Ohio State-Michigan canceled; Buckeyes’ fate in balance
For the first time since 1917, there will be no football game between bitter Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Michigan.
Positive COVID-19 cases in the Michigan program led to the cancellation of Saturday’s game.
“The number of positive tests has continued to trend in an upward direction over the last seven days,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said. “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.”
The potential ramifications of the canceled game, announced Tuesday, stretch deep and wide for the No. 4 Buckeyes.
Being one game shy of the league required number of games in 2020, Ohio State would not be eligible for the Big Ten championship game due to losing three games to COVID-19 related cancellations. Adjusted league rules were set forth by the conference prior to the start of the 2020 season.
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said Saturday that he believes the Big Ten Conference would adjust that rule in a scenario in which not playing could cost Ohio State a chance to participate in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
“If (Ohio State) has a game canceled, I think we as athletic directors would have to revisit whether they should be involved [in the Big Ten Championship Game],” Alvarez told FOX Sports.
If Ohio State is permitted to schedule a replacement, it would be counter to the conference’s position the first two weeks of the season, when Nebraska formally petitioned to add games.
Conferences are awarded several million dollars for CFP appearances. Last year’s four semifinalists made approximately $6 million apiece for their league.
Michigan (2-4) hasn’t played since Nov. 28 and finishes the 2020 season winless at home for the first time in program history.
Ohio State is 5-0 and is rebounding from its own program outbreak of COVID-19, which kept head coach Ryan Day at home instead of coaching his team against Michigan State last week.
If the Buckeyes aren’t allowed to adjust their schedule, the Big Ten East champion would be Indiana. The Hoosiers (6-1) would represent the division in the conference title game at Lucas Oil Stadium next week.
Ohio State beat Indiana, 42-35, on Nov. 21.
–Field Level Media