The status of the national championship game has not changed.
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day had a one-word answer on Tuesday when asked whether his team was still on track to play on Monday: “Correct.” As long as that remains the case, the Buckeyes will meet Alabama in four days in the final game of this unconventional college football season with a trophy on the line.
Earlier this week, a report from AL.com surfaced to reveal that discussions between Ohio State, the Big Ten, Alabama, the SEC and the College Football Playoff about postponing the showdown with the Crimson Tide had occurred due to positive COVID-19 tests within the Buckeyes' football program. Shortly after it was published on Tuesday, athletic director Gene Smith went on the record to say the Buckeyes still “plan to play January 11th.”
“You can feel sorry for yourself or you can just continue to work on and push through it,” Day said on Thursday. “The hard thing is at the end of the day most people don't really care. They just watch the game and the result is the result. But for us, that's why the story about this season is just so amazing to me, is that we just continued to push through despite all those difficult challenges along the way. And no different this week.
“We've got a new set of challenges this week. We're going to have to figure it out, go down to Miami and play.”
It’s unclear how many players, coaches or staff members have tested positive for coronavirus. Day and Smith have continued to keep both the names of players who test positive and the number of positive tests within the program private. Ohio State will release its status report of players who will and will not play against the Crimson Tide approximately two hours prior to kickoff, per usual.
Day said he wasn't unsure the exact number of players the Buckeyes will have available, but when asked whether they would have enough to play, he said they'll have "plenty of players."
As of now, the once-grave potential of a postponement appears to no longer be a major threat. Alabama head coach Nick Saban even talked about that possibility in the past tense on Thursday morning, also noting he was told there were “some issues relative to COVID” at Ohio State.
If players miss games due to COVID-19, it wouldn’t be the first time for the Buckeyes. They dealt with an outbreak in the middle of the regular season that forced them to cancel their trip to Illinois, and they've had numerous unavailable players due to coronavirus in each of their last three games against Michigan State, Northwestern and Clemson.
They'll be without a full roster once again on Monday. Any players who have tested positive for coronavirus since Dec. 25 will have to sit out, per Big Ten policy.
“Well, any time you deal with that and you lose people, it is a gut punch,” Day said. “But it's not something that we're not used to. We've played games with the majority of our offensive line out. We played the Big Ten Championship game without our top receivers, or some of our top receivers (Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba). We've had starters all over the place down at different times, and we've found ways to work through it. It's just been the way it is.”