The COVID-19 pandemic already has unsettled the sports world across the board, and it likely will force the move of the Michigan-Ohio State game to earlier in the season from its traditional spot at the end of the regular season.
Michigan-Ohio State in September? The Game in October?
Speculation regarding the potential Big Ten-only season this fall for conference members has suggested there will be a 10-game schedule front-loaded with divisional games so that champions from the East and West are determined and a Big Ten title game played.
According to a report Friday in the Columbus Dispatch, the Michigan-Ohio State game “probably” will be played earlier in the season to avoid potential cancellation in late-November because of the COVID-19 pandemic. By playing The Game earlier in the season, there’s a cushion in the schedule to play it later if there is a postponement because of the coronavirus.
A Michigan spokesman referred questions from The Detroit News to the Big Ten conference for comment since the schedule has not been released.
Earlier this month, the Big Ten announced its teams would play a conference-only schedule. Multiple reports the last two days have indicated the conference is expected to announce a schedule next week. Michigan and Ohio State has met in the final regular-season game since 1942, but Michigan played at Hawaii in 1998, the last time the Wolverines played a regular-season game after facing Ohio State.
The Dispatch included an email from Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren sent to conference athletic directors on Thursday and said that while the league remains “hopeful for a start in September 2020,” they have built in flexibility in all of he scheduling models to accommodate changes as needed.
Still, Warren expressed a cautious approach to the season.
“Consistent with our collective need to be adaptable to changes in circumstance and evolving medical knowledge, even issuing a schedule does not guarantee that competition will occur,” Warren wrote in the email.
Preseason camps are expected to begin Aug. 7, and Warren said he anticipates making a decision regarding the camp starts within five days, according to the story. Michigan began on-campus workouts on July 24.
Michigan and Ohio State faced each other on Oct. 21, 1933 – the last time The Game was not played in November.