The fourth-ranked Buckeyes paused activities Friday night and canceled Saturday's game at Illinois after a rise in COVID-19 cases in the program. Ohio State hasn't revealed specific numbers of those who have tested positive, although coach Ryan Day is among them and will not coach in person if the Michigan State game takes place Saturday in East Lansing, Michigan.
Ohio State (4-0) likely needs to play this week and next week against Michigan to reach the six-game minimum required to qualify for the Big Ten championship game. The Buckeyes are in first place in the East Division and hold a tiebreaker over top challenger Indiana after beating the 12th-ranked Hoosiers 42-35 on Nov. 21. Unless the Big Ten cancels 12 of its 14 remaining games, the six-game minimum will be required to reach the Dec. 19 title game in Indianapolis.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson would handle the head-coaching duties for the Buckeyes on Saturday.
On Saturday, team physician Dr. Jim Borchers said Ohio State, which "essentially had no cases of COVID-19" all season, initially saw an increase in positive tests Wednesday and exceeded the Big Ten's threshold for population positivity rate after Friday's results.
The team declined to reveal specific numbers or names about who tested positive, saying only that players, coaches and support staff in its 170-member Tier 1 congregant group all have been impacted. Athletic director Gene Smith on Saturday repeatedly cited the rise in COVID-19 cases in Columbus and surrounding Franklin County in Ohio. The decisions to cancel and pause activities were made within the university because Ohio State exceeded only one of the Big Ten's two positivity-rate benchmarks that would have forced the program to stop and pause for at least seven days.
"We know where we are right now," Smith said Saturday. "We need to see if we have more and make sure the young men who have been negative continue to be negative. Our objective is to make sure they're all safe and healthy, but also to make sure that if we can play, when we go to East Lansing, we're going on a clean plane and we're going to play on a clean field."