BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Ohio State was dealt a devastating blow to its conference and playoff aspirations very late on Friday night when the school announced it had to cancel its game at Illinois after more players tested positive for COVID-19.
This is the second game that Ohio State has much during the first six weeks of the Big Ten's truncated season. The league, on its third try, opted to play an eight-game schedule in eight weeks, with no bye weeks. It took away any opportunity to reschedule games if a problem arose.
Friday was a rough day for the Buckeyes, who missed their Week 4 game with Maryland when the Terrapins had a COVID problem in their program. During the afternoon, the school announced that Ohio State coach Ryan Day and several players had tested positive for the coronavirus. Following more tests, the school announced late Friday night that the game at Illinois had been officially cancelled.
In a statement, the university said the game is cancelled officially "after further positive tests for the coronavirus were discovered after a round of PCR testing this afternoon."
Because of the the multitude of positive tests, Ohio State's athletic department has paused all team-related activities for the football program. Saturday's decisions were made in conjunction with Director of Athletics Gene Smith, University President Kristina M. Johnson, head team physician Dr. Jim Borchers and in consultation with the Big Ten Conference.
“We have continued to experience an increase in positive tests over the course of this week,” Smith said. “The health, safety and well-being of our student-athlete is our main concern, and our decisions on their welfare will continue to be guided by our medical staff.”
The program will resume its team activities when its medical staff determines it is safe to do so based on protocols established by the Big Ten Conference.
Ohio State is 4-0 and won a huge Big Ten East showdown with Indiana last week. Indiana, currently ranked No. 12 in the country, is 4-1 and plays at home against Maryland. Ohio State has two games remaining on its schedule, at Michigan State on Dec. 5 and home against Michigan on Dec. 12.
But there is a very real possibility that those games would be in jeopardy as well. The Big Ten's pandemic protocols say that any player who tests positive must sit out for 21 days since the time of his first positive test.
Ohio State did not release the names — or the exact number – of players who have tested positive.
When the Big Ten decided to play a season this fall, they did so only because they were able to test players, coaches and staff members on a daily basis, hoping to mitigate any rampant spread of the virus. There have been no issues at most schools, but Wisconsin and Maryland were forced to cancel two games, and then Minnesota had to do the same this week, canceling its game with Wisconsin
Because that is Wisconsin's third canceled game, the Badgers now can't qualify for the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 19. It was unlikely they were going to make it anyway because Northwestern is 5-0 and beat the Badgers a week. ago.
According to Dave Revsine of the Big Ten Network, if all four games are played on Saturday, 12 of the remaining 14 games scheduled for the final two weeks would need to be canceled for a team to qualify for the title game with fewer than six games.
According to Brett McMurphy of Stadium, Minnesota paused its team-related activities after nine athletes and six staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
The Ohio State cancellation suddenly puts a huge spotlight on Indiana's game with Maryland on Saturday. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next week, but if the Hoosiers can win out — they play at Wisconsin and home against Purdue in December — they would be 7-1 and would likely play in the league championship game for the first time in history if the Buckeyes aren't eligible.
An Indiana-Northwestern title game would have an amazing built-in story line because the Wildcats have turned their program around thanks to Indiana grad transfer quarterback Peyton Ramsey. A showdown between Ramsey and Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr., the guy who beat him out, would be something right out of Hollywood.
All Big Ten teams are scheduled to play on Dec. 19 as well. Aside from the title game, teams will be matched up based on records in crossover games.
Pinstripe Bowl canceled for this season
This year's Pinstripe Bowl, held annually at Yankee Stadium with a Big Ten-ACC matchup, was canceled Friday due to COVID-19 concerns, organizers announced.
The Pinstripe Bowl became the eighth Bowl game to be canceled, bringing the number of total bowl games down to 35.
"Due to the recent increase in coronavirus cases, which has led to the imposition of various travel restrictions and the cancellation of many college football games, including those in the Big Ten and ACC Conferences, we have made the decision out of an abundance of caution and in conjunction with both conferences to cancel the 2020 New Era Pinstripe Bowl,'' bowl executives said in a statement.
"The priority of the Yankees, New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Big Ten and ACC is the safety of players, coaches and staff, and this decision is consistent with that approach. We look forward to hosting the New Era Pinstripe Bowl with an enthusiastic crowd filling Yankee Stadium in 2021."
Iowa continues winning ways vs. Nebraska
Tyler Goodson ran for 87 of his 111 yards in the second half and Zach VanValkenburg recovered Adrian Martinez's late fumble to secure Iowa's 26-20 win over Nebraska on Friday.
The Hawkeyes (4-2,) extended their win streak to four games and have beaten the Cornhuskers (1-4) six years in a row.
"Any time you win a Big Ten game it's a big deal, especially against a rival," Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras said.
Iowa was looking to add to its six-point lead when Keith Duncan's 51-yard field-goal attempt bounced off the cross bar with 2:02 left. The Cornhuskers then drove from their 32 to the Iowa 39 before Martinez fumbled under pressure. Iowa ran out the last 1:18.
"I don't think our record is indicative of where we are and the improvements we've made," Nebraska coach Scott Frost said. "Sooner or later we need to be buttoned up and detailed enough to make sure these close games go our way."
Iowa has now won four games in a row after losing to Purdue and Northwestern to open the season. Nebraska's only win came against Penn State, which is winless this season at 0-5.