COVID-19 wreaks havoc on Week 8 of Big Ten football season

Because of COVID-19 precautions, this weekend’s Ohio State-Michigan game was canceled and Purdue football paused its Tuesday workouts.

Ohio+State+football+coach+Ryan+Day.+Ohio+State+pushed+for+a+delay+in+the+college+football+season%2C+rather+than+the+postponement+the+Big+Ten+decided+on.+

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Ohio State football coach Ryan Day. Ohio State pushed for a delay in the college football season, rather than the postponement the Big Ten decided on.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor


After missing its Dec. 5 matchup with Maryland, Michigan football canceled its Dec. 12 game against Ohio State on Tuesday. Michigan cited the continued spread of COVID-19 in its football program as the reasoning behind the cancellation.

The Wolverines do, however, intend to participate in the Big Ten’s Champions Week Dec. 18-19.

“The number of positive tests has continued to trend in an upward direction over the last seven days,” University of Michigan Athletics Director Wade Manuel said in a release. “We have not been cleared to participate in practice at this time. Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to COVID-19 positives and the associated quarantining required of close-contact individuals. This decision is disappointing for our team and coaches, but their health and safety is paramount, and it will always come first in our decision-making.”

Per the release, the Wolverines will take the practice field again when it is deemed safe for them to do so.

Michigan does not stand to lose a whole lot from the cancellation. The Wolverines are 2-4 on the season and were listed as 30-point road underdogs to Ohio State according to oddsmakers. If Michigan does not play or does not secure a home matchup for Champions Week, it would mark the first time in the program’s 140-year history that the Wolverines have undergone a winless season at home.

The cancellation of “The Game” is, perhaps, more calamitous for Ohio State. The Buckeyes have only played five games this season, and per conference rules, teams must play six regular season games to qualify for the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.

So, without the contest against the Wolverines, Ohio State falls short of the six-game minimum for conference championship eligibility.

The Buckeyes lost their Nov. 14 matchup with Maryland because the Terrapins were experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak in their program at the time. Ohio State was forced to cancel its Nov. 28 contest with Illinois because the Buckeye football program had seen a significant uptick in virus positivity.

The Buckeyes did manage to return to the field for their Dec. 5 date with Michigan State. Ohio State played that game incredibly short-handed, missing 23 players and head coach Ryan Day – who had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week. Day returned to practice Tuesday.

Since Ohio State is ineligible for the Big Ten Championship having only played five games, Indiana will represent the Big Ten East Division in Indianapolis this year.

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The Hoosiers are 6-1 on the season, and their only loss came to Ohio State, 42-35, Nov. 21. Indiana has also been without starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. for the last two weeks as he lost his season to a torn ACL he suffered in the Hoosiers’ win over Maryland.

Indiana will play Northwestern for the conference title next week as both schools have already clinched their spots in their respective divisions.

With the Buckeyes bumped out of the Big Ten title game, they’d likely move into the No. 2 game for Champions Week, which pits the second seed in the Big Ten East against the second-best team in the Big Ten West. Iowa is the second seed in the West at the moment.

With a win over Wisconsin, Iowa would clinch the second seed in West and likely a date with Ohio State in Columbus.

Not all hope at a Big Ten Championship Game appearance is lost for the Buckeyes yet. Big Ten athletics directors are scheduled to meet Wednesday, and the league’s six-game requirement for championship eligibility could be revisited and changed.

Additionally, Purdue football canceled its team workouts Tuesday to evaluate COVID-19 testing data. Indiana also paused all of its football activities Tuesday evening.

Ohio State could explore playing a game out-of-conference in place of the canceled Michigan game. Nebraska tried to schedule a non-conference game when its date with Wisconsin got canceled earlier this season. The Big Ten did not allow Nebraska to go through with the non-conference game it tentatively scheduled.

The Ohio State-Michigan game’s cancelation could also profoundly impact the College Football Playoff. Without a Big Ten title on its résumé, Ohio State could lose some traction as it jockeys for position in the four-seed championship series.

College Football Playoff Committee Chair and University of Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta noted last week that the number of games a team plays contributes to the committee’s evaluation of that team.

“A lot of discussion about the number of games that a team plays,” Barta said. “It’s not anybody’s fault, but trying to evaluate a team that has four games [played] versus a team that has seven, eight or nine games [played] is definitely a problem. And it’s created by the pandemic. The more games a team brings to the committee, the more we have to evaluate.”

The Big Ten’s final week of the regular season begins this Saturday, and the College Football Playoff selection show is Dec. 20.

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