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Michigan continues to prepare for college football season, whenever it starts

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Right about now, the who’s-the-starting-quarterback debate would have been in full swing as Michigan approached what would have been its season opener on Saturday.

Instead, Big Ten football players, if they’re paying attention to speculation and myriad sources, are hearing they could maybe start playing in October, maybe November, or January. The Big Ten postponed fall sports, including football, on Aug. 11, less than a week after league commissioner Kevin Warren unveiled a 10-game conference-only football schedule.

Michigan offensive lineman Ryan Hayes said if Big Ten football can return as soon as possible, "I'm in."

Since then, the decision has been widely and wildly debated.

The Pac-12 also that day postponed fall sports while the remaining three Power 5 conferences, the SEC, ACC (with Notre Dame) and the Big 12 continue to prepare to play football.

All sorts of possibilities for a Big Ten season start have been speculated. 

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh shared with his team Wednesday the possibility of starting the season in October. Surely the majority of Big Ten coaches and athletic directors, who are seeing their departments bleeding millions of dollars with the loss of a football season, would be in favor, but the university presidents and chancellors will have the ultimate say.

“Our coaches haven’t really told us much because I don’t think they know, either, but (Wednesday) before practice, Coach Harbaugh did say we could possibly play in October just to get us a little motivation, just to keep practicing hard,” offensive lineman Ryan Hayes said in a Zoom call with reporters on Thursday. We’re going to be prepared. We have mentioned October, but nothing’s for sure.”

What would he think about an October start?

“If we can play as soon as possible, I’m in, because we haven’t really stopped practicing,” Hayes said. “We all feel prepared, and we’re ready to go.”

Michigan players continue to participate in voluntary practices four days a week, preparing for the program’s version of the NFL combine on Oct. 24 at Michigan Stadium so players can be tested by NFL scouts.

Kwity Paye

Defensive end Kwity Paye has his NFL future to consider while he continues to go through practice. Like everyone else in the program, he’s curious what the Big Ten’s next move will be. If the season is pushed to January, there’s a strong likelihood many upperclassmen across the Big Ten who have NFL aspirations will leave to prepare for the draft.

“I’m just waiting on like what decision the Big Ten and the NCAA’s going to make because we don’t know what’s going on yet,” Paye said Thursday. “I would have to obviously go back and talk to my mom and see what would be the best choice for me and my family.

“I’m not all too worried about making the big decision just yet, just because I’m trying to enjoy my last couple months with the boys if these are my last couple months with them.”

Before the decision to postpone was made, Paye said he paid close attention to what was going on with the Big Ten. Would the conference delay? Would it play on?

“But they kept giving false hope,” Paye said. “I stopped getting my hopes up and stopped looking into all that stuff. Just been doing what I had to do here to help the team. When they make their decision, I’ll be ready.”

Paye was asked if he has to have an assurance a season will be played no matter what with January, for example, being the goal for the Big Ten.

“They’ve given us false hope before where they’ve given us the (schedule) and they say we’re going to play and they ended up canceling it,” Paye said. “I’m not sure what assurance the team would need to know we’re playing. We’re just going to keep working, though. We’ve been practicing. We haven’t really taken our foot off the pedal yet.

“If they decide to have the October schedule, the November schedule, we’ll be ready to play.”

Twitter: @chengelis