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Razorback Round Up

For pigs or people? Or both?

Happy New Year to all.  It was interesting reflecting on the first day of 2010 during this January 1, 2011.  Last year I watched first hand in the Rose Bowl when the Buckeyes removed the BCS Bowl monkey from the back of the program with an upset Rose Bowl win against favored Oregon.   This year I got to watch the entire Big Ten go down in flames.  How much can change in a year.

Not too surprised with Sparty, I knew the Tide would roll them up even though 49-7 is pretty bad.  TSUN got smoked too.  Penn State let one get away against Florida and Northwestern almost came back against Texas Tech.  But I am still shaking my head that the Badgers fell to TCU in the Rose Bowl 21-19.  Missed field goal and a strange shotgun pass call for the two point that would have tied it jump out as the most likely culprits – but still – I thought they would run at will on TCU.  I guess as a conference we can still look at Iowa’s defeat of Missouri and Illinois beating Baylor as positives.  But at 2-5 the conference looks less than encouraging heading into the Buckeyes matchup against Arkansas on tomorrow night.

I pride myself on being the eternal optimist when it comes to the Buckeyes chances in games.  I made the switch several years ago from the cynical sky is falling type Buckeye fan to one that always tries to see the positive angles to the matchup.  But I have to be honest – after all the Tatgate crap and the dismal performance of the conference – it will take the absolute best game that our team can muster to take down Mallet and the Razorbacks.   The main point I am basing this opinion on is this – you are the company you keep.

Wisconsin was the one team that beat us and the “potent” offense that manhandled our defense was held to 19 points by TCU.  Sure – TCU may be a undefeated team but they are from the Mountain West.  The Big Ten teams that played the SEC (like we are) got beat and in some cases smoked like a MAC team.  Our and the out of conference “big win” we got over Miami?  They got beat down by Notre Dame.  The only other remotely talented team we played was Iowa, who beat a mid level Big 12 school, and we had to come from behind to beat them.

As for Arkansas…..

The Razorbacks defeated four teams that were ranked in the top 25 of the final BCS standings — No. 11 LSU, No. 17 Texas A&M, No. 20 South Carolina and No. 21 Mississippi State — and finished in second place in the country’s toughest division. Only Auburn, which will play No. 2 Oregon in the Jan. 10 Tostitos BCS National Championship Game, defeated more Top 25 opponents this season.

And that is just talking conference and strength of schedule, as for the Razorback team:

–          So there is this guy named Mallett at QB.  Everyone knows the story of the TSUN transfer finally getting his shot at the      Buckeyes blah blah blah.  The real deal is that he has a strong arm and is had an amazing season going for 3500 yards and 30 TDs.  He spreads the ball around a lot and has lots of weapons to play with.  Chekwa and Torrence have to be on, as do Hines, Johnson, Bryant, Howard and whoever else is playing in the secondary.

–          Much like Boom for the Buckeyes.  #7 Knile Davis took over the second half of the season and has shown to be a solid back that does much more than just keep an opposing teams defense honest going for 1200 yards on the season and earning all SEC honors.  The front seven has to shut this man down to win.   Plain and simple.

–          Catching the are a set of three receivers and a tight end that all have at least 500 yards receiving on the year.  This will be the most talented group that the Buckeye secondary has ever faced.  The receiving corps never missed a beat after an injury to the 2009 leading receiver Childs.  Now our secondary will have to track down #4 Wright a burner, #11 Hamilton a bigger target at 6’ 209, and #3 Adams.  At TE is Mackey Award winner Williams – which basically means the unanimous SEC first teamer is the best TE in the country.  Would be nice to have Moeller healthy to help cover him, but Hines, Bryant, and Sweat are going to have to share the job of handling him.

–          The Razorback offensive line is described as big and physical and averages 6’5” 315.  Sounds like the Wisconsin line and we know how that went.  Our front four must play better, big Hankins might need to come in earlier to help clog the middle.

–          Defensively the Arkansas team has not been nearly as dominant as the offense.  They normally run a 4-2-5 but will also spend time in a 4-3.  Led up front by #92 Jones at DT, leading tackler #34 Franklin at linebacker and senior cornerback #26 Broadway.  They are not known as  a run stopping force and have not forced that many turnovers.  If the Buckeye offense can attack this unit they have been known to give up points in big ways.

There is hope that we can deliver another complete game during BCS Bowl like Tressel and the boys did last year in Pasadena.   For the Buckeyes to shake loose the SEC monkey from their back this year and give the fan base something positive to end the season then the team must be ready to play and bring their very best.  That starts with the senior led Silver Bullets shutting down Knile Davis completely.  The Hogs go nowhere on the ground.  Pressure Mallett into some of those turnovers he is prone to making when the heat is turned up.   Defensively up front Heyward, Williams, Larimore, Simon and Hankins have to play huge.  Offensively – if we can get Boom going early – great.  If not then we have to open it up quick, we can’t screw around for half a game against this team.  Last year we turned TP loose and he had a bum knee, with him at full strength and a year older I hope we do the same or more.  It seems like he hasn’t been able to do anything right since he got off the field after Michigan, let him get back on field and prove himself again.  I see Sanzenbacher having a big game knowing it is his last in scarlet and gray, hopefully Stoneburner can prove as hard a matchup for them as Williams will be for us.  I would also like to see a token Saine wheel route or two.  We have the fire power but will need more TDs than FGs to beat pig sooie.  Much like any other game this one will be won in the trenches.  The Brew Crew must  get it done – either on the ground or with pass blocking.

To be quite honest I am glad I am not a betting man on this one.  A betting man would look at what happened to the conference members in bowl games, look at the schedules and look at 0-9 – it does paint a strong picture.  No too many outside the Buckeye Nation give us a chance and Tressel has been sending that message to the team.  Hopefully it puts a chip on all their shoulders, hopefully Pryor can use all the noise from the past two weeks to channel his game into another MVP performance, hopefully the defense loaded with seniors can rise up to the challenge, and hopefully our offensive line can be the story of the game in a good way.

Here is to hope wearing scarlet glasses.

Prediction:

Ohio State – 34

Arkansas – 31

*Barclay saves the day ala Iowa 2009 with a game winner.