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Ohio State's game vs. Illinois canceled due to COVID-19 cases

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Ohio State’s game against Illinois has been called off less than 14 hours before kickoff.

The Buckeyes announced shortly before 10:30 p.m. ET Friday that they wouldn’t travel to Illinois for a noon kickoff on Saturday because of COVID-19 cases within the program. One of the COVID-19 positives is coach Ryan Day. The school announced earlier Friday that Day tested positive and said that defensive line coach Larry Johnson would be the interim coach.

The school said it had suspended all football workouts and activities.

“We have continued to experience an increase in positive tests over the course of this week,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. “The health, safety and well-being of our student-athlete is our main concern, and our decisions on their welfare will continue to be guided by our medical staff.”

No. 4 Ohio State’s second cancellation

The Buckeyes had a game against Maryland canceled because of COVID-19 cases at Maryland. The Illinois cancellation is the second of the season for the 4-0 Buckeyes.

That’s significant both for the College Football Playoff and the Big Ten title. The conference said before the season that any team that had more than two games canceled would be ineligible for the Big Ten title. Ohio State now has to be able to play on Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 to be eligible to go to the Big Ten title game. If one of those two games is canceled by either Ohio State or Michigan State or Michigan, then the Buckeyes won’t be able to be Big Ten champs unless there are more cancellations in the conference.

The six-game rule isn’t hard and fast. There’s language built into the conference’s regulations for 2020 that eliminates the rule if there are a lot of games canceled. Here’s the rule as it’s written.

A team must play at least six games to be considered for participation in the championship game. However, if the average number of conference games played by all teams falls below six, with the average rounded up/down at .50 (i.e. 6.50 or greater would round up to 7, 6.49 or less would round down to 6), then teams must play no less than two fewer conference games than the average number of conference games played by all teams (i.e. four games played if the conference average is six) to be considered.

The playoff committee is also valuing teams that have played more games. At least it did this week. Ohio State was behind one-loss Clemson in the top four largely because the Tigers have played more games and lost to No. 2 Notre Dame.

How will the committee view Ohio State without a game on Saturday? Will the Buckeyes drop out of the top four? It’s a valid question given the way the committee structured its first rankings of the season.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day talks to his players during an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day has tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

15 games PPD or canceled in Week 13

Ohio State waited as long as it could to cancel the game. The school even said Friday afternoon that it would travel to Illinois early Saturday morning so it could do more testing. That testing didn’t net the results that Ohio State needed to play in Champaign.

The game between the Buckeyes and Illini is the 14th of the weekend to be postponed or canceled.

Growing list of coaches who have tested positive

Day’s positive test means that two of the four teams in the top four of the playoff rankings are without their coaches this weekend. Alabama said Wednesday that coach Nick Saban had tested positive for COVID-19 and would miss Saturday’s Iron Bowl.

Florida’s Dan Mullen, Arkansas’ Sam Pittman, Kansas’ Les Miles, Florida State’s Mike Norvell and Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst are also among the head coaches who have tested positive for coronavirus during the season.

Day is in his second season as Ohio State’s head coach after taking over for Urban Meyer. Counting his three-game interim stint at the start of the 2018 season while Meyer was suspended, Day is 20-1 as OSU’s coach. That only loss came to Clemson in the College Football Playoff in 2019.

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