On July 8, 2011, under scrutiny from the NCAA due to a variety of program irregularities and violations of Ohio State University and NCAA policies, Ohio State vacated the 2011 Sugar Bowl win along with 11 other victories in their 2010 season. Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel, initially dismissed during the scandal, was subsequently allowed to retire from his position as Head Coach. The game's MVP, Terrelle Pryor, did not finish his fourth year of eligibility for football at Ohio State, opting instead to seek employment in the National Football League.
Initially barred from the Postseason play by Ohio State University staff were Pryor, leading rusher Dan Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, offensive tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas. On December 23rd 2010 Pryor and the four other players were granted permission to participate in the upcoming Sugar Bowl contest. This reversal came after the five suspended players publicly committed to remain at the institution for the 2011 season if allowed to participate in the upcoming Sugar Bowl. Subsequent to the 2011 Sugar Bowl, Pryor reneged on his promise to complete his fifth year.
Coach Jim Tressel had a record of 105-22 (10th year) at Ohio State. His team was led offensively by Dan Herron with 192 rushes for 1,068 yards and 15 touchdowns, quarterback Terrelle Pryor with 196 of 298 passes for 2,551 yards and 25 touchdowns, and receiver Dane Sanzenbacher on 52 receptions for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns. Defensively, Brian Rolle had 70 tackles, Nathan Williams had 4.5 sacks for 35 yards, and Chimdi Chekwa with 3 interceptions for 22 yards.
On December 22, 2010, it was reported that Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, and Solomon Thomas had traded autographs for tattoos, a violation of NCAA rules. The school investigated the allegations and reported that the five players would not miss the Sugar Bowl but will miss five games of the 2011 season. The sixth player will miss Ohio State's season opener. The five players involved stated their intentions to return to Ohio State for the 2011 season, but after Coach Tressel's resignation in May, 2011 Terrelle Pryor announced that he would not return to play for Ohio State in 2011 and would probably enter the NFL supplemental draft.
Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino was in his third year with the team, with a 23-14 record. Offensive leaders included tailback Knile Davis, who ran 178 times for 1,183 yards and 13 touchdowns, quarterback Ryan Mallett who completed 242 of 364 passes for 3,592 yards and 30 touchdowns, and a pair of receivers in D.J. Williams (49 receptions for 589 yards, 4 TDs) and Jarius Wright (38 catches for 718 yards, 4 touchdowns). Operated on a 4–3 defense scheme, the team was led by Jerry Franklin with 93 tackles, Jake Bequette on 7.0 sacks for 36 yards, and Tramain Thomas who had 4 interceptions for 24 yards.
The Buckeyes struck first, with Dane Sanzenbacher recovering a fumble in the end zone after Terrelle Pryor fumbled on the 3-yard line. Arkansas struck back with Ryan Mallett connecting with Joe Adams on a 17-yard pass. Dan Herron added a 9-yard run, and Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey caught touchdown passes of 15 and 43 yards respectively to give the Buckeyes a big lead. Zach Hocker hit a 20-yard field goal as time expired and the Razorbacks were down 28–10 at the half.
In the third quarter, the momentum shifted Arkansas' direction. Hocker and Devin Barclay traded field goals, then Mallett connected with Jarius Wright for a touchdown, then made the two-point conversion on a pass to D. J. Williams to pull within ten. The Razorbacks closed the gap further in the fourth, on a safety by Jake Bequette and another field goal by Hocker. With just over a minute left, Arkansas blocked Ohio State's punt and recovered on the 18-yard line. However on 2nd down & 10, Mallett's pass was intercepted. The Buckeyes would run out the clock for a 31–26 victory. This was Ohio State's first bowl win over an SEC opponent.
After the 2010 Season, the controversy over Ohio States pregame violations of the NCAA rules regarding players selling autographed memorabilia continued to escalate. On July 8, 2011, Ohio State announced that it would vacate all wins from the 2010 Season, including the victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.