What many suspected might happen as the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic actually became official on Tuesday, when the Michigan-Ohio state football game was canceled.
The Michigan athletic department, citing increased numbers of positive COVID tests and quarantined student-athletes, made the decision to call off the game after consulting with medical experts, health department officials and university administrators.
“Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to COVID-19 positives and the associated quarantining required of close-contact individuals,” Michigan AD Warde Manuel said in a statement. “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."
Of course, calling off “The Game” for the first time since 1917 is indicative of the historic nature of the problem — but given Ohio State’s standing both in the Big Ten Conference and the College Football Playoff rankings, the impact of not playing could ripple throughout the college football landscape.
As Sports Illustrated points out, the Buckeyes stand at 5-0 — but are one game short of eligibility for a spot in the Big Ten Conference championship game, which in turn could damage their ability to reach the College Football Playoff.
The committee is reportedly at odds over the number of data points each team in the playoff hunt has been able to collect. Ohio State, currently ranked at No. 4 in the CFP rankings, lags behind Cincinnati, Texas A&M and Florida in terms of games played. Those teams have notched records to date of 8-0, 7-1 and 8-1 respectively, with Florida set to compete in the SEC Championship game against Alabama on Dec. 19.
The Big Ten is reportedly considering revising its rules to allow for the Buckeyes to compete in the conference championship game without meeting the minimum game requirement, a move that would be viewed by some as favoritism.
“The conference is committed to transparency and will continue to collaborate with its member institution stakeholders to determine Big Ten Football Championship Game participation requirements as well as tiebreakers,” a league statement on the game cancellation read in part.