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Column: Ohio State-Maryland was canceled, so what does that mean?

Honestly, who knows? Up is down. Black is white. Dogs and cats living together. It’s 2020, baby. Just roll with it.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Tamanini Matt Tamanini is the co-managing editor of Land-Grant Holy Land having joined the site in 2016.

Well, poop nuggets. We all knew that this was a possibility, and perhaps even an eventuality, but it became real today as the Maryland Terrapins paused team activities following eight players testing positive for the coronavirus over the past seven days. That means that the game previously scheduled for this Saturday against the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes ain’t gonna happen.

Now, I’m not going to relitigate the Big Ten’s decision to cancel and then uncancel the season; I’m not going to get into whether or not they should have stuck with the original conference-only schedule; I’m not going to entertain if their protocols and thresholds are too stringent compared with those from other conferences, but since four of the seven games on the SEC’s schedule for this weekend have also been canceled, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that things aren’t exactly going great anywhere right now when it comes to COVID.

In a statement following the announcement, OSU head coach Ryan Day said, “We wish Maryland, their student-athletes and programs well as they battle through this issue.”

According to sources...

With the game canceled, the question becomes, what happens next and how does this impact Ohio State? Well, if we’re being honest, what almost certainly happens next is that Ohio State has an off week and is already turning its attention towards the No. 10 Indiana Hoosiers game that is currently scheduled to take place on Saturday, Nov. 21.

Of course, with No. 1 Alabama also having their game against LSU postponed this weekend, it would be a lot of fun to see these two highly rated teams have an impromptu meeting on Saturday.

That is of course, not going to happen (no matter what you saw on Twitter and/or TikTok), as we saw the B1G put the ixnay on Nebraska scheduling a game against FCS Chattanooga when Wisconsin first began canceling games due to COVID last month. So, playing a team outside of the Big Ten isn’t going to happen, due to concerns about having the same level of testing. Done, glad we got that out of the way.

So, what if another conference game gets canceled in the next 24 hours? Presumably, there would be one team who is dealing with an outbreak, and one team who is not. So, could the Buckeyes play the other non-break out team?

It certainly wouldn’t give Ohio State and this theoretical second team much time to prepare for what is awaiting them on the field, but it also wouldn’t give one of them much time to prepare to travel. Now, that might be okay in regular circumstances, but OSU rented out an entire hotel to be as safe as possible when the team traveled to Penn State a few weeks ago. Perhaps the visiting them in this hypothetical situation doesn’t need to spend the night anywhere, but that level of caution isn’t something that can be easily planned for in just a few hours.

As of now, there is no indication that any other B1G games are in danger of being canceled this weekend, but it’s 2020, so who the hell knows what’s going to happen. But, while it could be possible that OSU might play another league team this weekend if the opportunity presented itself, I wouldn’t think that it is all that likely, even if another game gets canceled.

All eyes on you, IU

So, with Ohio State losing one of its nine regular season games (I’m counting the B1G Champions Week — or whatever they’re calling it — since everyone in the conference is scheduled to play), what does that mean for the Buckeyes?

Well, first off, it does open the door for No. 9 Indiana to edge out No. 3 Ohio State in the race for the B1G East, even if they don’t end up playing on the 21st.

Now, I’m not going to begin to predict whether or not any other games might be canceled moving forward, because that is the opposite of something that I want to spend any of my time or very limited brainpower on. So, I’m just going to assume that all of the other scheduled B1G games will happen until I hear otherwise (I’m sure that I will hear otherwise).

But, since the Big Ten was already playing fewer games than most of the other Power Five conferences, it does mean that Ohio State has yet another data point removed from their resume should things get dicey with the College Football Playoff committee. What happens if due to some fluke of the schedule, the Buckeyes go undefeated on the season, but don’t play in the B1G Championship Game, like in the example above?

If the Hoosiers are also undefeated, will the committee give IU the berth since they have the advantage of being a conference champion? Who knows? But, I do feel fairly confident in saying that as long as Ohio State is undefeated and has played seven games before the committee convenes to determine the official final four, they are in.

There is no way that they can legitimately look at this offense, led by the best quarterback in program history, and ding them that severely for having games canceled by their opponents.

So, Ohio State, by the power of Scarlet and Greyskull, I hereby declare that if you win out and stay healthy, you’re in the CFP. So it shall be written. So it shall be done.

Strike a pose

But, remember that program-best quarterback I just mentioned? You know, this guy, the one who’s already posing like the Heisman Trophy:

Rutgers v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

How does losing a game impact Justin Fields’ chances of being the first Buckeye to win the Heisman since Troy Smith in 2006? I don’t know. I mean, it certainly doesn’t help, but Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence has missed two games because of a positive COVID test, and as I mentioned earlier, Alabama’s Mac Jones also had a game canceled this weekend because his team’s opponent had an outbreak.

The difference is, of course, that both of those candidates (as well as BYU’s Zach Wilson and Florida’s Kyle Trask) started out with more games on their schedule to prove themselves; therefore, Fields has been playing catchup from the jump.

Even though he has been near perfect so far this year, I would think that having another opportunity to show out pulled from the schedule is going to automatically hurt the guy with fewer games.

So, it’s not the end of Justin Fields’ Heisman chances — since having two more TDs than incompletions is still pretty impressive — but every time he’s not on the field, it takes away another chance for him to continue to be extraordinary.

Percentages and tiebreakers and averages, oh my!

Ok, the last piece of this puzzle relates back to a few of the previous ones.

First: I wouldn’t even begin to know how to predict whether or not Ohio State will have any other games canceled this season, let alone a team that I don’t follow or care all that much about. But, it does matter.

Second: Even in the Reddit scenario above, if Indiana cancels next week’s game against OSU, an eventual 7-0 Hoosiers wouldn’t automatically go to the B1GCG over a 6-0 Buckeyes. The first tiebreaker is “the best cumulative winning percentage of non-divisional opponents.” Kind of a stupid tie-breaker when you’re only playing two non-divisional team, but it’s the Big Ten in 2020, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

That means that it’s the winning percentage of Nebraska and Illinois for the Buckeyes vs. the winning percentage of Wisconsin and Purdue for IU. Ok, so maybe the Hoosiers would automatically go to the title game after all, but it’s 2020, who knows what the hell might happen the rest of the way. Perhaps Wisky is so rusty from two weeks off dealing with COVID stuff that they forget how to play football and lose their next five games. It could happen... maybe.

But that’s not the only part of this situation that needs to be figured out. If things go sideways and more games are canceled for the Buckeyes, they might not even be eligible for the B1G title game.

This is all way too much math for me, and it’s making my head hurt, but just keep this in mind as events unfold, or as people erroneously tell you that OSU is automatically out of contention because those selfish, horrible, awful, Maryland players who are coming off of two of the biggest wins in recent program history got this game canceled because they don’t actually care about the season or what happens on the field.

Real talk

That last bit was a joke, folks. Don’t blame the players for this, especially without reporting on them being reckless. Odds are that they got a highly contagious disease, despite taking all precautions, because it’s a highly contagious disease, and as the past eight months have shown us, shit happens.

But, in his statement following the announcement, Day reminded everyone what is really important.

“The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes is our main concern,” he said. “Obviously, we are disappointed at not being able to compete this week, but I am incredibly proud of our team and the way they have handled themselves throughout this entire pandemic.”

From the word go, the Buckeyes have been proud of their precautions to battle COVID. I have no reason to not believe that they are doing everything within their power to keep the team and staff healthy, and I hope it stays that way. But, if it doesn’t, don’t act like the players who tested positive purposely contracted a potentially deadly or devastating disease, just to mess up your weekend.

Ohio State football might be our entertainment, but it is their lives.