Finally some good news on the COVID-19 front, as Ohio State is officially making the trip to East Lansing this weekend to take on Michigan State. After cancelling last week’s matchup against Illinois out of precaution, the Buckeyes are ready to get back to action this Saturday in an important battle with the Spartans.
Let’s get right into all of Friday’s news and notes from around the beat.
From around Land-Grant Holy Land...
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From around the gridiron...
Obviously the big news of the day was Ohio State officially announcing their plans to travel to Michigan State this weekend. The Buckeyes will become the first team in the Big Ten this season to return to action just one week after a COVID-19 cancellation, with all other outbreaks in the conference forcing teams to miss two weeks. Obviously the overly precautious nature with which the program handled things has paid off.
In a press release on Friday afternoon, OSU spokesman Jerry Emig said the following:
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State football team will travel to East Lansing, Mich., Friday evening in advance of its game Saturday against the Michigan State Spartans. Kickoff at Spartan Stadium is set for 12:06 p.m. on ABC.
Ohio State’s successful and safe return to the playing field began after the cancellation of its game against Illinois last weekend as all team related activities were paused for two days following an increase in positive tests within the program. Risk mitigation efforts, such as virtual team meetings and small group workouts, were reinforced as the team returned to activities at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Ohio State’s team medical staff, under the direction of Dr. Jim Borchers, increased and enhanced COVID-19 testing this week. The team continues to be tested daily, in adherence with Big Ten Conference protocols, and has enhanced its polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing surveillance throughout the week.
“We are very confident that we are heading to East Lansing with a team that can safely compete and whose health, safety and well-being has been our utmost concern,” Borchers said. “We’ve tested, monitored and evaluated our results daily and have advised the student-athletes, coaches and performance staff accordingly.
“Our population positivity rate, which exceeded the threshold for participation at this time last week, has now returned on the seven-day rolling average to a level that allows us to compete safely this weekend.”
In addition to increased testing this week, Ohio State’s athletes and staff that have tested positive remain in isolation or quarantine protocols, but are recovering and doing well. Ryan Day, who himself tested positive, will not travel with the team to the game. Per the Big Ten’s 10-day isolation rule for coaches, Day can resume on-field coaching on Monday.
Larry Johnson will be the team’s acting head coach against Michigan State, as he was slated to do last weekend had the Buckeyes played the Illinois game.
Justin Fields had an uphill climb to win the Heisman Trophy this season with the Big Ten’s delayed start and lower number of games, but his play through the first three weeks had him in the driver’s seat for the award. After his three-interception performance against Indiana, has the Ohio State QB fallen out of contention entirely?
After Ohio State's recent cancellations, Justin Fields has fallen in Heisman Trophy straw polls and on betting odds lists. Is it too late to capture college football's most prestigious award? https://t.co/s8t8gQbW42— Joey Kaufman (@joeyrkaufman) December 4, 2020
Mel Tucker is well-acquainted with the Buckeyes, having won a national title with the program as the defensive backs coach in the 2002 season. Now, having taken over for Mark Dantonio, Tucker will face his former team for the first time in what has been a rollercoaster of a season for his Spartans.
Mel Tucker preparing to face Ohio State program he won national championship withhttps://t.co/M68pRuUHAO— Matt Wenzel (@mwenzel2) December 4, 2020
The safety position has been one of the problem areas for Ohio State this season, and a big reason why the Silver Bullets have been so susceptible to the long pass plays. The transfer of Florida State safety Jaiden Woodbey — a former OSU commit — has peaked the interested of some Buckeye fans, but don't expect Ryan Day to search the portal for a new DB when there is a bunch of talent waiting in the wings on the current roster already.
If you were curious, Ohio State WILL be wearing their all-white alternate jerseys they were supposed to wear last weekend against Illinois on Saturday against Michigan State.
From around the hardwood...
Earlier than many had expected, there is a chance we see grad transfer Seth Towns make his Ohio State debut this weekend. According to Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch, head coach Chris Holtmann says that if Towns looks and feels good in practice on Friday and at shoot around on Saturday, the former Ivy League Player of the Year could see some action in the team’s game against Alabama A&M on Saturday night.
There is no telling how he will look after over two years rehabbing a knee injury, but the Buckeyes could really use his shooting ability if he can step back into his original form. In his last season at Harvard, Towns averaged 16 points per game while shooting over 44% from three-point range. Through three games, Ohio State has shot just 32% from deep as a team.
NBA veteran and former OSU hooper Mike Conley looks to be enjoying his short offseason back in the good ole OH.
From everywhere else...
On the ice rink, Ohio State defeated Wisconsin 4-2 on Thursday afternoon to move to 2-3-0 on the early season. Nine different Buckeyes registered at least one point in the contest, while OSU goalie Tommy Napier made an impressive 37 saves. The two teams will already be back underway by the time you're reading this, as game two of the series starts at 5:30 p.m on Friday on ESPNU.
Sarah Fuller will have to continue to wait to attempt her first field goal, as Saturday’s contest between Vanderbilt and Georgia has been cancelled due to COVID-19.
Vanderbilt at Georgia for this Saturday has been cancelled.— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) December 4, 2020
This has to be one of the biggest spreads in the history of the rivalry, right?
Ohio State opens as 27.5 point favorites over Michigan at @FDSportsbook.— Allan Bell (@AllanBell247) December 4, 2020
Is it officially Trace McSorley time in Baltimore? * cue TikTok music *