Ohio State has compiled six perfect seasons over the course of its glorious football history, but not even the fiercest team of Michigan’s Wolverines has presented a mountainous challenge like this last opponent. To get where they want to go in 2020 – the College Football Playoff – the Buckeyes now have to be competitive and medically perfect.
With the Big Ten announcing Wednesday that their football teams are contesting eight games starting Oct. 24 and leading up to a Dec. 19 Big Ten Championship, the Buckeyes must be both lucky and good on the field. of gaming and where its players could encounter the new coronavirus in their daily lives.
Browse your calendars and see what’s going on from that late October start date: eight weekends to complete eight regular-season games before the title game.
No margin for error.
We’ve already seen college football games relegated elsewhere due to issues with positive COVID tests both among players and on a particular campus: Virginia Tech vs. Virginia, Memphis Vs. Houston, Oklahoma State vs. Tulsa, Central Arkansas Vs. Arkansas State.
If such circumstances develop in the Big Ten, the operative word may be “cancellation” rather than “return”.
When the Big Ten initially announced their modified schedule on August 5th, they called a start date on the weekend of September 5th with a title conference game on December 5th. That took everyone 13 weeks to complete 10 games. Each team received two weekends off during the calendar and all were set to be inactive on November 28, creating more windows to compensate for any games postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. There was also the possibility, in what was tantamount to a bad scenario, of rejecting the Big Ten title game for a week or two.
What did the Big Ten gain by leaving that plan five days after it was revealed and after enduring nearly six weeks of controversy between their fan base, group of players and, indeed, some member schools? A complete plan for daily tests of all competitors, as well as a program in which any positive tests will be monitored for heart irregularities.
“Everyone associated with the Big Ten should be very proud of the revolutionary steps that are now being taken to better protect the health and safety of student-athletes and the surrounding communities,” said Jim Borchers, physician of the team. the Ohio State, co-chair of the Return to the Medical Subcommittee of the Competition Task Force, said in a statement to the league.
“The data we collect from cardiac tests and registry will provide key contributions for all 14 Big Ten institutions as they study COVID-19 and try to mitigate the spread of the disease in the wider communities.”
Those in the Ohio State program had been so anxious for the opportunity to compete in the CFP that coach Ryan Day took the extraordinary step of issuing a statement last Thursday challenging the conference to “give in. our young people what they have worked so hard for: aa chance to compete safely for a national championship this fall ”.
The Buckeyes have it now, even with the implicit stipulation that anything less than perfect will be insufficient. With members of the Southeastern Conference playing 10-game programs that don’t include any of their usual empty calories – no games against the Citadel or Southeast Louisiana – with the Big 12 playing a calendar of complete league of nine games and Clemson is almost certain to smoke every unfortunate ACC opponent enough to be assigned to the Tigers as an opponent, every Ohio State escape will be severely punished.
And that could include any further truncation of his calendar. If a game is to be eliminated due to COVID problems, it’s possible that the CFP selection committee doesn’t consider an 8-0 record – set regular season games, plus the game at the B1G title – to be enough.
Avoiding this situation will depend not only on the good judgment (disguise, avoiding circumstances in which COVID is known to spread quickly) and on the good luck (some of which is certainly just a wrong place / wrong time) of the Buckeyes, but also of his planned opponents.
“Everyone’s routine has been broken,” Fox Sports football analyst Urban Meyer told Big Ten Network Wednesday morning. “You haven’t had any spring practice. You had a stop-and-start during the training camp. And I know that Coach Day has been raised the right way, I know his belief, but he’s going to be absolutely up to date with the basics these next few weeks, in terms of ball safety, blocking, tackle. … The bottom line is: How do you prepare your team? “
The Buckeyes enter the year ranked No. 2 by the Associated Press, with stars such as quarterback Justin Fields and wideout Chris Olave to fuel the offense. They were dropped from subsequent polls because, well, they weren’t expected to compete, but they will return to the rankings as soon as anyone hears their shrugs.
The last time the Buckeyes had compiled a perfect season, in 2012, they were ineligible for post-season competition and were unable to win the national title. They have won the championship once since, in 2014, but had to overcome a Week 2 loss for Virginia Tech to be invited. The regular season starts against Michigan State (2015), Iowa (2017) and Purdue (2018) have given excuses to the playoff committee to exclude them.
There will be fewer challenges this time around – it’s just the basic math of an eight-game program. But what the Buckeyes will face may be bigger than ever.