The conspiracy theorists had a juicy one fall in their laps on Wednesday morning. The University of Washington announced it was pausing football activities due to a spike in positive COVID-19 cases.
The Huskies are 3-1 this season.
The Oregon Ducks are 3-2.
If UW can’t play Saturday’s scheduled game it will be declared a “no contest” and the Huskies would be named North Division champion due to their win-percentage advantage. Which is only to say — the Oregon Ducks can forget about having a shot at USC and another conference title.
They should instead move onto bigger things.
Like playing Ohio State on Saturday.
The Buckeyes need a game. The Ducks may need one, too. The programs were supposed to play in a much anticipated non-conference game earlier this season. It fell off the schedule when the Pac-12 moved to a conference-only schedule model. But with rival Michigan bailing on Ohio State and rival Washington about to cancel on Oregon, revisiting that lost Buckeyes-Ducks matchup feels right.
Ohio State wins the game. Maybe 99 out 100 times, too. The Buckeyes have more talent, more on-field leadership, and are playing for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Ducks are just trying to regain some dignity. But if Oregon really does want to measure how far away it is from being among the best four teams in America, it can either rely on the selection committee’s final ranking or figure it out on the field.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 have tried to walk in lockstep when it comes to the decisions to postpone the season, then restart it. They shared information on testing. Both initially said they’d play only games within their conferences, but have since softened that stance. It’s time they worked together again.
Oregon and Ohio State are Phil Knight’s two favorite college football programs. He’s been in their locker rooms and supported their programs. I wondered as I saw the Huskies shut down activities whether Knight himself might pick up the phone and try to make it happen.
The first-ever PK Bowl?
If Washington can’t play, Oregon needs to find a more attractive date for Saturday. Maybe one with a team that was supposed to play this season at Autzen Stadium anyway. After the Ohio State game was canceled, Knight, 83, probably thought he’d never get a chance to see the Buckeyes play in his home stadium. Now, it feels like an attractive contingency plan that hinges mostly on Washington’s willingness to commit to playing or cancel ASAP.
That’s the rub, isn’t it?
The Huskies paused team activities after the spike on Wednesday after a series of positive antigen tests. The more accurate PCR tests take 24 hours to get results. That’s the timeline for figuring out whether UW can even play this week. I’m not sure the timeline works for Ohio State, which got stood up by Michigan earlier this week.
Still, both sides need to explore it today.
Oregon vs. Ohio State in Eugene?
College football would love it. The slate of games nationally this weekend is a dud. The playoff committee could have scheduled a nap on Saturday afternoon. Instead, they could a chance to see the Buckeyes against an Oregon team that badly wants to prove it belongs in major college football. Oregon vs. Ohio State would easily become the most interesting game of the weekend.
Not just for COVID-19. Also, test to see where Mario Cristobal’s program is today. Yeah, I know, the Ducks already lost to Oregon State and Cal this season. They’d probably get boat-raced by the Buckeyes. But just like Oregon’s two prior losses to Auburn, or that early-season loss to LSU under Chip Kelly, playing the best has a way of helping your teams understand what needs to be done.
Ohio State is 9-0 all-time against Oregon, including a win in the 2015 national title game. I’d like to see the 10th game played between the sides this season in what would amount to a bowl-like contest for the Ducks.
Maybe you think the Buckeyes wouldn’t be interested in playing a two-loss team out of conference, but in 2020, every data point counts. Playing a game and winning convincingly might matter to the committee.
This pandemic is a dirty, rotten scoundrel. One that has caused a loss of life, freedom and revenue. College football has tried to make a go of it anyway. There have been more than 120 games already canceled this season. It’s high time that a couple of major college programs stole a game back.
I wanted to see Ohio State play Oregon this season. So did a lot of you. I know the Ducks were disappointed to lose the game. UO athletic director Rob Mullens told me in the summer that he wasn’t optimistic that he could get the Buckeyes to return to Autzen for a future date. The Ducks are scheduled to play in Columbus in 2021.
The lunar landing?
Conspiracies are born by those trying to make sense of things that are probably better explained by simple truth. COVID-19 is in charge. Washington had an uptick in positive tests that coincides with a troubling spike nationally. There’s really nothing to see here.
Nothing except maybe Oregon vs. Ohio State.
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