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Five Questions to ask about Ohio State – Arkansas

1. Will the suspended players start in the Sugar Bowl or have their playing time limited in any way?

It’s doubtful anyone will know the answer to this question until minutes before kickoff. There are arguments for and against the players even participating in the game. However, if Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey and Mike Adams even miss a few possessions, that could give the Razorbacks a lead they may never relinquish.

If coach Jim Tressel decides to bench the suspended players for any amount of time, it would be beneficial for the Buckeyes to go on defense in the beginning of the game to try to set the tone against the high-scoring Arkansas offense.

2. Can Pryor put up Cam Newton-like numbers against the Arkansas defense?

Back in mid-October, Auburn and Arkansas put on an offensive exhibition for the ages. The two schools combined for 108 points, 1,036 yards and 55 first downs. Auburn quarterback and Heisman winner Newton accounted for a total 329 total yards and four touchdowns.

Ohio State would be in very good position to win the game if Pryor approached Newton’s staggering numbers. And although Pryor and Newton play the game differently, despite their similar size and stature, Tressel plans on paying close attention to the Auburn game in his preparation for Arkansas.

“We’ll study that one for sure because we always love to steal ideas from anybody,” Tressel said. “And most especially when you think you have similar capabilities.”

3. How will Arkansas try to crack the nation’s No. 2-ranked defense?

The obvious and most probable answer is that the Razorbacks will rely on the arm of quarterback Ryan Mallett, who has passed for more than 3,500 yards and 30 touchdowns in consecutive seasons.

The 6-foot-6 Michigan transfer also spreads the ball around — six of his teammates have 27 or more catches — but tends to favor D.J. Williams, who has 49 receptions this season. Williams, who won the John Mackey Award, which is given to the nation’s top tight end, presents a unique problem for the OSU defense: It hasn’t faced a tight end of Williams’ caliber all season long.

A case could be made that the Razorbacks and their No. 3 passing offense haven’t seen a defense like the Buckeyes, who are not only atop the Big Ten in many defensive statistics but are also No. 5 nationally in third-down conversion percentage and No. 9 in red-zone defense, two critical defensive statistics.

4. Which team will win the special teams struggle?

Deciphering the differences between the team’s two kickers is akin to distinguishing between identical twins. Devin Barclay and Arkansas’ Zach Hocker each have three misses on the year, and both have made all of their extra points.

Thus, field position could come down to kick- and punt-return coverage. The OSU special teams, which hit rock bottom after allowing the opening kickoff to be taken for a touchdown at Wisconsin, has steadily improved over the last half of the season as the team has gotten players back from injury.

Glancing over the statistics, each team appears to have an edge in the return game. OSU is No. 3 in the country in kick returns, as the tandem of Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry has averaged nearly 27 yards per return. Meanwhile, Arkansas averages a little more than 17 yards on punt returns, good for fourth in the country.

5. Is this the year OSU snaps its bowl game losing streak against the SEC?

A lot has to go right for the Scarlet and Gray to snap its 0-9 bowl game record against the SEC. But the main area OSU needs to focus on is something it’s done well in all season: forcing turnovers on defense and limiting them on offense.

OSU is plus-14 in turnover margin, good for third in the country. Arkansas is plus two. It’s a cliché football adage, but whoever wins the turnover battle will win the Sugar Bowl.

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