I have never been comfortable with the unknown. I can’t stand not knowing what the plan is... for anything. I hate being surprised. I need to know what’s going on at all times. I am more than a bit Type A when it comes to these things; and in the absence of a plan, I often just make one up, even if it does nothing more than sooth my anxious mind.
Sometimes it’s just daydreaming, like what I am going to buy when I inevitably win the $500 million Powerball. Sometimes it’s more an attempt to manifest something into reality, like imagining that I get a fancy job offer.
Those things are fun and fill certain gaps in my brain, but they often have little real-life importance. However, around the world COVID-19 has brought on a shit-ton of unknowns that are messing up our daily lives in tangible and terrifying ways. While for many of us, those ways are important, real-world circumstances like jobs, health, money, etc., this pandemic is also messing with our sports. Not as important in the macro sense, but pretty darn important on a micro scale.
Already, the Big Ten Conference has said that member institutions will only compete in conference games this fall. With all due respect to cross-country, women’s volleyball, soccer, and the like, this is mostly a football-related issue for most fans.
That means that instead of opening the season with Bowling Green, at Oregon, and Buffalo, the Ohio State Buckeyes’ schedule is a bit up in the air at this point. Neither the school, nor the league have given any official indication on how (or if) the schedule will be reconfigured at this point.
Will there be a 10th game added to the schedule? Will they move games up to allow for pauses in the season if necessary? Will division games be moved to the front of the slate?
These are all questions that have been discussed ad nauseam by fans and media over the past few weeks, and as we are less than seven weeks out from when the season was supposed to kick off, we don’t really have a lot of time for this guessing game to continue at this point. I’d imagine that B1G coaches, players, and fans (meaning me) would like to know what exactly the freaking plan is ASAP!!
However, having spent a year working at the B1G offices, I know that they are nothing if not thorough and deliberate. They will take their sweet time in making decisions in the best of circumstance, but throw in the complexities of trying to navigate the constantly turning tides of a global pandemic and I have no doubt that they are going to take as long as possible to do all of the due diligence necessary to come up with the perfect plan. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
So, in lieu of having an actual schedule to excitedly countdown to, I am going to go ahead and imagine my dream scenario of how OSU should open the season, and pretend that’s what’s actually going to happen. The Big Ten is welcome to steal this idea, I don’t even need credit.
In fact, LGHL’s co-managing editor Gene Ross already proposed something similar, and The Athletic’s Ari Wasserman and Bill Landis came to the same conclusion on their podcast. But, I’m staking claim to this absolutely meaningless idea, because I tweeted it as soon as it was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg that the B1G is going to move intra-division games to the start of the season — presumably so that if things in the middle get canceled, they could still somehow determine a conference champion later in the fall.
So what I'm hearing is that The Game is going to open the season on September 5? https://t.co/EuTOJxqcnT— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) July 9, 2020
So, without further ado, my brilliant idea (which you already know, since it’s the headline of this article) is that Ohio State and Michigan should open the B1G-only season on Sept. 5. I mean, come on; what’s not to love?
From a fan and TV perspective, the Big Ten has to figure out a way to play the most important game of the season just in case the world ventures even further off the rails than it already has. I mean, with how things are changing on a daily basis with the coronavirus, I wouldn’t even give it 50/50 odds that there will even be football by the time we get to the Saturday after Thanksgiving. So we might as well play The Game as soon as possible to make sure that we get it in.
Can you imagine if OSU ends up playing Rutgers, Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State, Nebraska, Indiana, Maryland, and Illinois, but then things get so bad that the final week of the regular season has to be canceled? Buckeye Nation would go apoplectic, and so would FOX.
I am sure that the network is doing everything that it can to make sure that it gets the ad revenue for The Game this fall. Ohio State’s 56-27 victory in 2019 was FOX’s highest rated game of the season; and in a world in which advertising dollars are drying up everywhere, the B1G’s primary TV partner has to be calling new commissioner Kevin Warren daily to remind him that the network needs to make money on their $1.5 billion dollar investment.
FOX College Football’s coverage of top-ranked Ohio State’s win over Michigan checks in as the highest-rated event of the day, the network’s top-rated college football game this season and pulls in BIG NOON KICKOFF’s best rating ever pic.twitter.com/rxEbm6NBzm— FOX Sports PR (@FOXSportsPR) December 1, 2019
Now, I know that this idea is going to be considered sacrilegious by some, and I get it. Part of what makes college football the greatest sport in the world is its tradition. But, in this particular season, with the world turned upside down, we really should be open to doing as many weird things as it takes for us to have sports at all.
I mean, the NBA is playing in a bubble less than 10 minutes from my house, the MLB is using the DH league-wide and starting with a runner on second in extra innings, the NHL is only playing games in Canada — why not start the college football season with the biggest game of all?
Let’s say that the B1G announces reconfigured schedules this week and the Buckeyes are going to open the season at noon on Sept. 5 against TTUN. After months of no sports, with endless arguments over masks and social distancing, a never-ending stream of stories about how the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the country, how freaking jacked would you be for the next month and a half? And if you’re pumped about that possibility, how do you think that the team would react?
With the proposed rules for how the Power 5 schools want to handle the health precautions of returning to football, things are going to be wonky. Routines are going to be thrown out of wack, how camp and practices are normally structured is going to have to be turned on its head, everyone is going to be a bit at sea leading up to this season. What better way to get 18-22 year olds focused than by opening the season against your biggest rival?
You don’t think that Ryan Day, Mickey Marotti, and the rest of the football staff would be able to wring every last bit of motivation out of that schedule change? I’m ready to run through a wall just thinking about the pep talks that they’re going to give.
Also, from a gamesmanship point of view, it certainly wouldn’t hurt that OSU has a Heisman Trophy finalist returning at quarterback in Justin Fields, while TTUN is still very much in the middle of a quarterback competition between Joe Milton and Dylan McCaffrey. Not that the Buckeyes need any Machiavellian advantage over their rivals at this point, but this is The Game we’re talking about; it would be like the schedule-making equivalent of going for three.
So, if Woody and the other football gods want to grant us the emotional reprieve that we have all earned thus far in 2020, they will give us Ohio State-Michigan in Week 1 of the College Football season. We deserve it, damnit.