COLUMBUS — The challenges of the pandemic have never subsided at Ohio State, but they aren’t at a level that would threaten an appearance in the national championship game.
The Buckeyes have continued to deal with positive COVID tests over the last six weeks since they were forced to cancel a November trip to Illinois, losing players from the lineup all the way through the Sugar Bowl blowout on Friday in New Orleans. But the number has not reached a point that would force the program to close the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, halt practices that went on as scheduled for the last two days — or necessitate a postponement of the College Football Playoff final against Alabama.
A pair of Ohio State officials confirmed to Lettermen Row on Tuesday afternoon that the Big Ten champions remain in position to play on Monday night even as a report originating in Alabama suggested that discussions about using the backup date of Jan. 18 were underway.
“The game is still on,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. “We continue to follow the same protocols as we have all season. We plan to play on January 11.
“We are on track to play.”
The Buckeyes will almost certainly be short-handed once again, just as they have been in every game since returning to play at Michigan State. Ohio State was able to get the situation under control with the roster and staff in order to resume the season, which was no certainty given how many programs elsewhere failed to do so over the course of this bizarre season. And it has leaned on its depth along the way and refused to make any excuses when it has missed players, which it doesn’t specifically identify as having tested positive due to protect the privacy of the Buckeyes.
Ohio State still is proceeding with business as usual and is clearly not pushing for a delay in the title game, though that can certainly change given that there is nearly a week left until kickoff with the program is continuing to monitor the situation with daily testing.
“Game on,” a school spokesman said. “Ohio State is preparing to play on Monday.”