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Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Gameday V: Smattering of cancellations have Big Ten Championship Game eligibilities in question

As part of Gameday V, The Daily Cardinal’s Simon Farber takes a look around the conference for a couple of high-profile matchups this Saturday. 

Instead of covering the Big Ten’s upcoming week seven matchups, it’s more notable to talk about which teams aren’t going to be playing this Saturday. With a minimum of six games needed to be eligible for the Big Ten Championship Game, No. 4 Ohio State can not afford another cancellation – they’ve already been sidelined twice by COVID-19 protocols. While their game this weekend against Michigan State is still on for now, another school will have to control their COVID-19 spread in order for the Buckeyes to play a week eight matchup against…

Michigan (2-4) vs. Maryland (2-2) Cancelled

2020 has been a disaster for Michigan football thus far. With their final home game being cancelled this weekend against Maryland, the Wolverines will finish the season without a home victory for the first time in program history.

The Michigan athletic program announced Wednesday that the team would be shutting down football activities for the next seven days — at minimum — as cases continued to rise. Nothing for certain has been said about next weekend’s rivalry matchup against Ohio State, but the rumors are not pretty

It’s worth noting that Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Avlarez hinted earlier this week about the Big Ten amending some of its rules in order to allow an undefeated Ohio State team to still play in the conference championship.

“They’re sitting up there still ranked No. 4,” Alvarez said of the Buckeyes. “Our league can’t keep them from having the opportunity if they have a chance to be in the [College Football Playoff].”

While Alvarez says they “can’t” do that to Ohio State, well, currently the Big Ten can and is. It’ll be interesting to see how the narrative changes as we move closer to the kickoff date for OSU/MICH. For decades, the results of that rivalry game have decided a Big Ten division championship. In 2020, it’s a bit more complicated.

Minnesota (2-3) vs. No. 14 Northwestern (5-1) Cancelled

The Golden Gophers haven’t been able to Row Their Boat away from COVID-19 cases inside the program this fall. After playing through a week five game against Purdue despite 20 active cases among players and staff – which, according to Big Ten guidelines, should not have been allowed – Minnesota shut down football activities and cancelled this year’s Axe Game against No. 16 Wisconsin. The game effectively ended division championship hopes for the Badgers, as their now-three postponed games dropped them under the required six games played for qualification.

However, Northwestern’s stunning loss to a confusing Michigan State team last weekend put Wisconsin back in a longshot chance of finishing atop the Big Ten West. Northwestern would have to lose to Illinois in week eight, with Wisconsin required to beat both No. 12 Indiana and No. 19 Iowa. 

That would place the Badgers atop the Big Ten West … but still leave them ineligible for the Big Ten Championship Game. However, as discussed earlier, an amendment to the qualifications would apply to both divisions. So a scenario where Ohio State is let into the playoff would probably apply to Wisconsin or Northwestern, as well. The details are still very murky, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

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