December 31, 2010

Bucks find little wrong with Arkansas offense

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NEW ORLEANS - Exactly a year ago college football observers were wondering how the Ohio State Buckeyes would be able to defend the offense of the Oregon Ducks. The team passed that test with flying colors. Now this year the same questions are being asked with the offense of the Arkansas Razorbacks looming.

The numbers for the Hawgs almost seem like video game numbers with the type of diversity that the team has. Five receivers have more than 500 yards receiving, a running back that ranks near the top of the SEC and then there is some quarterback that people like to talk about.

Ohio State faced only one opponent who ranked higher than Arkansas in total offense (Michigan - 6th) but the style of play of the two teams are polar opposites. It is hard to draw any sort of comparisons between Arkansas and any team that Ohio State has faced during the 2010 campaign.

"It is hard to say that they are compared to just one team," Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said. "They have a real strong quarterback in Ryan Mallett, their offensive line is pretty sound but you can't get away from their running game. Their running game is very up to par and if you are not careful they can beat you both ways."

Mallett knows about the Buckeyes having been at Michigan during the 2007 season. The then first year player got a taste of action against Ohio State going 1-3 for eight yards in relief of Chad Henne. Mallett still does not have much love for the Buckeyes and that is just fine with Ohio State.

"It is all the same and he is our opponent so there is not much love for him," Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan said. "He is a great player so it is going to be a huge challenge to go against him but our whole defense is ready."

Since that season Mallett has gone on to pass for more than 7,200 yards and 60 touchdowns. For the sake of comparison Terrelle Pryor has passed for 2,574 yards less and 17 fewer 17 touchdowns.

The numbers show that Mallett has grown since his days in Ann Arbor (Mich.) and the Buckeye players are well aware that they are going to face a much more polished product.

"That was basically four years ago and now he is a different player and he is on top of his game and zipping the ball even faster," Heyward said. "He leads his team very well and when they need a big play you can always rely on him."

Often overlooked is the offensive line of the Hawgs, a line that is led my DeMarcus Love. The Buckeyes have not had a breakout season in terms of getting pressure with just the front four and the task at the Sugar Bowl is shaping up to be a difficult one.

"I feel that they are the best offense that we have faced," Homan said. "The O-line may be the best O-line we have faced since playing at USC. That is what I compare them too athletic-wise. They do a great job of sitting on the line and getting to the linebackers."

People who are not familiar with Arkansas only identify it as a passing team but the Hawgs attempted nearly as many runs as passes to date this season with a difference of 28.

"The biggest thing that you see is a running attack that's equally as dangerous as their passing attack," Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said. " That combination and anytime they can do both things it gives you a little bit more problems."

And how do you prepare for something like that?

"You have to do the same thing you do each week," Rolle said. "It really is about what we do and we know they have a great offense and have a dynamic quarterback. If we go out and play our 1/11th on defense, offense and special teams I feel that we will be able to handle it."


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