Report: Michigan Officials are Pessimistic That They Can Play Ohio State

Three sources indicate to the Detroit Free Press that the Buckeyes and Wolverines game is in serious jeopardy.
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One game at a time. That's the Buckeye mentality right now because that's all they can control.

But there is danger looming in the very near future.

On the eve of Ohio State's game against Michigan State - it's fifth game of the season - the Detroit Free Press is reporting that Michigan officials are increasingly pessimistic about the Wolverines trip to Columbus next Saturday. In addition to the massive disappointment of not being able to play in the rivalry game, that would also mean Ohio State has only played five games through eight weeks. 

Without a replacement game for Saturday and without a rule-change by the league, next Saturday's potential cancellation would prohibit the Buckeyes from being able to play for a Big Ten title on Saturday, Dec. 19.

Game Preview: No. 4 Ohio State at Michigan State

Here is an excerpt from the report in the Free Press:

"The pessimism comes as officials conduct contact tracing and await testing results on players and staff. At least a dozen members of the football program tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, causing a shutdown of the program and this Saturday's game against Maryland, sources said. The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the outbreak. 

The contact tracing and the concern about more positive tests stems from the hours after last week's loss to Penn State, the Free Press has learned.

According to the three sources, players were present at a number of small gatherings after the Penn State game to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. It's hard to pinpoint the exact role of those gatherings in the outbreak, sources said, but there is belief in the program that Saturday played a role in accelerating the outbreak. The gatherings are believed to have taken place in settings among players and also in settings among parents and players, sources said. 

U-M had worked to discourage any gatherings over the Thanksgiving weekend, including during a mid-week call last week with players' families to tell them not to gather, program spokesman David Ablauf told the Free Press.

It's not unusual for players to eat together, he added. 

"Many of our players live together so they could have chosen to eat together just like any other day of the week; even though eating in groups has been discouraged by the staff throughout the season," Ablauf said. "In keeping with the daily plan and process, players were provided grab-and-go Thanksgiving meals so they could eat at their place of residence."

Michigan already had to call off its game this weekend against Maryland.

Just like every other school in the conference, the Wolverines are tested daily and are subject to the same guidelines and regulations that the rest of the league must follow. It's unclear exactly how bad the outbreak is in the UofM locker room.

Meanwhile, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said Thursday on his podcast that he was optimistic the game would be played.

“(Michigan) stopped (practicing) on Monday. So that gives them a good seven days to try and basically do what we did — to try to make the corrections that need to be made," Smith said. "I think they'll be back and we should be able to play unless they have a rash that’s uncontrollable. I know they want to play. I'm sure that they're working hard to make sure they have the chance to play.”

Further, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told the Free Press earlier this week that he thinks the 14 AD's around the conference would come together to make sure sure a 5-0 Ohio State team either gets a sixth game or gets into the conference title game.

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