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Buckeyes heading to ‘Big Easy’ to play in Sugar Bowl against Arkansas

The No. 6-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will head to New Orleans on Jan. 4 to take on the No. 8-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks in OSU’s first Sugar Bowl appearance since 1999.

The Buckeyes finished their 11-1 season Nov. 29 with a 37-7 victory over rival Michigan and were rewarded for their sixth straight Big Ten title when they received their sixth consecutive BCS bowl bid Sunday night.

“The Buckeyes are excited to be going to the Sugar Bowl,” OSU coach Jim Tressel said Sunday night at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. “We’re awfully proud of our seniors who have once again led us to a championship in the Big Ten and a chance to play in a BCS game the magnitude of the Sugar Bowl.”

OSU will square off against a 10-2 Arkansas team coming off a win over No. 10 LSU. The Razorbacks feature a high-octane offense led by one of the nation’s most prolific passers in former Michigan Wolverine Ryan Mallett.

“What was my reaction when (Mallett) left? I am not going to lie, I was happy,” Tressel said. “I thought I was through with Ryan Mallett, but he is a special player.”

The Big Ten-SEC matchup will pit an offensive-minded Arkansas team that is 16th in the country in points per game, averaging 37.3, and a hard-nosed Silver Bullet defense that ranks third in the country, allowing just more than 13 points per game. OSU and Arkansas have never played.

“Going to a BCS game is a tremendous accomplishment for our football team,” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said during a teleconference Sunday. “It was something that when we came here as a staff three years ago, that was one of our goals, and we worked extremely hard. Our players have put a lot of hard work and effort into it. Our coaches have put a lot of hard work and effort into it, and we’re very, very happy to be representing the University of Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.”

The Buckeyes and Razorbacks will meet at the Louisiana Superdome for the 77th Sugar Bowl. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Jan. 4, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.

“I think you go into the year with the ultimate goal in mind that you’d like to play in a championship game,” Tressel said. “Then we always say if we didn’t earn that then obviously we would like to be the automatic recipient of your conference alignment. In our case, it’s the Rose Bowl, but of course you would like to be in a BCS game. There is something about being one of the top 10 teams in the country … if you can earn your way into the top 10, that’s a heck of a thing.”

The BCS Championship game will feature No. 1 Auburn against No. 2 Oregon. No. 3 TCU will square off against No. 5 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The Fiesta Bowl pits Big East champion Connecticut against Big 12 champion Oklahoma. No. 4 Stanford will face No. 13 Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

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