A few more positive COVID-19 cases could completely wipe out Ohio State’s hopes to contend for a national title.
A spike of positive tests late last week forced the postponement of the Illinois game. Having already lost a game earlier in the season because of Maryland’s virus issues, the Buckeyes have no more wiggle room remaining if they want to get to the Big 10 championship game, and have a chance to make the college football playoff.
The Big 10 put in place a rule coming into the season that a team must play six games to be eligible for the conference championship game. That means Ohio State must play Michigan State this Saturday and Michigan next week in order to meet the minimum requirement.
If Ohio State is unable to play in the Big 10 title game, it almost certainly would not have a big enough sample size to be among the top four teams selected to participate in the college football playoff.
At this point, the chances of getting both of the next two games in look shaky.
The one bit of good news for the Buckeyes came Tuesday when the program announced it had resumed practicing. That came one day after the team went through small group workouts.
The Buckeyes normally have Mondays off, so this week of game preparation won’t look much different assuming there are no further virus issues.
However, any slight uptick in positive tests would likely trigger another stoppage of football activities. Players, coaches and fans are keeping their fingers crossed that doesn’t happen over the next few days and the MSU game will be able to happen.
Another area of concern is the opposition staying virus free. Michigan did not practice Monday and Tuesday after some initial positive tests. Several media reports said after further testing, there was only one confirmed positive test. That should allow Michigan to resume practice ahead of its scheduled game against Maryland on Saturday.
But again, the Wolverines are sitting in a danger zone like many current college football teams, and any further problems they have could wipe out next week’s game against the Buckeyes.
There are some possible scenarios in which the Buckeyes could stay eligible for the Big 10 championship game if they play this week but can’t play Michigan.
The Big 10 is allowing teams to schedule another Big 10 opponent if its original game was postponed.
So, in Ohio State’s case, if Michigan is forced to cancel, the Buckeyes could play another conference team next week if there are other cancellations in the conference.
That could actually come into play. Minnesota looks like it won’t be able to play the last two games of its season as there are currently 47 COVID cases within its program.
The Golden Gophers have already canceled this week’s game against Northwestern and they are scheduled to play Nebraska next week. If that game is wiped out, too, the Cornhuskers would theoretically be available to play the Buckeyes.
The two teams have already played once — the Buckeyes beat the Cornhuskers 52-17 in the season opener — but it would be an opportunity for Nebraska to get some revenge.
While an outside of the box scenario like that could keep the Buckeyes’ hopes of playing in the Big 10 championship alive, the best-case scenario is being able to play the Spartans and Wolverines. Here’s to hoping. O