No. 6 Ohio State (11-1) vs. No. 8 Arkansas (10-2), 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Ohio State by 3 1/2.
Series Record: First meeting.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
The Buckeyes are winless in nine tries against the SEC in bowl games, and are playing an Arkansas team making its first appearance in a BCS bowl. Ohio State will have star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and three other offensive starters despite earning suspensions for the first five games next season as NCAA-imposed punishment for selling memorabilia and getting discounts on tattoos. The Razorbacks, meanwhile, haven’t played in the Sugar Bowl since 1980, and would love to continue the Big Ten’s bowl misery that began with an 0-for-5 New Year’s Day.
Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett against the Ohio State defense. Mallett is a prototypical drop-back passer who helped the Razorbacks average 338 yards per game through the air. The Buckeyes defense was among the best in the nation all season, allowing just 13.3 points per game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ohio State: Pryor, RB Dan Herron and WR DeVier Posey. The trio of offensive stars, along with OL Mike Adams and DE Solomon Thomas, were suspended for the first five games of next season for NCAA violations, but have been allowed to play in the bowl game after assuring coach Jim Tressel that they will not skip next season for the NFL draft. Ohio State needs them to have big games _ and not be distracted by everything else _ to keep up with the Arkansas offense.
Arkansas: RB Knile Davis. Everyone knows to keep an eye on Mallett, but Davis has given Arkansas some balance late in the season. The sophomore has had four straight 100-yard rushing games coming into the Sugar Bowl, including 187 at Mississippi State and 152 against LSU. He’s a big reason the Razorbacks have won six straight.
FACTS & FIGURES
Arkansas is making its BCS debut, but coach Bobby Petrino has been here before. He led Louisville to victory in the Orange Bowl after the 2006 season. … The Razorbacks are 1-4 in the Sugar Bowl, all of those games before the BCS era. … Mallett has thrown for 7,216 yards and 60 touchdowns over the past two seasons, with nine 300-yard games this year. … Pryor is 22-3 as the full-time starter the past two seasons, which includes a five-game winning streak to end this past regular season. … Since Tressel was hired in 2001, Ohio State is 0-3 against the SEC in bowl games _ two in national title games _ and 5-1 in other bowl games. … The Buckeyes are playing in their first Sugar Bowl since beating Texas A&M 24-14 after the 1998 season.