT) and
LSU (31-23) in the finale.
You wont have a hard time convincing coach Bobby Petrino or the Hogs
players to defend the honor of the SEC in this game either, because
if not for a hiccup at home to Alabama (lost 24-20) and a shootout
loss at Auburn (65-43) we might be talking about the Razorbacks as
the conference representative in the national title game.
The same could be said for the Ohio St. too, as a single loss on the
road at Madison to the Badgers (31-18) has relegated their season to
the Sugar Bowl, even though they won their final five games of the
season and topped it off with a, 37-7, victory over rival Michigan in
Ohio State still has some making up to do for their previous BCS game
blunders on national television too, so you can bet the Buckeyes will
come ready to play against the Razorbacks in what should be a good
show of teams from the two power conferences in the Dome in the Big
Oddsmaker opened the game with Ohio State as 3-point favorites, and
the betting public seems to be in agreement with the line since it
has only gone up the hook to 3.5 at most sportsbooks on the Web after
the early steam at the window. You can still find a few 3s listed
here and there, but youll have to pay a little more juice (-117 to
-120) in order to get the opening number.
The over/under total opened at 57.5, but depending on where you wager
you can find the total listed as low as 57, or as high as 58, so you
can move the number a point in either direction if you so choose.
Considering the kind of firepower both of these offenses possess,
its kind of surprising to see the total as low as 57 at some books.
Especially when you consider that both teams averaged over 37 points
per game, with Ohio States scoring offense (39.4 ppg 11th) just a
few points better than Arkansas (37.3 ppg 16th). All of this
scoring came in two of the power conferences too, not the MAC, Sun
Belt or the WAC, so were talking some serious offense here.
Arkansas features one of the nations best passers in Mallett, and
the Hogs throw for over 338 yards per game with him calling the
shots. Towards the end of the regular season running back Knile Davis
(1,183 yards, 14 TD) developed into a good runner, but the Razorbacks
live and die on offense with Malletts right arm. Mallett likes to
spread the ball around to all of his receivers too, since the
Razorbacks have eight different receivers who have over a 10 yards
per catch average and six of those eight have at least four
touchdowns or more this season.
Ohio States offense is a more balanced run-pass orientated scheme
with Pryor as a duel-threat running the show. The Buckeyes have a
stable of running backs to team up with Pryor to amass 221 yards on
the ground per contest, but its no secret that the weakness in the
Buckeyes attack is when Pryor is forced to throw it.
The biggest difference between these two teams is defense.
Ohio States defensive unit finished 3rd in the country in yards
allowed (251.6 ypg) and scoring (13.3 ppg) and they are equally
strong against the pass (156.2 ypg 4th) as they are against the run
(95.3 ypg 4th), so it will be really fun to watch how much pressure
they can generate on Mallett and force him into quick (and bad)
Its likely the Ohio State offensive game plan wont call upon Pryor
to throw it all that much, mostly because the Arkansas defense is
relatively weak at stopping teams from running the football (allowed
156.1 ypg 72nd). Long, time-consuming drives against the Hogs
defense with a lot of running plays is an excellent way to limit the
damage done by Mallett too.
These two schools have yet to meet on the gridiron, so theres little
to no history to draw upon to help handicap this game.
Arkansas was very good to bettors down the stretch, covering in all
six of the games during their six-game win streak to close the season
(6-0 ATS). However, they have not done all that well in bowl games
recently (1-4 ATS in last five bowls), and they dont fair as well
when they play on the carpet and synthetic surfaces found in the
Superdome (1-5 ATS in last six turf games).
Ohio State on the other hand has done a good job for bettors in
January, going 6-2 ATS in the last eight bowl games and 8-0 ATS in
their last eight games outside of the Big Ten Conference. They are
also 6-2 ATS on turf and 5-2 ATS in their last seven neutral site
games. Theres just this little stigma the Buckeyes have against
teams from the big, bad SEC, as Ohio State is 0-5 ATS in their last
five games against teams from the SEC.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Ohio States defense is really good, but they havent
faced anybody that can throw it like Mallett in the Big Ten this
season so I expect this game to turn into a shootout. Im leaning
toward Arkansas as a live dog in this game, but the best wager is on
the over of 57.5 here. Im taking the over of 57.5.