Coronavirus playing havoc with Ohio State’s drive to qualify for the Big Ten championship game
The Buckeyes need to play each of their final two games to reach the minimum number of games, but they've had COVID issues, and so has Michigan, their opponent next week.
The coronavirus pandemic resulted in the cancellation of 10 more games this weekend, including two involving No. 11 Georgia and No. 16 Northwestern.
The loss of the Bulldogs’ game against Vanderbilt means Commodores kicker Sarah Fuller won’t get a much-awaited chance to at least attempt a field goal. Here are games to watch:
No. 3 Ohio State at Michigan State, noon, 6ABC
The Buckeyes (4-0) race to the finish line of the Big Ten season trying to make it to the six games necessary to qualify for the conference championship game on Dec. 19.
Head coach Ryan Day has the coronavirus and will not be on the sidelines, and said his team will be “a little shorthanded” because of a spike in positive tests. Then there’s also the issue of next week’s game against archrival Michigan, which had to suspend football activities this week and won’t play Maryland.
Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields is coming off his worst game of the season, having thrown three interceptions two weeks ago in the win over Indiana. The Spartans (2-3) shocked West Division-leading Northwestern, 29-20, last week behind two touchdown passes by Rocky Lombardi.
By the way, former longtime Penn State assistant coach Larry Johnson, now an Ohio State assistant, will serve as the Buckeyes’ acting head coach.
No. 1 Alabama at LSU, 8 p.m., CBS3
The memories of last year’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup have faded, although maybe not for the losing Crimson Tide (8-0), who are 17-2 in rematches after a loss under head coach Nick Saban.
The Alabama passing attack, which features Mac Jones (2,728 yards, 23 touchdowns) throwing to DeVonta Smith (72 catches, 1,074 yards, 12 TDs), will be a problem for a Tigers secondary that has allowed nearly 303 yards per game, 120th in FBS. The Crimson Tide average 48.5 points and 535.6 yards of total offense.
LSU (3-4) has a decent passing game, averaging 313 yards, but its leading receiver, Terrance Marshall Jr. (48 receptions, 731 yards, 10 TDs), decided last weekend to opt out for the remainder of the season.
No. 8 BYU at No. 14 Coastal Carolina, 5:30 p.m., ESPNU
This is the most intriguing matchup of the weekend after the Cougars (9-0) took this game on 56 hours’ notice, replacing Liberty (COVID-19 issues) as the Chanticleers’ opponent. At stake is a chance to be the Group of Five representative for a New Year’s Six bowl if Cincinnati should stumble.
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson has completed 74.3% of his passes for 2,724 yards and 26 touchdowns. The Cougars have rolled up an average of 535.8 yards of total offense (fifth in FBS) and 47.6 points (fourth), and their defense has allowed just 13.9 points per game (fourth).
The Chanticleers (9-0) lead the Sun Belt Conference in fewest yards (322.2) and fewest points (16.8) allowed. Redshirt freshman quarterback Grayson McCall has thrown 20 touchdown passes and one interception.
No. 4 Clemson at Virginia Tech, 7:30 p.m., 6ABC
With a win, the Tigers (8-1, 7-1) would clinch their sixth straight ACC championship-game berth and a rematch against Notre Dame in two weeks. Trevor Lawrence, returning from a bout with COVID-19, threw for 403 yards and two touchdowns last week against Pitt in his first game in five weeks. The Hokies (4-5, 4-4) have a strong running attack behind Khalil Herbert (924 yards) that will test a Clemson defense allowing just 102.6 yards per game.
Syracuse at No. 2 Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m., NBC10
Speaking of the Fighting Irish (9-0, 8-0 ACC), they already have qualified for the title contest after conference officials decided to eliminate their last regular-season game against Wake Forest. They have won 15 in a row, the longest active streak in FBS, and quarterback Ian Book has thrown 237 consecutive passes without an interception. For the Orange (1-9, 1-8), junior Taj Harris (Palmyra High School) had career highs of 13 catches and 146 yards last week against North Carolina State.
No. 10 Indiana at No. 18 Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m., 6ABC
The Badgers (2-1) had to cancel two games because of coronavirus cases in their program, and scrapped last week’s game against Minnesota because of COVID among the Golden Gophers. Quarterback Graham Mertz threw three interceptions in his last game and must go against an Indiana defense that has picked off 16 passes, best in FBS. The Hoosiers (5-1), who remain alive for the Big Ten title, will start Jack Tuttle at quarterback in place of Michael Penix Jr., who suffered a season-ending torn ACL last week.
Expatriate of the Week
Two former Temple players who transferred elsewhere for their final year of eligibility are finishing fine seasons. Defensive end Quincy Roche, the 2019 AAC defensive player of the year, leads Miami with 11 tackles for loss (fourth in the ACC) and is fifth on the team in tackles. Tight end Kenny Yeboah of Mississippi has caught 27 passes for 524 yards and six touchdowns, and is second in the SEC averaging 19.4 yards per reception. Yeboah’s career day came against Alabama: seven receptions, 181 yards, two TDs.