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Michigan State, Maryland preparing to play 'until we're told differently'

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

For now, Michigan State is planning to play at Maryland on Saturday.

Of course, in a world being dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, that could change at a moment’s notice.

Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker says the Spartans are "expecting to play" Saturday against Maryland, despite the Terrapins canceling last weekend's game against Ohio State because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Maryland was forced to call off last weekend’s game with Ohio State because of an increase in cases surrounding the football team, with no guarantees that the Terrapins will be able to play on Saturday. Big Ten officials confirmed Monday there is no set timetable on when a decision has to be made, but last week Maryland paused team activities on Wednesday, announcing at the same time the Ohio State game was canceled.

On Monday, the Terrapins announced they did not practice and said, "A decision about Saturday’s home game against Michigan State will be determined in consultation with University medical staff. An update on testing results will also be provided this week."

Michigan State coach Mel Tucker was asked after the loss to Indiana how his team was planning to approach an uncertain week.

“We're expecting to play,” Tucker said. “I don't know what their situation is. I'm not sure why they are playing or not playing. We're going to be prepared to play as long as we can meet the thresholds in terms of players available and the COVID numbers that are set forth by the Big Ten. As long as we can stay within those numbers and field a team, we're going to play. We're going to prepare to play until we're told differently. We need to play football.”

Tucker is correct about that. The Spartans (1-3) need to play football.

In all three losses this season, a multitude of turnovers and mistakes have doomed the Spartans, something that can only get ironed out as a fairly young team gets more experience, something that can only come in live game action.

Of course, the coronavirus cares little about a college football team’s development, meaning the Spartans could be adjusting rather quickly. Still, they began the week as if they’d be playing on Saturday.

“It doesn't change anything for us,” senior linebacker Antjuan Simmons said after the Indiana game. "We're still going to come in tomorrow ready to work as if we're playing Maryland on Saturday. Nothing will change.”

While Michigan State has yet to adjust its plans, Maryland has been juggling things for the past week. Following the announcement last Wednesday, coach Mike Locksley said the Terrapins would treat the week off like a bye week and start preparing for the Spartans.

And in an effort to limit the spread of the virus, the team spent the weekend isolated in a hotel near Maryland’s campus.

“There’s nothing we can do about what’s happened or where we are as a program,” Locksley said last week. “My goal is to be solution-based. So we’re preparing as if Michigan State, our next opponent, is a game that we’re preparing to play, and until they tell me any differently, that’s been the mindset. To try to speculate or forecast whether we will or won’t is really not something I would concern myself with because I’m basing it off with where I am today.”

Since September, when the Big Ten announced it would hold an eight-game schedule with a bonus ninth game based on each division, teams have been undergoing daily antigen testing. Any team that sees a team positivity rate of more than 5% or a population positivity rate of more than 7.5% can’t practice and can’t play a game for at least seven days. Players who test positive can’t play in a game for a minimum of 21 days.

Maryland (2-1) is the second Big Ten team to be sidelined by COVID-19 this season. Wisconsin played one game before it was forced to pause on Oct. 28, leading to two lost games. The Badgers had their games against Nebraska and Purdue canceled and just returned last weekend against Michigan.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau