Ohio State's eligibility for the Big Ten Championship Game took a step in the right direction Tuesday as the program announced it will officially be resuming organized team activities. As such, the Buckeyes are preparing for their next game on Saturday, Dec. 5 game at Michigan State.
Ohio State halted team activities on Nov. 27 and canceled its game against Illinois after a COVID-19 outbreak. Among those to test positive was coach Ryan Day, who will be unable to coach the Michigan State game. The shortage of available players due to testing and contact tracing not only led to the Ohio State canceling its second game of the year, but putting the Michigan State game at risk as well. A major issue with teams having to cancel one game is that it oftentimes can lead to another cancellation.
Regardless of whether the game is played, Day will continue to adhere to conference isolation protocols. Ohio State assistant head coach/defensive line coach Larry Johnson was set to serve as interim coach of the Buckeyes against Illinois before the game was canceled.
At 4-0, Ohio State needs to play its remaining games against Michigan State and Michigan to qualify for the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 19. If the Buckeyes were to miss one more, regardless of the circumstances, it would be mathematically impossible for them to be eligible based on the average number of games being across the conference. If Ohio State had to cancel one more game, almost all of the remaining Big Ten games featuring other teams would have to also be canceled for that average to go down. And at that point, the feasibility of the season is the more paramount issue.
The Big Ten could lower that conference-wide game minimum, but there's been no movement on that from its decision makers. Effectively, Ohio State has no more room for error.
Winning a Big Ten title or even competing in the title game are not prerequisites for the Buckeyes to make the College Football Playoff; it happened for Ohio State in 2016. With the way the Big Ten's "Champions Week" is formatted, Ohio State would theoretically still face a quality opponent (like Wisconsin) on Dec. 19. The moniker of being Big Ten champions, while nice, may not necessarily matter if the CFP Selection Committee is considering an undefeated Ohio State team.
Those considerations are still nearly a full month away. For now, Ohio State's most straight forward path is to play if it can. COVID-19 situations can change suddenly, but it would appear Ohio State is in a good enough spot to show signs of optimism.