The Big Ten announced Monday morning a change in its COVID-19 protocol regarding games.
Last year, games that couldn’t be played in a particular week because of rising infections within a program were wiped off the schedule.
This year, if one team can’t play on the day it is scheduled, the game will be declared a forfeit and count as a loss in the standings while the other team gets a win — unless they wouldn’t be able to play, either.
If neither team can play, the game will be a no-contest. The announcement did not define how a team would determine if it can or can’t play.
Last year, three of Ohio State’s scheduled regular season games were not played. A game against Illinois was wiped out by issues with the Buckeyes while games against Maryland and Michigan were not played because of the case numbers in those respective locker rooms.
The policy was announced while OSU coach Ryan Day was on the practice field with his team, and he was asked about it during a previously scheduled press conference.
“I didn’t see that, but I get it,” he replied.
He deflected a follow-up about whether that was fair to a team with all its players vaccinated.
“Yeah, I don’t know what to think of that, to be honest with you,” Day said. “Hope it doesn’t happen.”
He estimated that around 10 players on his team had not received the vaccine yet but said that number was still going down daily.
Last year after the season was reinstated in late October, the Big Ten required players, coaches, trainers and other individuals that would be on the field for all practices and games to undergo daily rapid antigen tests with more sensitive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests used to confirm positives and held prior to competition.
That meant coaches and players had to go through a weekly pregame ritual of seeing who would actually be able to play once the final round of COVID-19 tests for the week came in.
That may not be a problem this year for any team that has at least most of its players vaccinated.
“The guys who are unvaccinated are required to test twice a week through the university,” Day said. “For the guys who are vaccinated, they do not need to test during the week.”
With 10 days to go until the seasonopener at Minnesota, Day said the team is spending about half its time on game preparation while the rest remains about skill development and finalizing the depth chart.
He said offensive line is “close to settled,” while he was not ready to narrow down starters at linebacker or in the secondary.
“Teradja Mitchell is a captain for us, so he’ll be on the field in some way shape or form,” Day said of the linebackers. “The majority of those guys are going to play, so it’ll be something that we’re going to continue to kind of work through the depth of it all, but he’s one guy, you’ll see for sure.”
Needing to replace two starters, Ohio State started experimenting with a jumbo offensive line early in the preseason.
The group with Nicholas Petit-Frere and Dawand Jones at tackle, Thayer Munford and Paris Johnson Jr. at guards and Harry Miller at center is not locked in yet, but Day made it sound like that is likely the group that will take the field at Minnesota.
Matt Jones is still pushing at one guard spot, however, as Munford has been out with an undisclosed injury.
“He’s in the mix right now, but it’s starting to settle itself out,” Day said.
On special teams, Australian freshman Jesse Mirco has secured the punting job while redshirt freshman Jake Seibert and graduate transfer Noah Ruggles are still competing to be the top place-kicker.
Thursday, Sept. 4
Ohio State at Minnesota, 8 p.m., Fox, 1410