One of the fiercest rivalry games across sports—regardless of level—will not be happening this year: The Buckeyes’ annual clash with the Wolverines has been cancelled.
Earlier today, UM Director of Athletics Warde Manuel released a statement announcing the anticipated matchup, which had been scheduled for noon Dec. 12, would be called off as the school is continuing to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak that cost them last week’s game with Maryland as well.
“The number of positive tests has continued to trend in an upward direction over the last seven days,” Manuel said in the statement. “We have not been cleared to participate in practice at this time. Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to COVID-19 positives and the associated quarantining required of close contact individuals.”
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The historic rivalry (the first meeting between both teams was on Oct. 16, 1897) has been dominated by the Buckeyes of late. Their last loss to the Wolverines happened in 2011, and is the only matchup the Buckeyes have dropped in the series since 2003.
And many predicted this year’s showdown to be much the same, as fourth-ranked Ohio State, 5-0 on the year so far, were 30-point favorites against the 2-4 maize and blue, who began Big Ten Conference play as the nation’s 18th-ranked team, but have struggled mightily since.
For some Buckeyes faithful this contest, simply referred to by many as “The Game”, is the most important matchup of the year, and that sentiment takes on additional weight in this season. Due to the current Big Ten Conference rules, the Buckeyes must play a minimum of six games this season to be eligible for the Big Ten Championship on Dec. 19 in Indianapolis, and missing this game would leave them with five games on the year. Not participating in the conference title game could also affect the team’s bid at a College Football Playoff spot.
While reports have swirled over the possibility of the Big Ten changing these rules to allow Ohio State—the most complete team in the conference this year—to play in the Big Ten Championship, only time will tell whether or not this game against the Wolverines, one not played at all, might end up stinging worse than a loss.