COLUMBUS – The countdown clock in the Woody Hayes Center was counting down toward Saturday’s football game against Michigan on Tuesday as it has year around since Jim Tressel made it an Ohio State tradition almost 20 years ago.
Then the clock needed to pause when Michigan notified OSU it would not be able to play or practice this week because of the spread of COVID-19 in its football program.
This is the second week in a row Michigan has had to call off a game. Last week it canceled its game against Maryland.
“The number of positive tests has continued to trend in an upward direction over the last seven days,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement.
“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.”
Michigan’s statement said the decision was made after conversations with medical experts, health department officials and the university’s administration.
This will be the first time Ohio State and Michigan have not played each other since 1917, the year before the two schools made their game an annual event.
There have been times when the game was postponed to a later date. It happened in 1963 when the OSU-Michigan game was originally scheduled on Nov. 23, a day after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
That game was pushed back a week to Nov. 30 and was played in front of only 36,424 fans, the smallest crowd for an Ohio State-Michigan game at Michigan Stadium since 1927.
The 1918 game was moved to Nov. 30 from Oct. 26 during the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Ohio State’s season that year was paused from Oct. 12 to Nov. 9 after the Columbus Board of Health banned outdoor gatherings for four weeks.
Ohio State (5-0) is the only undefeated team in the Big Ten but now faces the possibility of not qualifying for the conference’s championship game after having three games canceled by COVID-19 this season.
When the Big Ten began its abbreviated season in late October, one of the specifications was that a team had to play six games to qualify for the championship game.
Every Big Ten football team is scheduled to play a game the week of the championship game against a conference opponent which finished in the same position in the opposite division.
The Buckeyes would probably play either Iowa or Wisconsin if the Big Ten does not change its rules to get them into the championship game.
It also could reach the six-game level if another Big Ten team couldn’t play and a team in that matchup not affected by COVID-19 agreed to play Ohio State.
The College Football Playoff does not have a minimum number of games a team must play to be considered.