Ohio State Football's Five Most Pressing Questions After Big Ten Announcement
Thursday's announcement of the Big Ten moving to a conference-only schedule for fall sports has left fans with more questions than answers at this point. As I've thought more about the decision the last few days, here are the five questions that I think are most pressing:
1. When will the season start?
This is the first and most obvious question. The Buckeyes were scheduled to host Bowling Green to open the year on September 5, then travel to Oregon the following week for their big non-conference game against the Ducks, followed by a home game against Buffalo on September 19. All three of those contests have been cancelled.
Ohio State was scheduled to open Big Ten play against Rutgers on September 26 before their first and only bye week of the season. It's all conference games from there on out, totaling nine league games. If Ohio State can report on-time to preseason camp - remember, they paused voluntary workouts last week after an undisclosed number of CoVID-19 cases popped up - could the conference aim to schedule season-openers on September 5? My gut instinct is yes.
The conference made this decision because they want to give themselves as much flexibility as they can to play a full season. It wouldn't surprise me if they tried to start the season on time. If they start the season later, they have fewer weeks to work with if there is a flare-up of the virus.
2. How many games will be played? Is the conference going to build in extra "bye" weeks?
Athletic Director Gene Smith told the media on Thursday he thought the sweet spot for the league would be 10 games. Considering the normal league schedule is nine games, that means everyone would have a game added to what they thought the schedule would be for the season.
Smith wasn't asked about the possibility about scheduling more than 10 games, and while I'd love to see that as a fan, I think the league will try and protect itself as best it can. After all, he's concerned about having a season in the first place. The last thing you want to do is schedule a game every week and have to cancel it if things go south. I would expect a 10-game schedule.
3. Will the order of games change from the current schedule?
Some games mean more than others. Since this is already going to be a season unlike any other, might the league consider changing things in a big way? Is there any reason they have to keep the schedule the same? For example, should rivalry games be played earlier in the season? I think there is some logic there. It would be torture for Buckeye fans to play a season without Michigan.
The Penn State game is currently scheduled for October 24, one week after traveling to Michigan State. I think its critical for Ohio State to play all three of those teams. But there should be a balance in that decision - if you're the Buckeyes, you don't want to play those games too early when teams are still trying to gel. But you'd certainly rather play them than not play them at all.
4. Will fans be allowed to attend games?
This is a really interesting question. I'm inclined to believe it will be dependent on state and local government officials to determine if it's safe for fans to be there on any given week. The rules in Ohio might be different from Michigan, which could differ from Indiana, which could differ from Iowa.
Ideally, schools would like to have as many fans as possible at the games, so long as they abide by all of the health regulations. I expect that some fans will be allowed at games, but it will be different at each venue, and each venue might have to alter its expectations on a weekly basis.
5. When will Ohio State play Michigan?
I don't like the idea of Ohio State playing Michigan in September, but I like it better than Ohio State not playing Michigan at all. I think the game should be moved out of its traditional late November spot, because personally I am nervous about getting in a full season. I would love to see the game played in early-to-mid October, when both teams have had several games to work out some early season kinks.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but the financial implications of playing (or not playing) this game and having it on television are huge. I think the conference will do everything it can to make sure this game happens.