COLUMBUS – So what’s next for Ohio State without a football game against Michigan on Saturday?
If Ohio State were making out a wish list its preferred outcome would be that the Big Ten reconsiders its decision that a team must play at least six games to be eligible for the the Big Ten Championship game on Dec. 19.
That would be the best option for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State (5-0) is No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings. With Michigan’s decision to cancel Saturday’s game because of an increasing number of positive tests for COVID-19 in its football program, OSU is short of the six-game line.
OSU doesn’t need a specific number of games to be considered for the four-team playoff. But every win and every win over a quality opponent helps.
There is reason to believe the Big Ten might consider changing the six-game rule when it reportedly has a regularly scheduled athletic directors meeting today.
Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said he’s in favor of making the change and doesn’t think Ohio State should be penalized for circumstances beyond its control during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
“I don’t think we should just hunker down and say ‘We said six, so that’s going to be it,.” he said. “I want to be clear. I think Ohio State is one of the top four teams in this country. I would be open to having a discussion about making adjustments. Conversation deserves to happen.”
About an hour before Michigan officially pulled the plug on Saturday’s game, Ohio State coach Ryan Day said he thought the six-game rule needed to be changed.
“I think it’s one of those things that was put into place early on, and decisions are made based on the information you have at the time, and things change, as we know,” Day said.
“If we don’t quite get the game we need to get in the championship game, I think that needs to be looked at hard. I know those guys (Big Ten athletic directors and executives) are going to come together and take a hard look at it and make sure it was the right decision.”
The next best move for Ohio State would be to have another Big Ten team have to cancel a game this Saturday and quickly arrange a game with their opponent.
Purdue canceled practice on Tuesday, a move it said was done “to evaluate the results of recent COVID-19 testing.”
The Boilermakers are scheduled to play Indiana on Saturday in a rivalry game. A rematch with Indiana might not be ideal for Ohio State but it would be better than sitting at home. And a win over a team currently ranked No. 12, would definitely enhance OSU’s playoff credentials.
That idea became less likely, though, when Indiana paused all football activities Tuesday night because of COVID-19 issues.
The least appealing alternative for OSU would be to get permission from the Big Ten to play a non-conference opponent that it knows little about and has only minimal scouting reports on only four days after finding out it wouldn’t be playing Michigan.
Maybe the most interesting possibility is if Ohio State doesn’t get into the Big Ten championship game it could play Michigan on Dec. 19.
The Big Ten has scheduled a Weekend of Champions the same weekend as the championship game in which the second through seventh place teams in each division would be matched up. It would not take much effort to create an OSU-Michigan match-up if the Wolverines get their COVID-19 numbers down.
At Manuel’s press conference, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said, “The possibility is there that we could play again before the season is over.”
Ohio State obviously would prefer to play or debate its way into the championship game.
But if it can’t do that, maybe this won’t be the year without an Ohio State-Michigan game.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau