The Big Ten Must Give Ohio State a Sixth Game or Change Rule

With Michigan's CoVID-cancellation announced on Tuesday, Ohio State is dangerously on the verge of not playing enough games to qualify for the Big Ten title.
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In many ways, things started on a good note. The Buckeyes largely dodged pandemic-induced issues (whether by their own doing or by their opponents') and the season looked like it was moving along according to plan.

When Maryland cancelled against the Buckeyes a few weeks ago, the reaction was one of frustration and disappointment. But the reality of a season being potentially lost didn't seem all that imminent.

But with a second game cancelled in three weeks time, the level of frustration and panic ratcheted up significantly. This time the Buckeyes were dealing with the virus, including multiple players and head coach Ryan Day. The problem was bad enough that the team crossed the 7.5 percent threshold in population positivity rate, which means more than 13 cases of the 170 tested six days per week.

Thankfully, the Buckeyes got back on the field after just one week.

Ohio State beat Michigan State last weekend, which helped tremendously. But with today's announcement that the Michigan game has been cancelled, the Buckeyes are currently stuck on five games played and they either need a new opponent this weekend or a rule change to play in the Big Ten title game. They can't get to the Big Ten title game without six games, unless all 14 athletic directors come together and agree to change the rules. 

Is it possible that the conference changes the rules and try to salvage a championship game that could include the best team in the league? Yes, it's possible. How likely is it that happens? I think it's increasingly likely, but I think they would prefer Ohio State to play a sixth game and avoid having to change the rule.

Do the Buckeyes even have a chance to pick up a sixth game?

Here's a realistic scenario that I think would have to be given serious consideration:

Only Ohio State and Indiana will still be able to win the Big Ten East if the minimum games played rule doesn't change.

Rutgers may not be happy about it, but their regular season finale against Maryland has no bearing on the Big Ten East champion. If Minnesota can't get healthy enough to play this weekend, I think the league should alter the schedule by having Rutgers play Nebraska (Minnesota's cancelled opponent in this scenario) and have Ohio State play Maryland.

That would give the Buckeyes a sixth game, not to mention one against a team it hasn't played yet. While this would be good for Ohio State, it would also be good for the entire conference. A 6-0 Ohio State team that makes the conference championship game ensures credibility in the Big Ten champion (regardless of who wins that game) and it gives the league the best chance of its best team being selected for the College Football Playoff.

The worst possible outcome for the league is an undefeated 5-0 Buckeyes team not playing for a league championship.

This has been an imperfect season from the get-go. It's required everyone to be flexible and think outside the box. If you're not willing to think unconventionally in a situation like this, you're never going to come up with a creative solution to a difficult problem.

Hopefully Big Ten leadership is willing to consider this (or any other) alternative and maintain the integrity of the league championship.

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