Ohio State and Michigan have played every year since the 1918 flu pandemic, but 2020 puts an end to that streak.
The Wolverines announced Tuesday that they’d be unable to travel and play at the Buckeyes on Saturday, Dec. 12, because of an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in the program. The rivalry, which began in 1897 and has long been known simply as “The Game,” last was on hold because of the Spanish Flu in 1918. It really does take a global pandemic to stop Ohio State from playing Michigan.
“We have not been cleared to participate in practice at this time,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said Tuesday in a statement. “Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to COVID-19.”
Here’s what to know about the cancellation of 2020’s iteration of “The Game.”
Why did Ohio State vs. Michigan get canceled?
Michigan has been dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak in its program for about a week. It had already resulted in one cancellation, with the Wolverines not taking on Maryland in a scheduled contest Dec. 5. Now it’s led to a cancellation of even larger magnitude.
The official Michigan release states that “an increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases and student-athletes in quarantine over the past week will result in the cancellation.” Although no official positive test numbers have been announced, it’s those positives plus the ensuing contact tracing that has left Michigan unable to field a team for Saturday’s game.
According to The Athletic, Michigan had at least a dozen players test positive last week and then had more positive tests come back Monday.
How Ohio State is impacted
The Big Ten set a minimum at the start of the season that to play in the conference’s championship game, six regular season games were required. Michigan was slated to be the Buckeyes’ sixth.
There’ve been reports that the conference has considered changing such a standard in the interests of getting the Buckeyes in the title game, because OSU is the only Big Ten team with a chance to make the College Football Playoff. There hasn’t been a conclusion to those reported discussions yet.
With the cancellation coming on Tuesday, it’s possible the Big Ten reconfigures its schedule to get Ohio State a sixth game Saturday. The league could also follow through on those reports and lower the limit, allowing OSU to play in the Dec. 19 championship anyway.
Even if the Big Ten stands firm on its initial six-game minimum, the rest of the teams in the league are slated to play non-title games on Dec. 19, which would give Ohio State one more chance to solidify itself in the College Football Playoff rankings, where the Buckeyes sit No. 4 ahead of Tuesday night’s new release.