The Big Ten's final chance at redemption arrives in the Big Easy, as Ohio State takes on Arkansas in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Let's take a quick look at the matchup.
WHO TO WATCH: Ohio State's five suspended players who will participate in the bowl, particularly starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, starting running back Dan Herron, starting left tackle Mike Adams and starting receiver DeVier Posey. They created a major distraction for the program, and all have vowed to make things right not only in the bowl game but by returning for their senior seasons. It will be interesting to see the mental states of players like Pryor, no stranger to scrutiny and a guy who stepped up in the 2010 Rose Bowl. Ohio State needs a strong showing from its offense, and Pryor and his teammates will be in the spotlight.
WHAT TO WATCH: Ohio State's secondary vs. Arkansas' pass-catchers. Despite several season-ending injuries, the Buckeyes' defensive backs have more than held their own, helping Ohio State rank sixth nationally in pass defense (156.3 ypg allowed). But the Buckeyes' secondary faces its toughest challenge of the season with Arkansas, which boasts five players with 500 receiving yards or more and four with 600 receiving yards or more. First-team All-Big Ten selections Chimdi Chekwa and Jermale Hines need strong performances against Ryan Mallett and his many targets.
WHY TO WATCH: The Buckeyes' suspension and the controversy surrounding the penalties certainly adds interest to this game. Will Ohio State have a united locker room as it tries to beat an SEC foe in a bowl game for the first time in 10 tries? The Buckeyes' decorated senior class needs to bring the team together for a critical game before the program enters an uncertain 2011 season. If you like exciting offense and polished defense, this is the game for you as expert playcaller Bobby Petrino tries to find holes in Ohio State's D. The Big Ten's disastrous New Year's Day performance also adds intrigue, as Ohio State tries to redeem its league a bit.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 24, Arkansas 21. It certainly could go the other way, but I expect Ohio State's seniors to bring the team together and go out with a victory despite all of the controversy. Pryor makes enough plays when it counts and Herron provides a lift in the run game. Mallett moves Arkansas between the 20s but Ohio State limits the Hogs' scoring opportunities. Expect a big game from Cameron Heyward as Ohio State ends its bowl slide against the SEC.