Ohio State will have to wait until 2021 for its chance to win its ninth straight game against Michigan.
For the first time since 1917, Ohio State and Michigan will not play this year after the annual rivalry game between the Buckeyes and Wolverines was officially canceled on Tuesday, when Michigan announced it would be unable to make the trip to Columbus this weekend due to positive COVID-19 cases within its program.
“The number of positive tests has continued to trend in an upward direction over the last seven days,” said Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel. “We have not been cleared to participate in practice at this time. Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to COVID-19 positives and the associated quarantining required of close-contact individuals. This decision is disappointing for our team and coaches but their health and safety is paramount, and it will always come first in our decision-making.”
While Ohio State was able to return to action last week after just one week off following its own COVID-19 outbreak, the Buckeyes had only 23 players unavailable for Saturday's game at Michigan State. According to The Athletic's Bruce Feldman, Michigan would have been without approximately 45 players for this week's game.
As a result, Ohio State is now left without a scheduled game for this weekend – and is going to need some help from the Big Ten, one way or another, if it's going to play in the conference championship game next weekend.
Because Ohio State already had its road trip to Maryland canceled by Maryland and had to cancel its road trip to Illinois because of COVID-19 cases in its program, the Buckeyes are set to play only five regular-season games, which would leave them ineligible for the Big Ten Championship Game – unless they are allowed to schedule a sixth game against a different opponent this weekend, or the Big Ten removes the six-game minimum for the conference title game, allowing Ohio State to earn the Big Ten East's berth as the conference's only undefeated team.
Ryan Day said Tuesday that he believes the Big Ten needed to take a “hard look“ at removing the six-game minimum to play in the conference championship game if Ohio State is unable to play a sixth game this weekend.
The Big Ten said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon that “the conference is committed to transparency and will continue to collaborate with its member institution stakeholders to determine Big Ten Football Championship Game participation requirements as well as tiebreakers.”
Ohio State president Kristina Johnson said OSU is “in discussions with the Big Ten about possible next steps.”
We are all disappointed, especially for our players and their families, that ichigan is unable to play The Game this year. Right now, our focus is on our student-athletes and what is best for them. We are in discussions with the Big Ten about possible next steps.— Kristina M. Johnson (@PresKMJohnson) December 8, 2020
As for The Game itself, it marks the first time since Ohio State and Michigan began playing annually in 1918 that the two bitter rivals will not meet on the football field. Because it's already the final week of the regular season, there will be no opportunity to reschedule the matchup between the Buckeyes and Wolverines.
That means Ohio State won't get the chance to “beat the brakes off” or “hang 100” on Michigan this year, but it does mean Michigan – which has already gone 3,299 days without beating Ohio State – will have to wait another year for its shot to end its winless drought against the Buckeyes.
Until next tie... pic.twitter.com/xNvFF6rNMy— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) December 8, 2020