SEC: Ohio State Buckeyes

We've seen over the years how Ohio State has gagged any time the Buckeyes have gotten close to an SEC team in a bowl game.

Maybe it's time somebody put a gag order on Ohio State's president.

Is anybody really surprised that Gordon Gee has put his foot in his mouth ... again?

According to an Associated Press report, Gee took shots at the SEC, Notre Dame, Catholics and just about everybody else during a December meeting of the school's Athletic Council.

Gee, who was the chairman of the SEC when he was the Vanderbilt chancellor, said of the SEC, "You tell the SEC when they can learn to read and write, then they can figure out what we're doing."

He saved his most pointed remarks for Notre Dame and Catholics.

"The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they're holy hell on the rest of the week," Gee said to laughter at the Dec. 5 meeting attended by athletic director Gene Smith and several other athletic department members, along with professors and students.

"You just can't trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that."

Gee has since apologized, and the university said his remarks were inappropriate.

No kidding.

A better question is: How does he keep his job?

He can throw stones all he wants, but he better make sure his own closet is clean.

The last time I checked, Ohio State's football team was on NCAA probation last season and banned from going to a bowl game for violations that occurred under former coach Jim Tressel.

Remember Gee's comments when the tattoo parlor scandal came up?

Asked if he ever considered firing Tressel, Gee said, "No, are you kidding? Let me just be very clear: I'm just hopeful the coach doesn't dismiss me."

There was also his "Little Sisters of the Poor" reference regarding Boise State and TCU in 2010.

It's refreshing that the university is requiring Gee to undergo a "remediation plan."

Maybe part of that plan will include sitting him down and making him watch all nine of the Buckeyes' bowl losses to SEC teams in bowl games (all 10 if you count the Buckeyes' only win, a win they had to give back after playing ineligible players against Arkansas in the 2011 Sugar Bowl).

That and his mouth being taped shut should do the trick.

Making the case for the SEC grind

May, 28, 2013
DESTIN, Fla. -- With the College Football Playoff coming in 2014, Alabama coach Nick Saban wants to make sure the SEC gets its due regarding strength of schedule within the league.

He said Tuesday prior to the start of the SEC spring meetings that he’s not sure that’s been the case under the old system.

“We talk about trying to create some kind of strength of schedule (formula). That’s difficult to do,” Saban said. “We had six (SEC) teams at the end of the (regular) season last year in the top 10, and other teams are vying to get into the championship game. And then to think that the team that loses our championship game wouldn’t have gotten into the Final Four if we’d had one. I mean, that’s not a strength of schedule consideration at all. It’s taking how many games you lose into consideration.

“If we all played more good opponents, you could lose more games and still have a chance to get recognized as being a good team.”

Click here for the rest of the story.

Poll: Dream nonconference matchup

May, 10, 2013
The team I wanted to see face Alabama last season in the BCS National Championship was Oregon. It's the matchup the entire country wanted to see.

No offense, Notre Dame fans, but seeing that high-octane Oregon offense go up against Alabama's defense would have made for much better theater than what we ended up getting in South Florida in January.


Which nonconference matchup involving an SEC school would be the most attractive?


Discuss (Total votes: 11,201)

Wouldn't it be great if you could play college football matchmaker and turn some of these dream match-ups into realities during the season?

We've come up with five such matchups and want you to select which one would be the most attractive by voting in our SportsNation poll.

Alabama versus Oregon is one of the choices. Who knows? Maybe we'll finally get to see the Ducks and Tide square off in the final BCS National Championship before we go to a playoff in 2014.

Think Florida versus Ohio State would stir a few emotions with Urban Meyer taking on his old team? It would be the battle of Meyer's two dream jobs. Come to think of it, is it possible to have two dream jobs? In Meyer's world, you can.

I realize that Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, in all of his arrogance, said recently that Texas gets to decide when Texas and Texas A&M play again. Ask anybody in that state, and it can't be soon enough. Surely we'll see those two old rivals playing again sooner rather than later.

Here's one for you: South Carolina and Steve Spurrier going up against Lane Kiffin and the West Coast version of USC. Spurrier's not the biggest Kiffin fan. Then again, who in the SEC is? Something says the buildup to that game could be as entertaining as the game itself.

Finally, LSU and Notre Dame played 10 times between 1970 and 2006 and are all knotted up, 5-5. It's time to break the tie. Talk about two of the best fight songs in all of college sports and two programs steeped in tradition.

Well, you have the rundown. Tell us which matchup you'd most like to see, and we'll go over results next week.

Ole Miss offense could test Tide streak

September, 28, 2012
1. Heading into its game this week at No. 1 Alabama, Ole Miss is scoring nearly 37 points per game. Therefore, the Rebels might be a test for a Tide defense that has allowed a total of three touchdowns in its last nine games against SEC competition.

Ole Miss was one of the teams that managed a single TD against the Tide defense last year; Florida and Mississippi State were the others. What's amazing is that Alabama doesn't even have the SEC's longest active streak of allowing no more than one TD to a conference opponent's offense. After last weekend's game against Auburn, LSU has now done that in 11 consecutive games.

2. Connor Shaw missed on his first pass of the game last week against Missouri but then completed his last 20 pass attempts. With four more consecutive completions, he'll tie Tennessee's Tee Martin in 1998 for the longest SEC streak of consecutive completions. Martin's streak was the national record for 13 years until East Carolina's Dominique Davis (36 straight completions) broke it last year.

How do Shaw's odds look against Kentucky, his opponent this weekend? Only once in its last 19 games has Kentucky allowed a passer to complete four straight to start a game. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater did it against the Wildcats in the season opener this year. And Shaw will have to top his performance from last year against Kentucky. In that game, Shaw threw an incompletion on his second pass attempt.

3. Michigan State is looking to win consecutive games with Ohio State after beating the Buckeyes last year 10-7 in Columbus. Ohio State has not lost back-to-back meetings with a conference opponent since Wisconsin beat the Buckeyes in 2003 and 2004.

That Ohio State streak of eight years without consecutive losses to any conference opponent is the longest active streak among BCS-AQ conference teams. Ohio State has played 62 Big Ten games since losing those two straight to Wisconsin. If Michigan State can’t break the streak this week, Nebraska will have a chance to end it next week when it meets Ohio State in Columbus.

4. Taylor Martinez is completing 56 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or more downfield this season. Martinez completed less 40 percent of such throws in each of his first two seasons as a starter.

Why is this improvement important? The Cornhuskers are 7-0 against AQ-opponents when Martinez completes at least half of his 15-yard throws and 4-9 when he does not, including last season’s loss to Wisconsin. Martinez finished that game with as many interceptions (three) as completions on 15-yard throws. It is his only career game with multiple interceptions on such throws.

5. This past weekend, Arkansas became the first preseason top-10 team since 2000 Alabama to pick up a third loss by the end of September. This weekend against former SWC rival – and new SEC rival – Texas A&M, the Razorbacks can join an even more exclusive club of futility.

With a loss, Arkansas would join the 1984 Pittsburgh Panthers as the only preseason top-10 teams to have four losses by the end of September. The 1984 Panthers began 0-4 after being ranked third in the preseason poll and finished the season 3-7-1.
Urban Meyer is long gone from Florida, but he’s sure not forgotten.

We were reminded of that earlier this month thanks to Matt Hayes’ piece in The Sporting News, a piece that painted the end of Meyer’s otherwise ultra-successful tenure at Florida as pure bedlam with select players doing pretty much as they pleased and the program spiraling downward as a result.

Meyer has since defended his time at Florida, which in fairness, included a pair of BCS national championships.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Robert Mayer/US PresswireThe state of Florida will have a hard time forgetting Urban Meyer and his checkered legacy.
But it’s the mess he left for Will Muschamp to clean up that hasn’t won him a lot of fans in the Sunshine State, be it fans, some former players, media members or Florida administrators.

In short, most people simply didn’t realize how “broken” that program really was when Meyer stepped aside following the 2010 season. Remember, too, that the term “broken” was the term Meyer himself used.

Here’s the other thing: There hasn’t been an outpouring of Florida administrators coming forward and disputing the things alleged in Hayes’ piece.

Even former running back Chris Rainey wasn’t exactly going to bat for Meyer in a recent interview, and it was Meyer who gave Rainey a second chance in 2010 following Rainey’s infamous “time to die” text to a woman he’d been dating.

The columnists in the state of Florida haven’t held back, either.

Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel wrote last week that Meyer was more “duplicitous and dishonest” than Bianchi ever thought possible. Bianchi went on to write that Meyer wasn’t just “Urban Liar,” but that he was also “Urban Hypocrite.”

And then Tuesday, Bianchi’s colleague at The Orlando Sentinel, George Diaz, lowered the boom.

Among other things, Diaz wrote that Steve Spurrier would always be the king of Florida football and that Meyer is a “bit like the emperor with no clothes.”

Pat Dooley, the longtime columnist with The Gainesville Sun, weighed in on all the uproar as well. It’s worth noting that Dooley had an excellent relationship with Meyer, probably better than any media member in the state of Florida.

Nonetheless, that didn’t keep Dooley from sharing this little nugget in his column last week:
"I know Muschamp felt he inherited a mess when he took over and it has taken him a year to get it headed back in the right direction. All you need to know about players' sense of entitlement was the meeting between Muschamp and Janoris Jenkins after multiple arrests and failed drug tests by the cornerback. When Muschamp told Jenkins he would have to be suspended, Jenkins replied, “Do you know who you're talking to?” And that was the end of his career at UF."

If you'd just landed from Mars and didn't have cable TV there, you'd think this Meyer fellow was the worst thing to ever happen to Florida football.

The truth is that he won two national championships in a span of three years, and when you're winning at that level, even the most hardened skeptics and cynics tend to lose their peripheral vision. They see what's right in front of them, as in crystal footballs starting to fill up the trophy case.

It happens among fans, media, administrators, all of us.

It's obvious now that Meyer's handle on the program was slipping away from him when he quit for good in 2010. Perhaps he sensed it the year before when he tried to quit the first time following his health scare.

Now that he's at Ohio State, Meyer has a chance to write a new legacy there.

I'd be shocked if he didn't win big. Nobody's ever accused him of not being able to coach football.

It's his tendency to preach one thing and practice another, at least in the eyes of more than a few Floridians, that he might want to work on.

The overriding feeling in the Ozarks was that this would be Bobby Petrino’s best football team at Arkansas.

But now that he’s not going to be around to coach that team, where do the Hogs go from here?

As we saw with both North Carolina and Ohio State a year ago, it’s never easy to navigate a season when your coach has been sent packing in the months leading up to that season.

Granted, Butch Davis was fired at North Carolina about a month before the 2011 season began, and Jim Tressel was forced out heading into June.

So Arkansas’ coaches and players at least have a little more time to process the situation, but this is the kind of thing that can fester for even the most resilient of football teams.

One day, Petrino is there, firmly in control and feverishly building on last season’s No. 5 finish in the polls.

And then one ill-fated motorcycle ride later, he’s gone.

There’s no way to prepare for such a sudden transition, no textbook, no therapist who can all of a sudden make everything right again.

Put yourself in the place of the Arkansas players.

[+] EnlargeBobby Petrino
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesArkansas faces an uncertain 2012 season without Bobby Petrino at the helm.
Petrino had guided them to this position, and together, they engineered the kind of success the Hogs haven’t had for 30 years. He talks about doing things the right way, being accountable to your teammates and never losing sight of the fact that you’re representing an entire university and an entire state when you put on that Arkansas uniform.

Those words ring hollow now, and the only thing more hollow is the feeling that everybody associated with the football program must be experiencing.

There are so many unanswered questions going forward.

Petrino had obviously done a masterful job in making the Hogs relevant again nationally, so losing his leadership is one thing.

But what about his offensive genius?

Few coaches in football have a better feel for the game when it comes to breaking down defenses and calling plays.

Petrino called all of the Hogs’ plays on offense, so losing that dynamic is a huge blow.

What this team has going for it is talent, not to mention experience in key spots.

Talent has a way of covering up even the nastiest of wounds.

Having one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC helps, too, and Tyler Wilson now has a full season as a starter under his belt.

Wilson’s leadership in 2012 will be crucial. The same goes for running back Knile Davis, who knows a little something about dealing with hardship.

Davis, who missed all of last season after injuring his ankle, was already an inspiration to his teammates with the way he has continued to fight back from injuries.

The Hogs are going to need him more than ever, both on and off the field, in 2012.

Petrino had overhauled his defensive staff in the offseason, and it just so happens that two of the guys he brought in -- defensive coordinator Paul Haynes and linebackers/interim head coach Taver Johnson -- were at Ohio State last season.

If anybody has a clue what Arkansas is about to face, it’s Haynes and Johnson. They lived it last season with the Buckeyes following Tressel’s ouster.

Ultimately, the coaches will only be able to do so much.

If the Hogs are going to keep 2012 from being a lost season and fulfill the promise everybody had for this team prior to Petrino’s dismissal, it’s going to be on the players.

They have the talent to weather the storm. We’ll find out in the fall if they have the fortitude.
Has something seemed odd to you about the BCS bowls this year? Does it seem like ... oh wait, West Virginia just scored again.

Does it seem like ... wait, there goes De'Anthony Thomas. Don't think he'll get caught from behind.

Does it seem like ... wait, would somebody please tackle Justin Blackmon?

Does it seem like there have been a lot of points this bowl season?

It's not just you. There have been a lot of points. More points than ever before. And by huge quantities.

So far, BCS bowl teams have averaged a total of 77 points in the Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls. That, folks, is nearly 26 points more than last year (51.6). And it's nearly 11 points better than the previous high of 66.3 from 2001-02.

Perhaps pairing two SEC teams in the title game has created a black hole sucking all defensive stinginess into the LSU-Alabama rematch, which you might recall went 9-6 with no touchdowns in their first meeting. West Virginia scored 10 touchdowns -- 10! -- against Clemson. Alabama gave up 12 TDs all season.

Speaking of Clemson: ACC. Well, well, well.

After the Tigers ingloriously fell 70-33 to the Mountaineers, we got our second story from the BCS bowl season: The ACC's insistence on throwing up on itself in BCS bowl games.

The conference that was once expected to challenge the SEC is now 2-13 in BCS bowl games. That's hard to do. You'd think in 15 BCS bowls the conference could get lucky at least five or six times. But no, it insists on making ACC blogger Heather Dinich, a genuinely nice person, into some sort of Grim Reaper every bowl season.

Heck, the Big East has won seven BCS bowls -- second fewest among AQ conferences -- but it's 7-7.

Of course, this all ties together, and we're here to bring out a bow, but first a warning: If you don't want to read about how good the SEC is for the 56,314th time this year, then stop reading. I'd recommend an episode of "South Park" or perhaps a John le Carré thriller as an alternative for passing the time.

We can all agree the SEC plays great defense right? Alabama and LSU will play for the title Monday with the nation's top-two defenses. Do you think perhaps that it's not a coincidence that the conference that is 16-7 in BCS bowl games plays great defense?

The only other AQ conference with a winning record in BCS bowl games is the Pac-12, which is 11-7. The Pac-12 isn't known for defense, either, but USC was when it won the conference's last national title in 2004.

The only team to win a BCS national title without an elite defense was Auburn in 2010, but the Tigers' defense seemed to find itself late in the season. Since 1999, eight national champions had a top-10 defense. Other than Auburn, the lowest-rated defense to win a BCS national title was Ohio State in 2002. It ranked 23rd in the nation in total defense.

Three of the four BCS bowl games have been thrillers. Two went to overtime. We've seen big plays all over the field in the passing game and running game. Yet, if things go according to script in the title game, we'll see none of that. We might not see more than a couple of plays that go for more than 20 yards. We might not see any.

Some might call that boring. It might seem that both offenses are so paranoid of making a mistake that they are stuck in mud, both in game plan and execution.

But, snoozefest or not, when the clock strikes zero a team from the SEC will hoist the crystal football for a sixth consecutive time.

That might say something about playing better defense.

Ohio State cancels series with Vols

November, 22, 2011
With the Big Ten set to go to nine conference games later this decade, Ohio State has canceled a scheduled two-game series with Tennessee.

The Vols were scheduled to play in Columbus in 2018, while the Buckeyes were scheduled to travel to Knoxville in 2019.

According to Ohio State's release, Tennessee agreed with the request for the series to be canceled, although the schools may look for an option to play in future years.

Tennessee still has marquee nonconference games upcoming at Oregon in 2013, at Oklahoma in 2014, Oklahoma at home in 2015, at Nebraska in 2016 and Nebraska at home in 2017.

Video: National storylines from Week 3

September, 18, 2011

Pat Forde and Heather Dinich break down the biggest storylines from Week 3, including the ACC’s big day, Notre Dame’s win and Auburn’s loss.

Video: College GameDay onsite

September, 16, 2011

Pat Forde and Heather Dinich break down Oklahoma-Florida State, Auburn-Clemson and Ohio State-Miami.

Blog debate: LSU versus Oregon

September, 1, 2011
Well, Chris, we meet again. The SEC and Pac-12 can’t seem to quit each other, eh?

You actually were a good sport about not gloating too hard over your correct prediction that Auburn would outlast Oregon and win the SEC’s fifth consecutive national championship. My prediction? I can’t recall, but I’ll admit a vague recollection of wrongness.

But here we go again: No. 3 Oregon versus No. 4 LSU in Cowboys Stadium. As good a season-opening matchup as we’ve had in decades. Kudos to both programs for having the courage to give college football fans something to look forward to during this dreary, controversy-laden offseason, from which these teams are not exempt by any means. Lots of intrigue in this one -- on and off the field.

But let’s start with the football part of football. Tell me about LSU: What are the Tigers' strengths and what are their question marks?

Chris Low: Honestly, Ted, the SEC has won so many national championships in a row now that it's not as much fun to talk smack. I guess we're sort of used to it here in SEC land. We do rings and NCAA investigations in these parts.

As for the game Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, I can't wait to see the collection of talent and speed on that field. This LSU defense should be the fastest John Chavis has had, and he's always put a premium on speed dating back to his days as Tennessee's defensive coordinator. Not only are the Tigers fast on defense, but they're deep. They have defensive ends, Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, who run like safeties, and Chavis loves to use multiple defensive backs. Just about everybody in LSU's secondary is a former cornerback. The best of the bunch is Morris Claiborne, who can fly. The Tigers are going to play Tyrann Mathieu at nickel and let him roam, which is what he does best. They'll bring him on the blitz one play and drop him into coverage on the next. He had 8.5 tackles for loss as a freshman and forced five turnovers.

[+] EnlargeSpencer Ware
Tim Heitman/US PresswireThe Tigers are expected to lean heavily on Spencer Ware and the running game.
While defense will clearly be LSU's strength, the Tigers still have their share of guys on offense capable of making big plays even with quarterback Jordan Jefferson and receiver Russell Shepard sitting this one out. Sophomore running back Spencer Ware is poised to be one of the SEC's top breakout players this season. A former quarterback in high school, he weighs 225 pounds, has great moves and accelerates with the best of them. Senior guard Josh Dworaczyk will miss this game with a knee injury, and that's a blow. He's one of LSU's top offensive linemen. The one thing you don't know about this team is how equipped it would be to have to play from behind. Jarrett Lee is a senior and threw the ball well when he was called upon last season, but it's his show now with Jefferson sidelined. Lee's going to have to be more than just a situational player. I think you'll also see junior college newcomer Zach Mettenberger in this game. He has one of the strongest arms in the SEC, but he hasn't played at this level in a game. The Tigers will certainly have to throw it some to win this game. What I don't think they want to happen is to be in a position where they're having to throw it.

Ted Miller: Everyone is pretty focused on the matchup of the LSU defense and the Oregon offense, which makes sense. Most everyone knows the SEC plays defense at a different level than the rest of the country, though some snarky sorts out West wonder if that’s because those defenses play against SEC offenses. We’ll get to that. I’m just as curious about the Ducks' defense against the LSU offense, even more so with Jefferson out. The Ducks' defense was underrated last year. While it ranked only 34th in the nation in total defense, it gave up just 4.67 yards per play and ranked 20th in third-down defense. For comparison, LSU yielded 4.86 yards per play and ranked 16th in third-down defense.

But that is last year. Oregon is replacing five starters from its front seven. While the defense has been stout during preseason camp -- the feeling is it’s less experienced but bigger and more physically talented than last year -- we really don’t know what it will do against Ware and a run-first attack. As for defending the pass, the Ducks felt like they’d have one of the best secondaries in the country -- not unlike LSU -- heading into the season, but that included All-America cornerback Cliff Harris. Harris, you might have heard, is suspended because he was in a 118 mph hurry to get back to Eugene one offseason night.

But back to that Ducks offense versus LSU's defense matchup. The Ducks' up-tempo, spread-option has been stymied in big games of late when opposing defenses had extra time to prepare and loads of NFL talent in their front seven.

What have you heard about the Tigers' preparation and how does their front-seven personnel compare to Auburn's in 2010?

Chris Low: The best news for the Ducks is that Nick Fairley won't be suiting up for LSU on Saturday. He was the difference out in Glendale, Ariz., back in January, and my contention is that interior line play defensively has been what's set the SEC apart from everybody else the past several years. LSU is extremely talented up front with terrific athletes at the end positions and some promising young talent at tackle. They call true freshman tackle Anthony Johnson "Freak" for a reason. He's big, bad and usually bearing down on whoever has the ball. LSU doesn't have a proven difference-maker up front the caliber of Fairley, but LSU is deeper in the defensive line than Auburn was last season. At linebacker, Ryan Brown is an All-SEC caliber player on the weak side, but the Tigers will sorely miss Kelvin Sheppard in the middle. It looks like converted safety Karnell Hatcher is going to play a bunch in the middle.

Not to take anything away from Auburn's performance last season in the BCS National Championship Game, but LSU is a more talented defense across the board, particularly in the secondary, than the Auburn defense Oregon faced last season.

This also isn't John Chavis' first rodeo. His defenses were the backbone of some of Tennessee's best teams in the late 1990s, and with this being his third season in Baton Rouge, look for the Tigers to play even faster and more instinctively in that system this season. They've been working overtime to make sure they're getting the calls in quick enough, but I'd say you're going to see at least five defensive backs on the field for much of the game.

[+] EnlargeCliff Harris
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesThe Ducks will be without standout corner/returner Cliff Harris, who's suspended from the team indefinitely.
Ted Miller: All right, so we’ve talked about who will be there. The elephant in the room is who won’t be. The Ducks have two suspended players in cornerback Cliff Harris and middle linebacker Kiko Alonso. (We're guessing with Alonso; Chip Kelly won't say for sure.) More than a few folks saw the suspension of Shepard making the loss of Harris a push -- two all-conference types who also are special-teams stars. Alonso is the Ducks' most physical linebacker, so his loss is significant. Dewitt Stuckey has seen action, but his backup is a walk-on. The Ducks seem fairly healthy heading into the game, though there are questions about receiver Josh Huff, who had been walking around in a boot until recently.

Still, all of this seems less important than the loss of Jordan Jefferson. First, what does losing Jefferson mean to LSU, both as a player and leader? Second, tell us a bit about Lee.

Chris Low: The Tigers will miss Jefferson's ability to scramble and extend the play. He didn't throw it very well last season, but he made several big plays with his legs. In Lee, you get a pure pocket passer who's not going to move around much and look to run.

Lee's story is a good one. He had a brutal redshirt freshman season in which he threw 16 interceptions, including seven that were returned for touchdowns. But he persevered and hung around, and here he is with a chance to lead LSU to a special season as a senior. Lee came off the bench several times last season to save the Tigers, and I don't think there's any question that there's a renewed sense of confidence in him among his teammates.

Shepard is another playmaker you take out of the equation for LSU and a guy who can turn missed tackles into touchdowns, and the other key piece on offense the Tigers will be missing is senior guard Josh Dworaczyk, who's out with an injured knee. He was one of the anchors of that offensive line, so that's three key players missing on offense.

If the Tigers are going to win this one, they have to keep the Ducks from dialing up a bunch of big plays.

Enough talking, though. Let's play. How do you see this one shaking out, Ted?

Ted Miller: Chris, after watching Oregon lose games like this to Boise State, Ohio State and Auburn, I’ve got to admit I see a pattern. Further, I think LSU’s front seven is at least as good as Auburn’s was and the LSU secondary is much better. I think the Ducks' defense will hold down the LSU offense fairly well, but I also think it will feel like a road game for Oregon because of a two-to-one Tigers advantage in the stands. I see a good game, but one in which the Tigers prevail 24-21.

Chris Low: I'm picking the Tigers, too. Imagine that. I tried to convince you to pick Auburn out in Arizona back in January, but you were blinded by those Oregon uniforms. The Ducks play fast, but so does the LSU defense. I also think the Tigers will be able to run the ball well enough to keep that Oregon offense off the field. Get ready for Spencer Ware to formally introduce himself to the college football world in a 28-24 LSU win that soothes a few wounds on the Bayou.
The drought mercifully ended for Ohio State back on Jan. 4 in New Orleans when the Buckeyes held on to defeat Arkansas 31-26 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

At last, Ohio State had beaten an SEC team in a bowl game. That's what we all thought at the time, anyway.

[+] EnlargeSugar Bowl
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyOhio State's victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl has been wiped from the record books.
But with Ohio State's announcement Friday that it was vacating all of its wins from the 2010 season, including the Sugar Bowl victory, that means the Buckeyes are still oh-fer against the SEC in bowl games.

Officially, the Buckeyes are still 0-9 against SEC teams in bowl games.

Yes, it's a silly punishment, but Ohio State's win over Arkansas has been vacated. I guess it's like the game was never even played, that the Hogs didn't botch that chance to return a blocked punt for an easy touchdown and that Ryan Mallett didn't throw that late interception to seal the Hogs' fate.

Arkansas doesn't pick up the win. Ohio State simply loses it.

And speaking of fate, anybody find it ironic that Ohio State is paying this price because the Buckeyes played ineligible players to finally break through against the SEC, the league everybody else around the country points to as being the model for cheating in college football?

Remember Big Ten commissioner Jm Delany's comments about the NCAA missing an opportunity to stand up and hold the people involved in the Cam Newton ordeal accountable?

Granted, the NCAA hasn't closed the Auburn case yet, so we won't go there.

But one case that has been closed is that Ohio State is still looking for its first win against the SEC in a bowl game.

At least, officially.

Sugar Bowl keys

January, 3, 2011
Here are three keys for Arkansas in its Allstate Sugar Bowl matchup with Ohio State:

1. Create some turnovers: The Buckeyes were one of the best teams in the country this season in turnover ratio. They’re at plus-14 entering the game. They did throw 13 interceptions, but lost just two fumbles. The Hogs will go after Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and see if they can force him into mistakes. They were second in the SEC with 37 sacks and will look to get to Pryor early and not let him settle into any kind of comfort zone.

2. Win time of possession: Arkansas isn’t going to transform into a running team overnight. But as the Hogs learned earlier this season, they have to be able to run it some. If for nothing else, it helps keep the defense rested and off the field. So if the Hogs can put together some long drives and keep the football, that's going to be important in this game. Scoring quickly isn’t a problem as long you’re scoring touchdowns. But three-and-outs will be a killer against the Buckeyes.

3. Finish the game: More specifically, Arkansas needs to win the fourth quarter. That was a problem all last season and came back to haunt the Hogs this season in the Alabama and Auburn losses. But from there, the Hogs seemed to get over that hump and played much more consistently in the fourth quarter the rest of the way. Finding a running game was a big reason why, but the defense also came up with its share of key stops. This will almost certainly be a fourth-quarter game on Tuesday in the Big Easy. We’ll see if the Hogs can pick up where they left off to end the regular season and play winning football in those last 15 minutes.
Arkansas makes its first BCS bowl appearance in school history against Ohio State on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Here’s a quick preview of the Allstate Sugar Bowl:

WHO TO WATCH: Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett became just the fourth quarterback in SEC history to pass for 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons. He’s thrown touchdown passes this season to 10 different players, so he obviously likes to spread the ball around and doesn’t lock in on one receiver. He doesn’t need much time or room to get rid of the ball with his quick release and strong arm, and he can squeeze completions into tight windows with a flick of his wrist. The rap on Mallett early was that he hadn’t won a big game, and his two interceptions in the second half of the Alabama loss were disappointing. But he came back strong to lead the Hogs to wins over three Top 25 teams (South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU) during the month of November, and two of those were on the road.

WHAT TO WATCH: For all the talk about the classic matchup between Arkansas’ explosive offense and Ohio State’s rock-solid defense, how the Hogs’ improved defense fares against the Buckeyes’ offense will likely be the key to the game. Arkansas went from 89th nationally in total defense in 2009 to 33rd this season, and defensive coordinator Willy Robinson’s unit stepped up in several clutch situations. The Hogs gave up fewer bigger plays and were much more consistent defensively. Their only real lapse was the fourth quarter against Auburn when the Tigers erupted for 28 points. Keeping the Buckeyes under 30 points will be a chore. Ohio State comes into the game averaging more points (39.4) than Arkansas (37.3).

WHY WATCH: The Big Ten gets one last chance for redemption this bowl season after going 0-for-5 on New Year’s Day, three of those losses coming to SEC teams. More importantly, the Buckeyes get another chance to shake their SEC curse in bowl games. They’re 0-9 against the SEC in the postseason, and their past two outings against Florida and LSU in the 2006 and 2007 BCS National Championship Games weren’t even close. For Arkansas, this is a chance to announce to the college football world that they are indeed going to be a player under Bobby Petrino at the national level. And if you’re looking for a compelling quarterback matchup, Mallett facing Terrelle Pryor is about as good as it gets.

PREDICTION: Arkansas 34, Ohio State 24. The Buckeyes will be ready for this game. They’re sick and tired of hearing about how the SEC has owned them in bowl games. Sometimes, the truth hurts. The Hogs have the offensive balance to poke holes in the Buckeyes’ defense, which is allowing just 13.3 points per game this season. And whereas the Hogs didn’t have a running game to protect leads and keep defenses honest at the beginning of this season, they do now. They’ll salt this one away with Knile Davis wearing the Buckeyes down in the fourth quarter.

Big stage won't faze Hogs

January, 3, 2011
Everybody knows about Ohio State’s 0-9 record against SEC teams in bowl games.

But Arkansas is doing this BCS thing for the first time in school history. The Hogs went to the Liberty Bowl last year, but none of these players have ever experienced the bright lights of a BCS bowl game.

For the Buckeyes, this is their sixth straight trip to a BCS bowl game. It’s the only thing their players know.

That has to be a big advantage for Ohio State, right?

Arkansas sophomore running back Knile Davis doesn’t necessarily see it that way heading into Tuesday night’s Allstate Sugar Bowl.

“We’re real confident when we step onto the field and feel like we can play with anybody at any time,” Davis said. “We played a great schedule this year and played in a lot of big games. We feel like we’re playing our best football right now. We’re ready for this.”

Here’s the other thing: Anybody who thinks the Hogs are glad just to be a part of the Sugar Bowl festivities might want to think again.

This is a team that genuinely believed at the beginning of the season that it could compete for the national championship.

“We’re not satisfied with the year,” Davis said. “We feel like it could have been a lot better. Our goal at the beginning of the season was definitely to be playing for a national championship. We feel like if we were clicking a little earlier, we may have gotten that opportunity. We fell short a little bit, but still have a great opportunity to finish it off strong.”