The last time the Buckeyes faced Ryan Mallett, he was stepping in for an injured Chad Henne only to get pummeled by Ohio State in Lloyd Carr’s final defeat to the Buckeyes. Three years later, Mallett has developed into one of the top pocket passers in the country leading Arkansas to a top spot in the SEC.
Although I’d like to give Mallett credit for bailing out of a sinking ship, unless your name is Boren, once a Michigan player always a Michigan player. Remember, at some point in his life, Mallett decided that playing for Loyd Carr would be a good move. Mallett told the Detroit Freepress (Freep.com) that he still had a little Michigan in him. As for Ohio State?
“I don’t know if it’s something you can say on air or in the paper,” Mallett said.
All that aside, who would have ever thought that in a Big Ten/SEC matchup, the Big Ten would bring the mobile quarterback and the SEC the pocket passer?
Not to state the obvious but the key to winning this game is going to be limiting the Ryan Mallett passing game. Mallett has been putting up 300+ yards per game and has thrown 30 touchdowns this season. At the same time, Mallett hasn’t faced a defense like Ohio State’s. The Buckeye passing defense is ranked 4th in the country holding opponents to only 153 yards passing per game. At the same time, the Buckeyes haven’t faced a passing quarterback like Mallett this season.
That doesn’t mean the Buckeye secondary hasn’t seen a quarterback like this before. Chimi Chekwa, Ross Homan, Devon Torrence and a number of others all got playing time against Colt McCoy in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. Yeah, McCoy put up some big yards that game and yeah, Texas won but remember, McCoy threw more than 50 times and the Buckeyes held Texas only 21 points.
A more important stat may be turnovers. Mallett has thrown 11 interceptions this year while the Buckeyes have picked off 18. The Buckeyes also lead the nation with 7 defensive touchdowns. One turnover could make the difference in this year’s game.
Force Mallett out of the Pocket
The Buckeyes need to make Mallet scramble and throw under pressure. Under a collapsing pocket, Mallet tends to do the same–collapse. If the Buckeyes can get to him early and shake his confidence, it could be a long day for the Razorbacks.
That leaves Kniles Davis
Davis has racked up more than 1,100 yards rushing this season. After Davis though, the rushing yards drop off quick. If the Buckeyes can take Davis out of the game and still pressure Mallet (which I think they can), then again, long day for the Razorbacks.
Point Spread at 3.5
Not a lot of confidence in the Buckeyes as they open as 3.5 point favorites. This is probably due to the Buckeyes past bowl performances against the SEC than anything else. As usual, I think it’s low and although I’m not positive, I think the Buckeyes have beaten the spread in all but two games this season. Something tells me this game won’t come down to a field goal.